Gerry Broome/Associated Press
With nearly 100 games to choose from—37 of which were matchups between rivals ranked in the AP Top 10—just trimming the list to 20 was hard enough. Getting it down to 10 was damn near impossible. But here is our second top 10, presented in chronological order.
Feb. 28, 1981 (K’s first win over UNC): You never forget your first, right? Mike Krzyzewski went 1-8 in his first nine games against North Carolina, and most of those losses were by double digits. But in the final regular-season game of his “rookie” year with the Blue Devils, he got a 66-65 overtime victory over the rivals from just up the road.
March 3, 1984 (MJ’s last home game): At this point, North Carolina was the annual title contender and Duke was just a nuisance with a fourth-year coach who hadn’t even made the NCAA tournament yet. But in the final regular-season game of Michael Jordan’s career, the 15th-ranked Blue Devils waltzed into Carmichael Auditorium and darn near knocked off the 25-1, No. 1-ranked Tar Heels. It took two overtimes before UNC finally escaped.
Jan. 18, 1986 & March 2, 1986 (No. 1 vs. No. 3 x2): There have been six instances in the history of this rivalry in which both sides were ranked in the AP Top 3, so two such games in the same season is pretty remarkable. In both cases, the side ranked No. 3 was the road team and lost a close game to the No. 1 home team. (Although, when it came time for the NCAA tournament, No. 3 seed UNC and No. 1 seed Duke both got ousted by Louisville.)
Feb. 3, 1994 & Feb. 5, 1998 (No. 1 vs. No. 2 x2): In the past 30 years, there have only been 10 regular-season meetings between No. 1 and No. 2 in the AP poll. And, of course, Duke-UNC is responsible for two of them. Much like Gonzaga’s 20-point thrashing of UCLA this past November, though, it was a lot of pre-game hype for exhibitions that were neither memorable nor competitive. In both cases, No. 1 Duke went on the road and lost by double digits to No. 2 North Carolina.
Feb. 2, 1995 (The Jeff Capel Shot): It’s one of the greatest games in the history of this rivalry. I was only eight years old, and yet I can still remember watching this on a VHS tape while eating pizza at my aunt’s house. Unranked Duke hosted No. 2 North Carolina, and Jeff Capel drained a runner from just inside half court to send the game to double overtime. (Duke ultimately lost the game by two.) But because Pete Gaudet was coaching in Krzyzewski’s stead for this one while the latter recovered from back surgery, we opted to leave it in the honorable mentions.
March 2, 1997 (Final K vs. Dean Showdown): We didn’t know at the time that this was Dean Smith’s final game of this rivalry, because he didn’t throw himself a yearlong goodbye party before retiring. But he went out in style with No. 8 North Carolina beating No. 7 Duke by a score of 91-85.
March 4, 2007 (Gerald Henderson vs. Psycho T): It was one of the most forgettable games of the rivalry for the first 39 minutes and 40 seconds. But near the end of North Carolina’s 86-72 victory, Duke’s Gerald Henderson hits North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough with one of the most ruthless flying elbows you’ll ever see outside of a steel cage. The game was forgettable, but a bloodied Hansbrough needing to be restrained from going after Henderson was quite unforgettable.
Feb. 18, 2015 (OT in Honor of Dean Smith): The legendary UNC coach passed away less than two weeks before this game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and before the game began, both teams knelt at half court in remembrance of him. And then they went out and played a game that Smith would’ve loved. Although, he wouldn’t have loved the final score, as No. 4 Duke beat No. 15 North Carolina 92-90 in overtime.