Battle of the Blues: A Breakdown of the UNC-Duke Rivalry | Bella Hirst

Often considered the most heated rivalry in college basketball, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) Tar Heels and the Duke University Blue Devils first played each other in 1920, when Duke was known as Trinity College.

Duke has five NCAA Championship titles (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, and 2015). Since their first season in 1905, they have won 2201 games and lost 893 games (winning approximately 71.14% of their games). Some of their most notable players include Grant Hill, Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, and Zion Williamson. 

UNC has six NCAA Championship titles (1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, 2009, and 2017). Since their first season in 1910, they have won 2274 games and lost 817 (winning approximately 73.57% of their games). Some of their most notable players include Tyler Hansbrough, Phil Ford, James Worthy, and, of course, Michael Jordan. 

The rivalry between these two stellar programs is heightened by the fact that the campuses are less than ten miles apart. 

In their 100-year rivalry, the teams have played each other 250 times. UNC has won 138 times (55.2%), and Duke has won 112 times (44.8%). UNC won the first game on January 24th, 1920 (38-25), and Duke won the most recent game on March 7th, 2020 (89-76). 

UNC has had two notable coaches, Dean Smith and Roy Williams. Duke has had one: Mike Krzyzewski (aka “Coach K”). 

Smith coached the Tar Heels for 36 years (1961-1997), leading them to two national championships and winning 77.58% of his games. Williams started coaching at Kansas in 1988, and has coached the Tar Heels since 2003, leading them to three national championships and winning 75.5% of his games with UNC. 

Coach K started coaching at Duke in 1980, leading them to all five of their national titles. He has won 76.69% of his games with Duke. Notably, he has won more games than any other Division 1 men’s basketball coach, and has won six gold medals as head coach for the U.S. Men’s National Team. 

So, which team is better? Ultimately, it depends on what criteria you use. Both teams are among the best in the country, and despite their individual success, the rivalry will never die.