Apr 1, 2022 - Sports

The Duke-UNC March Madness game of destiny

Data: Sports Reference; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios
Data: Sports Reference; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Saturday's Duke-UNC game — their first-ever meeting in the NCAA tournament — is also their 100th matchup of the Mike Krzyzewski era.

By the numbers: Since Coach K arrived in Durham, his teams have gone 50-49 against North Carolina. Back surgery sidelined him for both losses in 1994, so his record is 50-47.

Why it matters: It would be hard to script a better matchup. The rivalry. The stakes. The storylines. The all-time winningest coach. Somehow, this is real life, not a movie.

  • Will the Blue Devils beat their rival in Coach K's penultimate game, giving them a chance to tie UNC with six national championships?
  • Or will the Tar Heels ruin the Duke's date with destiny, pulling off the upset in one of the most-anticipated college hoops games ever?

The big picture: It took some time for Krzyzewski to get his feet wet in this heated rivalry, losing the series in his first two decades before beginning to dominate in the 2000s.

  • 1980-99: UNC 28, Duke 18
  • 2000-22: Duke 32, UNC 21
  • Rewind: The schools first played in 1920, and UNC leads the all-time series 142-115.

What they're saying: "Here's what folks mean when they say it's more than just a game," Axios' Michael Graff writes in Axios Charlotte:

"It's my old and dying father, a few years ago, his brain stripped by strokes, seeing Coach K's image flash across the television and remembering to say, 'I can't stand that man, but I respect him. I guess.'"

Meanwhile ... This blockbuster overshadows Kansas-Villanova, but the Jayhawks and Wildcats don't mind. "That's great, for me personally," said Kansas coach Bill Self.

Go deeper