Duke-UNC Game Tonight Calls For New Look at Recent Teams, Records and Coaches

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Duke-UNC Game Tonight Calls For New Look at Recent Teams, Records and Coaches
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
This year is a bit different, but who knows?

Every year, the Duke Blue Devils meet the University of North Carolina Tar Heels at least twice, and usually three times. And at this time every year, the first game of this annual series, Carolina fans often seem to think that the press and analysts are biased in favor of Duke. This year is no exception.

Of course, Duke is better because of their current ranking. Yet, even that could be biased according to fans.

So let's look at two factors always present in every game in which these two talented teams are showcased. Generally, the first game between the two begins with Duke ranked ahead of Carolina. This is true, even during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. And Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) is consistently considered superior to Roy Williams (Old Roy). What is the reality here? Has Duke been consistently better recently? Is Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) considered superior to Roy Williams (Old Roy)?

Have Duke Men's Basketball Been Consistently Better than UNC's Men's Teams?

Duke is better than UNC as a matter of their season records and few would even question Duke's superiority despite its loss of its very talented point guard for the year. Yet, Carolina fans can still wonder why with all its talents UNC dropped out of Top 25 polls so quickly and took so long to get back.

The 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons, in which UNC ended the seasons as No. 1 and runner-up and winner of the NCAA Division I Basketball Championship respectively, are better seasons to examine for recent bias.

Taking a look at writers and analysts views of these teams, Duke wins the battle even in these seasons according to Carolina fans. Every chance the writers and analysts get, Duke finds itself placed ahead of Carolina. It is almost uncanny.

Has Carolina been better than Duke since 2005?

Submit Vote vote to see results

Now the reality. At the start of the 2007-08 season, UNC was ranked No. 1 in the country. No one thought that this loaded team was inferior to Duke. By losing to Maryland in January 2008, UNC fell behind Duke despite both teams having only one loss.

True, you can say that this lower positioning was vindicated by a win on Carolina's home court after which the Blue Devils assumed No. 1. Yet the fact is that in general, other than the fact that the one loss occurred later in the season, there was no difference. Yet Duke was ranked higher.

There is no argument from most quarters that UNC deserved the national championship, and the runner-up trophy. Yet, even here there is controversy and changing rankings.

Yet, as anyone would tell you, Carolina's up and down ranking tracked that of other schools. It may have been greater movement than some with one loss, but later losses count more. At least that is what the Carolina fans should be told.

Is Coach K Better than Roy Williams?

Comparing the coaches provides an easier case of bias. Even the nicknames themselves are biased. Coach K is the "coach." Old Roy is just plain "old." Yet Coach K is more than 2.5 years older.

The statistic thrown around is the number of victories amassed by Coach K, more than anyone other than Bobby Knight. Yet, he should have them given that he has coached basketball for 35 years. Williams has coached for 22 years. Certainly enough time to allow comparisons, but not enough to say Williams would not surpass Coach K if he were able to coach basketball for the same amount of time.

Nick Laham/Getty Images
Coach K urging Duke troops on.

What is the most telling statistic? Perhaps, assuming different conferences, personnel and schedules were similar over the same period of time, the winning percentage of each coach. This is where there is some difference. And the difference is that Williams is better. About 79% for Williams, and about 76 percent for Coach K. Maybe not enough to say Williams is better. But certainly enough to say that he is as good.

Next, we might look at head-to-head. Here Williams still has the advantage over Coach K.

This year, the temptation is to criticize Coach K over what some saw as an under-achieving class. Yet this is really not fair. With what we now know was a lack of team chemistry due to Larry Drew II and a slowish start by Harrison Barnes, the team was a new one with many new parts. Indeed, of those experts who have rated coaches since they were both in the same conference, Coach K comes in second best.

Thus, Stewart Mandell in an ESPN article in 2007 ranked Williams No. 2 and Coach K No. 4. And in 2009 Forbes ranked Williams No. 1 and Coach K No. 4. (Were these two Carolina grads, or what?)

We can go on and on. But in the end, both coaches are necessarily at least equals and Williams is arguably better.

Tonight we will get another glimpse of this rivalry. Win or lose, this year is a better way to see who is better. If Coach K wins, so what. But if Roy Williams wins, he will have another notch in his belt.

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