Unneighborly Duke-Carolina rivalry takes on national proportions

March 26, 1991|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Evening Sun Staff

When half of the Final Four consists of schools just eight miles apart, some good-natured ribbing is to be expected. But when the two neighbors are hated ACC adversaries Duke and North Carolina, the good nature turns into fierce competitiveness.

Already the toilet paper -- colored in the appropriate shade of blue -- has been flung across both campuses and the chants of "Go to hell, Carolina, go to hell," and "Don't give a damn for Duke University" have been sounded to mark the first time that both schools have gone together to basketball nirvana.

"I've only wanted two things since I've been at Carolina," said senior Thomas Alexander of Atlanta: "To graduate with honors and to win a national championship."

To do that, the Tar Heels would have to beat Kansas, and the survivor of the Duke-Nevada Las Vegas championship rematch of a year ago.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, making his fourth consecutive trip to the national semifinals and his fifth appearance in six years, says fans and players on both ends of U.S. 15-501, the highway that connects Durham and Chapel Hill, should watch out for expectations of grandeur.

"I think what you have to guard against, and they would have to hTC do the same thing, is the fact that we're not playing one another. We may not play each another. They have to concentrate on Kansas and we have to concentrate on UNLV. The fans, let them have fun with it.

"I think it's great for the [ACC]. It would be stupid for me to say that there's a special feeling, more special because Carolina's in it. I have enough feeling for Duke. I think you respect what they've done and the manner in which they've done it. I'm not happy about anybody being in it but Duke. That's the normal reaction."

The two teams have met 185 times over the years, with Duke trailing the series 110-75, despite two wins this season over the Tar Heels, including an 83-77 decision in Chapel Hill to clinch the ACC regular-season title.

North Carolina avenged the loss a week later with a 96-74 pasting in the ACC tournament championship game to clinch the league title and the top seed in the East region.

Players from the two teams frequent some of the same social haunts and run into each other often, so winning becomes especially important for bragging rights.

"We see each other a lot, being so close to each other, so it doesn't mean much off the court," said Duke junior Brian Davis. "But when we get out on the court, there's no other team that I hate more.

"To lose a game to Carolina is twice as big because you hear about it so much. But to beat Carolina is three times as nice."

"When you're competing against really good people, you get better," Krzyzewski said. "I think it's helped me greatly. I think it helps Dean [Carolina coach Dean Smith] maintain his hunger, the fact that we're good.

"I've never considered it any pressure, with North Carolina there, or when N.C. State was doing it," Krzyzewski said. "Maybe that's the best thing because then we're able to develop our own program instead of trying to copy somebody else's."

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