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Duke-Carolina has lost luster, but Heels have hope

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Jan. 30
How many times have I said the greatest rivalry in college basketball is Duke vs. North Carolina (Thursday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN)? I know that people are screaming already, "Are you kidding me? This is a total mismatch, Blowout City, baby!"

Dickie V sees Duke's Jason Williams (right) as a slam-dunk star in the NBA.
Many will claim the Tar Heels have shown no shot of competing with the Dukies this season.

Maybe that's the case on paper, but that's why the games are played. When underdogs play with any kind of pride, hunger and desire -- especially before their home fans -- they can scrap and claw and compete. Just look at some of the shocks that have happened this season! Look at how different games are when 3-pointers are falling.

What happens if Brian Morrison goes off like he did against Georgia Tech? What happens if Kris Lang starts scoring on the inside and gets Carlos Boozer in foul trouble? What happens if Jason Capel has the game of his life? What happens if Adam Boone plays like he did when he had his career high against Clemson?

When you look at the matchups, personnel-wise, the edge goes to the Dukies big-time! It does look like a total blowout. I remember when the same things were said back in 1995. Duke came into its big rivalry against North Carolina with a 1-7 record in its prior eight games.

That contest was a classic, a Maalox masher, a double-OT special! It was a nail-biter before the then-No. 2 Tar Heels left Cameron Indoor Stadium with a hard-fought W.

When it's Duke and Carolina, emotion and intensity can do crazy things to you. Take the talented five-star player who struts and glides, and suddenly he performs like a three-star player because he feels this is an easy game. Then there's the three-star player, fighting for survival, exhibiting energy and enthusiasm, who plays like a five-star guy.

That's how we get to Upset City in sports, baby! It makes athletic competition so exciting to watch. If Florida State can beat Duke, you'd better believe North Carolina can do it, too, on any given night.

Will it happen Thursday night in Chapel Hill? I doubt it, but at least there's a little hope for the Tar Heels. I'm sure that thought is running through the minds of Tar Heel fans everywhere.

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