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Best wins bracket: Duke vs. North Carolina regular season region

No matter the circumstances heading into the game, Duke vs. North Carolina never seems to disappoint.
No matter the circumstances heading into the game, Duke vs. North Carolina never seems to disappoint.

Editor's note: This is part of The Chronicle's bracket for Duke men's basketball's best wins of the Coach K era. If you want an overview of the tournament or information on the other regions within the bracket, click here.

Duke vs. North Carolina is arguably the greatest rivalry in all of sports, and is one that never seems to disappoint. Twice a year these two blue bloods match up in one of their home stadiums, and each game seems to always live up to its billing. Presented below is the bracket, descriptions and matchups of the eight Blue Devil wins that make up this region of our best wins tournament.



No. 1 seed: Duke 85, North Carolina 84: Feb. 8, 2012 (Dean E. Smith Center)

You can't bring up historic Duke vs. North Carolina matchups without mentioning what's come to be known as the "Miracle on Franklin Street." Down 10 with 2:15 remaining in the contest, the Blue Devils utilized timely threes, a huge Mason Plumlee steal and a little bit of luck to cut their deficit to 84-82 with under 15 seconds remaining. It was then that Austin Rivers etched his name in college basketball lore. Rather than follow the designed play and attempt to draw a foul near the rim, the freshman guard pulled up for a gutsy three over the outstretched arm of Tar Heel seven-footer Tyler Zeller. The shot hit nothing but net right as the buzzer sounded. 

No. 2 seed: Duke 98, North Carolina 96: Feb. 8, 2020 (Dean E. Smith Center)

This game wasn’t supposed to be eventful. North Carolina was in the basement of the ACC and Duke was gunning for its first regular season conference title since 2010. But after the Tar Heels outplayed the Blue Devils for almost all of regulation, Tre Jones became Tre “Stones” and carried Duke to the win, none of his contributions being more important than his game-tying buzzer-beater to send the contest to overtime. In the extra period’s waning seconds, Jones again went up from the same spot as his earlier buzzer-beater, only this time he air-balled. But freshman Wendell Moore Jr. read the shot trajectory, caught the ball mid-air and put back the miss as the buzzer sounded, stunning a packed Dean E. Smith Center.

No. 3 seed: Duke 66, North Carolina 65 (OT): Feb. 28, 1981 (Cameron Indoor Stadium)

This victory was a little bit sweeter for Mike Krzyzewski. It was his first home game against North Carolina as head coach of the Blue Devils, and at this point in the rivalry Duke was the little brother of the already-established Tar Heels. But the game remained close the entire way, and at the end of regulation, Blue Devil senior Gene Banks caught the inbound pass at the free throw line and sunk the buzzer-beater to send it to overtime. Nearly five minutes later, as the overtime clock was winding down, Banks grabbed a Duke miss and made the game-winning layup, closing the chapter on the David and Goliath story and sending the Cameron Crazies out of their seats and onto the court.

No. 4 seed: Duke 77, North Carolina 75: Feb. 28, 1998 (Cameron Indoor Stadium)

In a Senior Day performance that perfectly encapsulated his four-year career in Durham, Steve Wojciechowski scored only one point in his final regular season game as a Blue Devil. But the 1998 NABC Defensive Player of the Year also dished out 11 assists as top-ranked Duke overcame a 17-point deficit with 12 minutes remaining to take down the third-ranked Tar Heels. The emotional victory even led to a rare Cameron Indoor court storm.

No. 5 seed: Duke 92, North Carolina 90 (OT): Feb. 18, 2015 (Cameron Indoor Stadium)

The pregame mood was solemn for Duke and North Carolina fans alike, as both sides joined together to mourn the loss of legendary Tar Heel head coach Dean Smith. After an emotional tribute, both sides came ready to play as the momentum seesawed back and forth all the way into overtime. Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones led the Blue Devils the whole way, with Jones scoring Duke’s final nine points of regulation and Okafor hitting two huge buckets in the extra period.

No. 6 seed: Duke 83, North Carolina 81 (OT): Feb. 5, 2004 (Dean E. Smith Center)

The top-ranked Blue Devils narrowly escaped with the victory in the Dean Dome, introducing head coach Roy Williams, who was coaching his first season in Chapel Hill, to the concept of losing to Duke at home. Senior guard Chris Duhon made the game-winning reverse layup with 6.5 seconds remaining in overtime and sophomore forward Shelden Williams dazzled with a stat line of 22 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks.

No. 7 seed: Duke 79, North Carolina 73: Feb. 9, 2011 (Cameron Indoor Stadium)

For a while, it looked like North Carolina was to play spoiler in Nolan Smith's last home game against the Tar Heels, with the visiting squad taking a 43-29 lead into halftime. But as you can probably tell from the previous six games on this list, that lead vanquished quickly. Smith dropped a career-high 34 in the contest, with his and-one layup at the eight-minute mark sending the Cameron Crazies, as well as an injured Kyrie Irving, into an absolute frenzy.

No. 8 seed: Duke 71, North Carolina 70: Feb. 9, 2005 (Cameron Indoor Stadium)

It was Duke's dominant defense that won this thriller, both overall and in the game's final play. Down one with 17 seconds remaining, North Carolina had the chance to stun the home crowd. But the second-ranked Tar Heels failed to get a shot off, losing the ball out of bounds as the clock hit triple zeros. JJ Redick finished just 4-of-12 from the field, but Shelden Williams posted five steals and five blocks as the seventh-ranked Blue Devils limited North Carolina's top-ranked offense to 22 points below its season average.

Regional finals

No. 1: Duke at UNC 2012

No. 2: Duke at UNC 2020

Second-round matchups

No. 1: Duke at UNC 2012

No. 5: Duke vs. UNC 2015

No. 2: Duke at UNC 2020

No. 6: Duke at UNC 2004

First-round matchups

No. 1: Duke at UNC 2012

No. 8: Duke vs. UNC 2005

No. 2: Duke at UNC 2020

No. 7: Duke vs. UNC 2011

No. 3: Duke vs. UNC 1981

No. 6: Duke at UNC 2004

No. 4: Duke vs. UNC 1998

No. 5: Duke vs. UNC 2015

Jake C. Piazza

Jake Piazza is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.


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