Duke and North Carolina.
There is no other explanation needed outside of those words. This is the best rivalry in all of college basketball and arguably all of sports, and the illustrious history comes rushing back any time the two programs lace it up for another chapter in the storied book.
Between the iconic stadiums, the legendary coaches, the raucous student sections, the Hall of Fame players and the championship banners, this rivalry has a little bit of everything.
It pits brother against brother, sister against sister and an entire state against each other for two or three nights a year and determines bragging rights for the rest of the season and beyond.
The first 2015 clash between the Blue Devils (22-3, 9-3 ACC) and Tar Heels (18-7, 8-4 ACC) takes place Wednesday in Cameron Indoor Stadium as the two squads battle for positioning in the ACC standings.
However, this rivalry is about more than just an individual season or game. With that in mind, here is a look at the best moments in the history of the series from Duke’s perspective.
No. 5: Demolition Before the Title
Sometimes it’s just fun to destroy your archrival, and that is exactly what Duke did on March 6, 2010.
The Blue Devils beat the Tar Heels 82-50 in the largest margin of victory in the recent history of the rivalry and earned the top spot in the ACC tournament in the process. Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith all cracked the 20-point plateau, and Duke actually scored 53 points in the first half.
That’s right, the Blue Devils scored more points in the first half alone than the Tar Heels did in the entire game. That was a heck of a way to go out in Cameron for the seniors before what ultimately proved to be a title-winning run in the NCAA tournament.
No. 4: Thrill of Defeat
It’s not very often that a moment in a rivalry is particularly memorable for the losing team, but Jeff Capel’s miracle shot in 1995 makes the cut.
While the Tar Heels eventually prevailed 102-100 in double overtime, Duke found itself down six with 10 seconds remaining in the first extra period. The Blue Devils converted on an and-one opportunity to trim the lead to three, North Carolina’s Serge Zwikker missed two critical free throws and Capel launched a shot from just inside half court at the buzzer.
Naturally, it went right in, and the Cameron Crazies went absolutely nuts.
The argument can be made that this was the best individual game of the entire rivalry, and it featured a moment that won’t soon be forgotten in Duke history—even if it did come in an eventual loss.
No. 3: Austin Rivers Silences the Crowd
Duke knocked off North Carolina 85-84 in 2012 in the most memorable Duke moment of the rivalry in recent years thanks to the dramatic finish from Austin Rivers.
The Tar Heels appeared to be well on their way to an easy home victory with a 10-point lead with less than four minutes remaining, but Rivers carried the Blue Devils back to within a single basket for the last possession.
Everyone in the state probably knew who was going to take the shot for Duke, but it didn’t matter. Rivers drilled a contested three over the outstretched arms of Tyler Zeller to put a metaphorical dagger in the hearts of the Carolina faithful.
He finished the game with 29 points but probably never scored a more important three points in his entire life.
No. 2: Mike Krzyzewski Inspires a Championship
The 2000-01 Blue Devils eventually won the national title, but they didn’t appear to be a championship team before their March 4 victory over North Carolina.
The reason for that was the late-season injury to star center Carlos Boozer before this rivalry clash. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski responded by inserting surprise starter Casey Sanders at center to deal with North Carolina’s Brendan Haywood and freshman Chris Duhon for Nate James on the perimeter.
The idea was to add quickness to the defense and focus more on three-point shooting on the offensive end.
Star forward Shane Battier commented on Coach K’s move, via Al Featherston of GoDuke.com:
I’ll never forget the look on Brendon Haywood’s face when Casey stepped into the jumpball circle. He got this sarcastic smile on his face and started shaking his head. He was thinking, "You’re starting this guy?" I looked over at Mike [Dunleavy] and we smiled at each other. We were thinking, "Haywood, you don’t know what’s coming. You don’t know."
Nobody on North Carolina saw what was coming next, and the Blue Devils unleashed 38 three-point attempts on the way to victory to clinch a share of the ACC regular-season title.
Duke repeated the feat and strategy in a rematch against North Carolina in the conference tournament to perfection and won 79-53 before eventually taking home the national championship.
No. 1: Wojo Goes Out a Winner
Let Brett Friedlander of StarNewsOnline.com set the scene for this dramatic showdown in February of 1998:
Senior Day is always an emotional time at Duke. This one was even more over the top than usual because the guest of honor was popular point guard Steve Wojciechowski. Wojo put on what coach Mike Krzyzewski called “one of the greatest one-point games in the history of basketball,” by recording 11 assists and three steals to go with his single point.
"The victory was Krzyzewski’s 500th as a head coach, and produced one of the most notable images in Duke Basketball history, as Wojciechowski and Krzyzewski embraced after the game," wrote Ryan Claxton of The Chronicle.
While Steve Wojciechowski was brilliant and the ultimate reason why this 77-75 victory for the Blue Devils will go down in the history books at Duke, freshman Elton Brand may have been the most important player.
In only his third game back from a nasty foot injury, the center scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half and helped his squad overcome a 17-point deficit. However, his defense on North Carolina’s Antawn Jamison was just as important—if not more so—than the effective offense late in the game.
Naturally, the Cameron Crazies came storming onto the floor, and Wojo's legendary career in Cameron came to a close just as Brand’s was getting started.
This rivalry is filled with countless memorable moments, many of which could have been included here. Let me know which ones you think should be on here in the comments.
Follow me on Twitter: