It is the greatest rivalry in all of sports ... Duke and North Carolina on the hardwood, baby!
I know some people will fire out Yankees and Red Sox, others Ohio State and Michigan on the gridiron. My friends, these two ACC rivals are separated by just eight miles. This series has featured great coaches, All-Americans and incredible passion and emotion. It shouldn't be any different when the two teams hook up this week, and I can't wait to be there.
There is nothing finer than Duke and Carolina!
Don't tell my bosses, but it is like stealing money by sitting courtside for games of this magnitude. It often features a pair of top 10 teams putting their heart and soul into every play.
Over the years, I have been so fortunate to call many of the great Duke-North Carolina showdowns with my buddy, Mike Patrick. It is so hard to pick out my favorite moments, but four do stick out.
Here it is, my version of the Final Four of Tar Heels vs. Blue Devils.
Let me start in 1995. It was a year that Duke was struggling big-time. Peter Gaudet was on the sideline as Mike Krzyzewski was laid up. It ended up being a 102-100 thriller. Jeff Capel of the Dukies sent the game into double-overtime with an amazing shot. I remember saying it was like Lionel Richie, they should play all night long, baby! It was too much Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace as North Carolina got the hard-fought W!
Another one that stands out took place in 1992. It was No. 1 Duke and No. 9 North Carolina. The Blue Devils were undefeated and Christian Laettner and company had a challenge from the Tar Heels. In the end, Eric Montross looked like a boxer in the 12th round of the heavyweight championship. Blood was pouring down his face, but he got the last laugh as North Carolina got to the winner's circle in a Maalox Masher, 75-73.
The third one that I loved over my 30 years at ESPN/ABC was the first showdown with ex-Kansas coach Roy Williams in Tar Heel blue, going against Coach K. It was an incredible game. Chris Duhon's reverse lay-up with about six seconds left in overtime that gave Duke its fifth victory in six years on North Carolina's home court. That place was really rocking until Duhon's shot.
Back in 2005, it was so special in the match-up at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It was a nail-biter and when it was all said and done, Duke found a way to win, 71-70. That was the Tar Heels' team with Sean May, Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and company that ended up winning the national title in Saint Louis.
Those four jump out at me. Games of this stature are so special and this year's contest should be a beauty as well.
My friends, these two programs will be heard from again come March Madness. Head-to-head, these meetings mean so much to the players. They will talk about this contest for years to come.
It will be another frenetic, furious battle in a series that has meant so much down on Tobacco Road. It will be awesome, baby with a capital A!