More than nine decades and 242 games after their first meeting, the rivalry between Duke and North Carolina is as heated as ever. The two storied programs sit 1-2 in ACC regular-season championships (with UNC’s 30 leading the way) and conference-tournament titles (Duke’s 19 is the record).
With UNC ahead all-time at 134–108, North Carolina’s all-time leading scorer and former Toronto Raptors forward, Tyler Hansbrough, sheds light on the most fabled matchup in NCAA hoops:
SPORTSNET: Is the Duke-UNC rivalry really as intense as it’s made out to be?
TYLER HANSBROUGH: It’s bigger. It’s bigger than what you can imagine. The anticipation leading up to a game is like nothing I’ve experienced. The whole campus is buzzing about it weeks in advance, students are all trying to get tickets. It’s big-time, man. Everybody gets hyped for Duke—it’s our biggest rival and they’re only 15 miles down the road. And really, you’re talking about two different types of students—we’re public and have a massive campus, whereas they’re a smaller, private school. But there’s great history on both sides, so why wouldn’t it be a great rivalry? Of course it helps that a UNC-Duke game only happens twice a year in the regular schedule.
SN: As a player, is it any different for you?
TH: It’s not just another game, you know? To be honest, the main problem I had with it was trying to stay calm in the middle of all that build-up and just focus on the game, not to get too hyped and blow all my energy before we even step onto the court.
SN: You won a national title and your jersey hangs from the rafters at the Dean Dome. And over your four years, you never lost a game on Duke’s home court at Cameron Indoor Stadium. How does that stack up against everything else?
TH: It’s a huge accomplishment. But I’m not gonna lie, I got more excited to play at their place than I did at home at the Dean Dome. There’s a sense of “whoa” when you walk in there, and there’s all this chaos and pandemonium going on. I loved going over there and seeing their fans all riled up. Even more, I loved looking at the student section sitting there quietly every time I left that building. That’s what it was all about.
SN: What’s the worst thing a Cameron Crazy ever said to you during a game?
TH: The truth is, Duke fans are pretty funny. I don’t remember anything in particular, but they’re always really creative and they make you laugh. But they never took me out of my rhythm.
SN: Being a few years removed from that rivalry now, has your perspective changed at all? Is it different now that you’re not physically playing against Duke anymore?
TH: I don’t think my mentality is ever going to change. There’ll always be a part of me that holds on to that Duke-UNC rivalry deep inside. I’ll carry that with me everywhere I go.