Here I sit in a classroom in Seville, Spain. Even though I´m abroad for the semester, thousands of miles from UNC, I know what today is. Today is the Duke game.
Today is the day when the unnatural hatred of Tar Heels for Blue Devils (and vice-versa) boils over. It is the day when it is acceptable to dress in Carolina Blue from head to toe, to paint a jersey onto your body rather than actually wear one and to blow off class in order to read every game prediction written about Duke-North Carolina in the past 24 hours. Today is a big day.
Of course, this year´s Duke-UNC game is a little bit different for Tar Heel fans. With a 13-10 overall record, a 2-6 ACC record and many people questioning North Carolina´s general desire to win, it is easy to see why someone might assume that this year´s game won´t be as hyped as usual.
But one should never assume.
The North Carolina-Duke rivalry is the greatest rivalry in college basketball, and a losing conference record does not change that fact.
When tonight´s game tips off at 9 p.m. in Chapel Hill´s Dean E. Smith Center, the Tar Heels will begin what may be their best chance to get their season back on track. The crowd will be pumped, the media will be pumped and–with any luck–the players will be pumped. In 40 minutes, the Heels have the opportunity to silence their critics.
Based on this season's statistics, should North Carolina be able to walk away from this game with a win? Absolutely not. Frankly, the Heels cannot shoot the ball, from the field or the line.
However, this game is based on emotion as much as anything else. It will not be easy for the Tar Heels to beat the Blue Devils, a team known for it´s ability to rain threes.
But crazier things have happened.
With the right mix of emotion, effort, and adrenaline, maybe the 21,500 fans who pack the Dean Dome tonight will one day be able to talk about how they were there to witness the night the 2010 Tar Heels got their act together and turned their season around–with a win over Duke.