"We Own These Guys"

A look at the best rivalry in college basketball with statistical trends throughout the decades

Duke Fan: "We've beaten you 15 of the last 17 times."
Carolina Fan: : "We're still ahead 123-95 overall."

After Wednesday's 71-70 thrilling victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Dukies celebrated the continuation of their recent dominance in college basketball's best rivalry. Posters on the Internet Message Boards and chat rooms for both schools claim dominance, and yet both can agree that Carolina has had the better long-term success and Duke has been the better team recently.

I thought that I would look at the history of the rivalry and see the ebbs and flows as one program and then the other would be on top.

The schools first met on January 24, 1920, and North Carolina won the home game 36-24. Duke squeaked out a 19-18 victory on their home court in the rematch, and in the early game in 1921, a 25-22 victory propelled Duke into the all-time lead for the first and only time. North Carolina whipped Duke 44-12 and 55-19 in the other two games that year, and continued a run until there were 16 straight wins. Duke's next win over Carolina didn't come until 1929. This was a turning point – the Devils won 12 of 17 after that, bringing us to 1936. Carolina won 5 straight, then Duke won 3 of 4, and then Carolina won 3 straight. Duke ran off a 9-2 run next. And then Carolina won 11 of 13. These runs are like a basketball game!

Duke dominated the early fifties, with an eight-game wining streak, their longest against their rivals. It didn't last – Carolina would have a 5-game streak before the decade ended, and then start a 6-gamer that lasted into the sixties. Duke swept Carolina in 1962-1964, lost both in 1956, then swept three in 1966.

Carolina's dominance in the overall history comes from their domination from 1967 to 1984. Duke won only 7 games in those seasons, and never two in a row. Carolina had two 8-game winning streaks from 1972 to 1977, sandwiched around a single loss, and that in overtime. Another 6-game streak came in the Jordan era, and was broken by a thrilling upset in the ACC tournament of 1984.

This was a sign of things to come. Coach K's recruits (Johnny Dawkins, Mark Alarie) turned Duke into a national power, and Duke has had their was since then. Starting with the AC win in 1984, Duke has a 29-22 record up to the present, and that includes a streak of 9 out of 10 for Carolina (the 1993 UNC National Championship team and Duke's down years in 1995-96 contributing), and then Duke's current 15-2 run since 1999.

I was interested to see how far back you can go and see the teams even. The answer is 25 years. Duke and Carolina have split the last 60 games, and the last 62, and the last 64, and the last 66, and the last 68, and the last 70. Since 1978, the teams have gone 35-35 against each other. Since 1980, they've gone 30-30. Any time since 1980, Duke has won more games. Any time before that, it's Carolina.

By decade:

- Carolina went 18-4 in the 1920s.
- Duke went 12-10 in the 1930's.
- Carolina went 14-12 in the 1940's.
- Both teams went 14-14 in the 1950's.
- Duke went 14-12 in the 1960's.
- Carolina went 23-8 in the 1970's.
- Carolina went 16-9 in the 1980's.
- Carolina went 14-10 in the 1990's.
- Duke is 12-2 in the 2000's so far

The average score:
- Since 2000, Duke 81.3-70.7.
- In Duke's 15-2 run, Duke 82.6-70.6.
- Since 1990, Duke 80.3-77-1 (Duke 22-16).
- Since 1980, Carolina 78.7-78.4 (Carolina 32-31).
- Since 1920, Carolina 62.9-61.5.

As we go forward with the rivalry, there's no putting one ahead of the other. Both teams have great recruits coming in, and both coaches have proven that they can run successful programs over a number of seasons (and not just ride a few stars for a couple of years). It may come down to which team retains more players from year to year, and how the recruits develop, and then we'll see what happens as new coaches finally replace K and Roy.

Larry Macdonald is a Duke fan from Toronto, Canada and has been a fan of the team since 1986.


The Devils Den Top Stories