1-on-1: UNC vs. Duke

—> Just like a game of pickup on the courts down at the park, we at EVERY MONTH MARCH will be playing a little 1-on-1 throughout the college basketball season.  Two of our writers will be squaring off in typical street-ball fashion on the ‘Debate Hardwood’ to discuss some of the most Hot-Button topics, schools and players throughout the NCAA. <—

So, over the next few weeks, we are going to begin some back-and-forth about recruiting battles that happen every day between rivals.

Where would you go if you were a top recruit? Why? Why not?

We see teams and coaches battle on the court, but the battle doesn’t end once the game is over. Coaches are at consistent odds with each other, competing for the best players to enlist into their program.

One recruit’s decision can significantly alter multiple programs at one time, and this can be lost on the casual college hoops fan. Let’s start with the biggest rivalry in college basketball: Duke/North Carolina.


Pitching Duke on its own could be done by a half-witted fourth-grader while on the short bus on the way to school.

Not. That. Difficult.

However, when it comes to pitching Duke over their archrival North Carolina, the task becomes a bit more murky. Duke and UNC battle over the top recruits every single year, so this exercise is a pertinent one.

Take Austin Rivers, for instance.

He is, by all accounts, a top two or top three recruit in the 2011 recruiting class. His decision came down to UNC and Duke, and he chose Duke. That is an absolute game changer for both programs.

So, let’s take this from Rivers’, or at least a Rivers’-esque type of recruit’s perspective.

The old pitch against Duke would have probably have been: Sure, Duke is a great program. But how many guys has Coach K gotten picked in the top five or ten picks of the NBA Draft in the past five years? How many has he even gotten picked in the lottery? Now, the response to that is just two words: Kyrie Irving.

Irving did more for Duke than just playing in 11 games and bolting for the draft...

Irving did more for Coach K’s program just by being picked first overall in the draft than he really contributed on the court. Irving showed that Krzyzewski will take a guy into his program that will likely leave after a season, and that he will allow a guy like that to shine enough to be in the position to become a high draft pick.

That’s big for a guy like Rivers, or any other top recruit, these days.

What else is there really to say at this point about Duke?

Do you want to play in one of the most historic stadiums in college basketball history for some of the most passionate fans in the country?

Cameron Indoor Stadium—check.

Do you want to play for one of the three greatest head coaches in college basketball history? A guy who could have 90% of NBA jobs with the snap of his fingers if he wanted? A guy who has coached a gold medal team in the Olympics? Mike Krzyzewski—check.

Coach K's resume speaks for itself.

What about playing for a winner? Do you want to play in a program that has reached at least the Sweet Sixteen in 12 of the last 14 years? What about a team that has won two championships and been to four Final Fours in that span?

Check, check, and check.

What Duke can market over North Carolina is consistency in their success. UNC does have a couple titles in the last decade as well, but they’ve also had more down years.

Just two seasons ago the team from Chapel Hill was in the NIT. There is something to be said for that.

You come to Duke, and you know you’re going to be playing in the big dance and most likely you’re going to go pretty deep. That exposure is invaluable, especially for a guy with NBA aspirations.

Look, whichever place you go to is going to give you almost Greek God-status on campus. But basketball is absolutely everything at Duke.

Sure, hoop is the biggest thing at UNC—definitely. But, with a decent football program and some great spring sports, there is at least some competition.

Whereas, even if you’re the tenth guy off the bench on a Duke team, you’ll have notoriety on campus for years after you graduate. It’s just a smaller community with not as much to root for outside of the basketball team.

If you’re looking at a guy like Rivers’ situation coming into this season, it makes complete sense we he chose Duke over their cross-town rivals. UNC has their pieces in place for this year’s run. They will undoubtedly be a great team with guys like Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and Kendall Marshall at the helm.

Duke has a ton of talent but they also lost some guys. Where Rivers would be very much sharing the spotlight in Chapel Hill, he will likely come into Cameron Indoor and be the #1 option on offense.

He will have guys around him who can catch and shoot (Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry) and who can bang the boards and finish at the rim (the Plumlee brothers trio), but he will be the focal point.

That has to be enticing. (Mayo)


When considering one of the most hallowed college rivalries of all time, and if I might boldly suggest the greatest rivalry in the history of college basketball, you’ve got to see that both North Carolina and Duke have plenty to boast but also some to hang their heads over.

But, when recruits take a look down Tobacco Road and are stuck at that intersection, attempting to make the extremely difficult, yet uber fortunate, decision of UNC or Duke, they should be drawn to only one.

This says it all really...

The Heels have more than enough in terms of credentials to get nearly any recruit across the country to dawn the powder blue, but it becomes even that much more difficult when put up against a top-tier competitor such as the Blue Devils.

That’s why any blue chipper simply needs to consider three basic concepts in order to make the right choice and join quite possibly the most prestigious college hoops program in history…


The name speaks for itself really but if you need to be convinced, there are dozens of Alumni that you may just recognize from the NBA record books.

Oh, Michael, I nearly forgot about you...

Bob McAdoo, Larry Brown, Sam Perkins, James Worthy, Jerry Stackhouse, Antwan Jamison, Vince Carter, Ed Cota, Felton, Hansborough, Lawson and the list goes on.

Not to mention a guy by the name of Michael, who has a few accolades of his own.

Yet, players haven’t been the only aspect setting UNC apart though, it’s Hall-of-Fame coaching has been just as important.

Dean Smith – enough said really – the legend won eight ACC coach of the Year awards and National Coach of the Year honors an additional four times.

Let’s not forget the fact that the now 80-year-old, Smith, also led UNC for 36 seasons and compiled 879 wins, three National Championships and a near .800 winning percentage in his time on Chapel Hill.

Frank McGuire, Brad Dougherty (knock him if you’d like) and of course Roy Williams have been no slouches either. With two titles in the past five years, I’d say that’s pretty darn good.

The Numbers…

You look at those names and suddenly have a hard time picking your jaw up off the floor. Sure, it’s a lot to handle in a matter of a few minutes, but you might want to collect yourself before moving on to some of the astounding digits Carolina has compiled over the years.

First and foremost, UNC is the 3rd most winningest program (behind only Kansas and Kentucky) of all-time in college basketball.  The Heels have accumulated 2,033 wins and just 728 losses over the school’s historic run, totaling an eye-popping .737 winning percentage.

In comparison with some other “top” programs, let’s take Duke for example, who have just a .702 win ratio, that is a pretty impressive number.

So, let’s delve in further and check out some more numbers here.

There’s always the conference records to awe at – 28 ACC Regular-Season titles, 17 ACC Conference Tournament titles.

And of course there’s the Tournament resume – 42 NCAA Tournament appearances, 31 Sweet 16’s, 25, Elite Eight’s, 18 Final Fours, Nine Championship game appearances and Five NCAA Championship titles.

Getting down to it, when it comes to winning, there’s nearly no school quite like North Carolina.

It isn’t even a Rivalry…

Duke may have gained the edge in terms of public opinion in recent years, due to Mike Krzyzewski’s success and reputation as a winner, but over the course of the past 90+ years in this rivalry, North Carolina has owned the Dukies.

Roy Williams has done a great job keeping Duke at bay during his about six-years in Chapel Hill, tallying a 8-7 record against the Blue Devils and continuing on the winning tradition in Carolina.

But, fact is, Williams is just one in a long list of coaches at UNC that has found success against the arch-rival Dukies.

The numbers don’t lie.

Hmmm... seems to be a common theme through the years

The all-time series is completely lopsided, sure Duke just got to it’s 100th win in the rivalry last year — congratulations — but that pales in comparison to UNC’s total.

In fact, the Tar Heels lead the overall series 130-101 all-time, so, when you’re looking at the rivalry as a whole, I think any recruit knows which school is superior.

So, I guess when it comes to this “rivalry”, one team has the clear advantage and should be the obvious choice for any recruit struggling to decide their future.

All you have to ask yourself is one question: Do I like winning? – and you’ll have all the info you need to make your decision. (Luke)



Filed under Draft Debates, General, Opinion, Recruiting

2 responses to “1-on-1: UNC vs. Duke

  1. Ballin

    I would argue its not so obvious choice. If it were, all recruits who were choosing between the two would have chosen one over the other, but that doesn’t happen. They are both good schools with both taking it home in ’09 and ’10 respectively. Not to mention, both have had some of the most fun/great times of college basketball in our lifetime. Duke’s team in 1999 and Carolina’s team in 2005 were absolutely stacked. The reality of it is that they are both great places to play and there are not too many other schools out there that you have to respect as title contenders year in and year out.

    I think a lot of the points you raise are valid, but many are secondary reasons to the fact that kinds want:
    A) to place somewhere where they can play
    B) to play somewhere where they can win
    C) to play for a coach that isn’t a jerk and will help them get better so they can play at the next level
    D) to play somewhere where they can have fun (that goes for school environment, team dynamics)
    E) For some (wish it was for more but lets be real here) academics

    I’m not saying that who choose UNC don’t respect MJ or James Worthy, or kids who end up at Duke don’t respect G.Hill or Elton Brand,I just think its more of an afterthought.

    I don’t think its a slam dunk as you make it out to be based on the question you’ve put forth. If your question is who is the best team of the last 100 years, Carolina or Duke? That would be a different story. But given your question as to what is better for a recruit, I think its much more unclear as to who is better.

  2. DaMan

    @ Ballin,
    I agree with you that it’s all about winning. Just wanted to add, that it sucks that kids don’t care about history nowadays. I am a true blue tarheel fan but I am also a fan of the game and love history (in general). As I have matured though, I have found a new respect for Duke. While yes Kansas and Kentucky are head of UNC in all-time wins. I still put Carolina ahead for 2 simple reasons. 1) Both Kansas (1898) and Kentucy (1901?) 2) Those schools don’t have a school the caliber of Duke in their league, that they have to play twice maybe 3x times a year.

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