Greatest sports rivalries: UNC Tar Heels vs. Duke Blue Devils

Duke-UNC is the greatest rivalry in all of college basketball—on and off the court. (AP file)

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.

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