Upcoming Duke-North Carolina Game Could Signal Shift in Rivalry

Justin McTeerCorrespondent IFebruary 8, 2010

ATLANTA - JANUARY 09:  Head coach Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Alexander Memorial Coliseum on January 9, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

History repeats itself.

Someone important must have said that, because I didn't study philosophy in college and I still know that quote.

When it comes to the history of the Duke-North Carolina college basketball rivalry, recent history shows us that one team dominates the other for a few seasons only to see their rival eclipse them and have the upper hand for a number of seasons after that.

The cycle then repeats itself.

When Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski took over the reigns of the Blue Devil program in 1980, North Carolina welcomed him into the ACC by winning eight of their first nine games against him.

Advantage North Carolina.

Duke maintained a slight advantage over the Tar Heels from the mid-80s through the early 90s, winning 12 out of 22 contests.

North Carolina then won seven straight games, followed by the Blue Devils winning 18 of the next 24.

Most recently, the Tar Heels have held all the cards—they have won six of the last seven games.

The Tar Heels most recent run of rivalry dominance may be coming to end on Wednesday night, however, as the No. 7 Blue Devils make the eight-mile journey to face the currently unranked Tar Heels at Chapel Hill.

Roy Williams's squad has had a rough season, losing seven of their last nine, and although the Blue Devils haven't been good on the road this season, they are heavy favorites against the Tar Heels on Wednesday.

Rivalry games are never predictable, but a Duke win against North Carolina could mean more than simple revenge for the last few seasons—it could signal a power shift in the rivalry.

Duke will lose Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas, and Brian Zoubek to graduation at the end of this season, but they are likely to retain stars Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler.

Next season, the Blue Devils bring in a great 2010 class highlighted by point guard Kyrie Irving, one of the top five players in the class and likely the best point guard to come to Duke since Jason Williams.

Though he doesn't factor into Duke's 2010 class ranking, transfer Seth Curry, who led all Division I freshmen in scoring last season, will also be available next year.

That means the Blue Devils will likely retain two of their top three scorers (and two of the top three scorers in the ACC no less) while bringing in an athletic, scoring point guard in Irving and a dynamic, long-range shooter in Curry. Keep an eye on power forward recruit Josh Hairston as well, as he could be one of the biggest surprises in the class.

North Carolina brings a talented group of freshmen as well next season, led by Harrison Barnes, the No. 1 player in the 2010 class.  

Along with Barnes, the Tar Heels bring in Kendall Marshall and Reggie Bullock. Marshall is considered the best passer in the 2010 class, though he is not the high-octane type of point guard Williams's squads have thrived under. Bullock is an elite, athletic off-guard who can score in a variety of ways.

Upon first glance, it looks like North Carolina will be right back on top once their 2010 recruits arrive, but a closer look tells a different story.

The Tar Heels will lose Deon Thompson to graduation and, more than likely, Ed Davis to the NBA after this season (Davis is still projected as a lottery pick at this point).

For the second straight year, Carolina will lose its top scorers (Davis and Thompson are the only Tar Heels averaging double figures in scoring right now), not to mention its most productive post players.

Their 2010 class will likely fill some of the scoring holes, but they will be an extremely young squad led primarily by freshmen and sophomores, and they will lack experience in the post and athleticism at point guard.

The point is that 2010 could very well be another rebuilding season for North Carolina, while Duke will retain several of their stars on top of bringing in some stellar recruits.

Of course, all of this is purely speculative (Duke hasn't won yet, and it's not like they have been a sure thing on the road this season).

Still, the signs seem to suggest that Duke, and not North Carolina, could be the team to beat in the ACC for the next few years.

We'll find out on Wednesday.


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