|ESPN.com: Dick Vitale||[Print without images]|
I am so thrilled to be calling my 40th Duke-North Carolina game on Wednesday night. I believe it is the best rivalry in all of sports, not just college basketball.
I know that fans in New York and Boston will argue about Red Sox-Yankees. Ohio State and Michigan in football, and Alabama-Auburn are right up there, but not numero uno, baby!
A lot of people have asked me about my favorite games between the Tar Heels and Blue Devils. It is tough to cut it down, but here are the top three that I have been involved with in my years at ESPN.
1. No. 9 North Carolina 75, No. 1 Duke 73 (Feb. 5, 1992)
I remember seeing the blood streaming down Eric Montross' face. That is something that wlll always stand out. The two schools are separated by eight miles down Tobacco Road. The intensity, emotion and passion are always on display and this rivalry will always be talked about for years. The blood and guts of Montross was something else.
The game began with Duke ranked first and Carolina rated ninth. It ended with Montross (12 points, nine rebounds) battling and bleeding to the bitter end. Tar Heels guard Derrick Phelps hit two huge free throws, and Christian Laettner missed a couple of shots that ended in defeat.
2. No. 2 North Carolina 102, Duke 100 (Feb. 2, 1995)
I remember saying that was could stay there all night, baby!
With the Blue Devils an uncharacteristic 0-7 in the ACC and their coach, Mike Krzyzewski, out for the year with a bad back, the second-ranked Tar Heels were heavily favored. Duke and Carolina played an epic double-overtime which included Jeff Capel's incredible shot.
That night, a Duke assistant coach says he witnessed three of the best plays he had ever seen college players make: Jerry Stackhouse's in-transition flight to the far side of the rim for a reverse jam; a tap dunk in traffic by North Carolina's Rasheed Wallace; and Cherokee Parks's block of a dunk attempt by Stackhouse in the final minute of regulation. All three plays are incidental to the evening's greater drama.
Duke was down eight with 17 seconds to play in the first overtime. Suddenly Duke comes back and trails only 95-92. Serge Zwikker soon finds himself standing at the line for Carolina, where he missed both free throws. Capel rushes up the floor, and hits from a few steps inside half-court.
Fate doesn't come entirely draped in royal blue this time, for Duke loses in the second overtime, but only by a few inches. Blue Devil freshman Steve Wojciechowski bounces a 10-footer off the back of the rim just before the buzzer.
3. No. 1 Duke 77, No. 3 North Carolina 75 (Feb. 28, 1998)
Just two months removed from a broken foot that most assumed would sideline him for the season, Duke freshman Elton Brand rallied the Blue Devils from a 64-47 second-half deficit with 12 minutes remaining to a 77-75 victory over North Carolina. The victory earned Duke the ACC regular-season championship and Coach K his 500th victory. Roshown McLeod made the winning hoop and Brendan Haywood missed an opportunity to tie the game from the charity stripe.
It has been an amazing rivalry and I could have picked 10 other games. I cannot wait to walk into the Museum at Chapel Hill, one of my four favorite places in college hoops to call a game. Rupp Arena in Lexington, where I was on Tuesday night, Cameron Indoor Stadium and Allen Field House stand out as my favorite places.
My friends, I have been lucky to have had such a great life. I cannot believe this is the 40th time I am at the microphone to call this showdown.