The best rivalry in college basketball is Duke-North Carolina, but this year seems to have lost some of its luster.
Is it just me or has the Duke-North Carolina rivalry fallen off a touch this year? Normally, when these two legendary college basketball programs play twice a year and potentially again in the ACC Tournament, it warrants must-see TV. I’m more of a casual basketball fan who really starts taking a bigger interest once college football and the Super Bowl are over so I can educate myself so I know how to fill out my bracket for March Madness. As the two ACC programs get ready to take the court on Thursday night with the rivalry square at 50-50 over the last 100 meetings, I’m wondering why I’m not as hyped as I normally would be.
Duke enters the game 19-4 and ranked No. 9 in the country. They’re coming off a four-point loss lat Saturday to unranked St. John’s and a two-point loss to No. 2 Virginia the week before that to drop two of their last three games. It’s not a vintage Duke team this year that looks like they can waltz to the Elite Eight in March.
It’s even worse in Chapel Hill where North Carolina recently snapped a three-game losing streak with a win over an 8-16 Pitt team still in search of their first conference win this year.
This isn’t quite to the degree of “You can throw out the record books when these two teams meet” territory but neither team is playing at their best and both teams come in desperately seeking a win.
It very could be that my thinking that the rivalry has lost some luster is because neither team is having a terrific year. This could just be one of those years, but I don’t anticipate this being the new norm. It could just be a temporary blip on the radar and the intensity and the court-slapping and the Cameron Crazies and all that stuff that has been a part of what makes the rivalry great will return. It could just be the calm before the storm of the ACC Tournament and March Madness.
It’s still only Feb. 8 after all and there’s plenty of time to restore the rivalry to the insanity it’s been for the last 50 years. And it only takes on Greyson Allen moment to spark that blaze.