Has UNC won the Battle of the Blues?


Whether it be the final four matchup between UNC and Duke on April 2 or a regular season NCAA game, fans always pack a basketball arena to watch the UNC and Duke Men’s Basketball teams compete in “the battle of the blues”

The Battle of the Blue refers to the college basketball rivalry between The University of North Carolina Tarheels and the Duke University Blue Devils. Duke University and UNCCH are just eight miles apart from each other and have been playing against each other since 1920.

The Biggest Basketball Rivalry Of All Time

Over the years, the familiarity and proximity between the two schools’ teams has caused the rivalry to grow enormously. 

Bo Groff, a Leesville junior who considers himself an avid Duke fan, believes that the rivalry keeps the spirit of college basketball alive. “The rivalry is good for both programs and keeps the whole nation entertained,” said Groff.

Groff watched his team destroy Carolina in the beginning of the 2021-2022 basketball season, and he has watched them lose twice to the Tar Heels at the end of the same season.

Duke students set up tents outside of Cameron Indoor Stadium days before UNC vs Duke games, and UNC students flood Franklin Street before and after the teams play each other. 

Part of the reason that the rivalry arose was due to the two teams’ success. UNC, holding the record for most final four appearances, has been in 21 finals fours and has 6 national titles. Meanwhile Duke has had 11 final four appearances and they have won 5 national championships.

Brayden Hakerem, a junior at Leesville and life-long Tarheel fan, explains the significance of the two teams’ tensions. “The battle of the blues is hands down the most anticipated rivalry in college basketball,” said Hakerem. 

The History of the Dog Fight

For about 100 years, the two teams have played against each other at least 2 times in their regular season, and they played each other in additional games during March Madness. 

Towards the beginning of the ACC basketball tournament, Duke was on a losing streak. In 1959, Vic Bubas became the new Duke University Men’s Basketball coach which posed a threat to the Tarheels basketball program.

Art Heyman, a successful high school athlete, signed an intent to play for the Tarheels under coach Frank McGuire. Heyman’s parents weren’t fond of coach McGuire, so under NCAA rules, he decommitted from UNCCH and committed to Duke for basketball.

In 1960, after Duke lost to UNC at the Dixie Classic Final, Heyman was full of vengeance when they played the Taheels in a later game. Heyman fouled Larry Brown, an old highschool friend who played for the Tarheels, and the two got into a fight on the court in which fains joined.

On March 2, 1968, Fed Lind won the regular season finale game between the Blue Devils and Tarheels for Duke in a triple overtime. Then on March 2, 1974, the Tarheels made an 8 point comeback in the last 17 seconds of a game against Duke before the three-pointers were even created.

The two teams went on playing close games and increasing tensions. 

Out of the 258 games between the Tarheels and Blue Devils, UNC has won 143 and Duke has won 115. 

The End Of An Era

Roy Williams was the Head Coach of the University of North Carolina’s Men’s Basketball team from 2003 to 2021. He announced his retirement on April 1, 2021, and exactly one year later and one day later, the Blue Devils played the Tarheels one last time under Coach Krzyzewski.

Coach Krzyzewski has been the Head Coach of the Duke University Men’s Basketball team for 42 seasons and holds the NCAA record for the most wins. 

On April 2, 2022, the two teams played each other in the final four. UNC took Krzyzewski’s last chance of winning a National Championship during Hubert Davis’s first year as the Tarheels Head Coach.

The Tarheels went on to lose the National Championship to Kansas University, but the team’s adrenaline was still at a high from beating Duke. “We may not have won the national championship, but beating Duke in the final four was the real national title,” said Hakerem. 

Carolina’s win over Duke in the final four was only a month after Carolina beat Duke at Coach Krzyzewski’s last home game. The Coach Krzyzewski vs Coach Roy WIlliams era has ended with the Tarheels having bragging rights over the Blue Devils.

Though the Tarheels ended ahead of the Blue Devils at the end of the 2022 basketball season, the nation continues to fight over what shade of blue we bleed. 


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