“I have said very publicly that if Duke was playing against the Taliban, then I’d have to pull for the Taliban.”
Those are the words of ride-or-die North Carolina fan and former U.S. Rep. Brad Miller about the Duke-North Carolina basketball rivalry.
Duke and North Carolina basketball fans’ disdain for each other cannot be underestimated. The hostility between the two squads is arguably one of the most heated in sports. It tops the list of college sports rivalries, with books and numerous articles dedicated to dissecting clashes between the two schools.
Over the years, both teams have reached the pinnacle of success with multiple national championships, Atlantic Coast Conference titles and players who have become legends on the professional level.
Since the schools are less than 10 miles apart in Tobacco Road, the rivalry intensifies on game days when fans go all out, camping out at arenas in anticipation of the game. The men’s teams traditionally play each other during the last game of the regular season, and the matchup is one of the most highly-anticipated contests in the college season.
With roughly four and a half months before Midnight Madness ignites college basketball again, here’s a look at the 10 most important statistics Duke and North Carolina fans can use to kick off the discussions and stoke the rivalry.
This may be the biggest-picture stat of the list in defending the overall quality of both programs. Going back to 1905 for the first season of Duke men’s basketball and 1910 for UNC, the all-time wins statistic presents a daunting level of success for both programs.
In the sheer number of wins, UNC men top Duke with 2,343 overall wins to Duke’s 2,271.
On the women’s side, 1972-73 marked the first season for both teams. Tar Heels women’s basketball also has more wins than Duke, with 1,045 all-time wins compared with Duke’s 1,005.
Average Wins Per Season
Duke and UNC men have relatively new head coaches who took over from legends. Second-year coach Jon Scheyer took over from Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, while third-year coach Hubert Davis took over from Roy Williams.
So far, Scheyer has been more successful than Davis in wins per season. In the past five years, Duke has averaged 25.8 wins per season compared with 22 by UNC.
All-time Series Record
The Duke-UNC men’s series began in 1920. Since then, the teams have played against each other 260 times. While UNC leads the series, 143-117, Duke swept North Carolina in the 2022-23 season, adding two wins to its record against the Blue Devils.
It was the first season sweep for Duke since 2019-20 and the 18th time in the overall series history.
On the women’s side, the series began in 1973. Overall, North Carolina leads 54-52.
Attendance Numbers and Arena Capacity
When it comes to attendance, UNC men’s basketball leaves Duke in the dust because of the sheer size of the Tar Heels’ arena. UNC’s home arena is the Dean E. Smith Center, which has a capacity of 21,750. The Tar Heels have been in the top five in attendance nationally for 34 of the past 35 seasons. In 2022-23, overall attendance was 298,344, and the team averaged 19,890 fans per game.
Despite the attendance imbalance, Duke’s home, Cameron Indoor Stadium, is one of the most storied arenas in college basketball. Except for the 2020-21 season, when fans didn’t attend games because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Blue Devils have had consecutive sellouts since 1990. However, the arena only holds 9,314 fans. Overall attendance for 2022-23 was 149,024.
On the women’s side, North Carolina plays at Carmichael Arena with a capacity of 6,822. Duke women play at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Even so, UNC women outdraw Duke. Last season UNC averaged 3,072 fans per game compared with 2,252 for Duke.
ACC Tournament Record
The ACC is a grueling meat-grinder of a conference. It is one of the most competitive conferences in basketball, and if the ACC had a heart, it would be in North Carolina. With most of the games clustered around the Tar Heel State, the intensity of ACC basketball radiates out from here.
Duke men’s basketball outpaces UNC when it comes to ACC tournament championships. Duke has 22 tournament titles, the most of any team, and 23 regular-season crowns. UNC has the edge with regular-season titles with 32. The Tar Heels have 18 tournament titles.
UNC women have earned nine ACC tournament title trophies and four regular-season titles. Duke is close behind with eight tournament tiles along with 12 regular-season titles.
NCAA Tournament Appearances
Duke and UNC have a long history in the NCAA tournament. As far as appearances, North Carolina men lead Duke, earning berths 52 times compared to 45 by the Blue Devils.
On the women’s side, the Tar Heels also lead with 30 appearances compared to 25 by Duke.
For many fans, it may all come down to this: who has cut down the nets the most?
While The Tar Heels and the Blue Devils have kept it close, North Carolina has won the NCAA title six times to Duke’s five. The Tar Heels have reached the championship game 12 times, and Duke has made 11 appearances.
The Tar Heels lead the nation in Final Four appearances with 21, while Duke reached the Final Four 17 times.
While the Duke women have reached the NCAA tournament 25 times and played in four Final Fours and two titles games, they lack a championship. UNC has bragging rights, earning a title in 1994 under legendary coach Sylvia Hatchell and with track star Marion Jones as the starting point guard. Overall, the Tar Heels have earned 30 tournament berths and played in three Final Fours.
Hall-of-Fame Players and Coaches
Duke has two Naismith Hall of Fame inductees: Mike Krzyzewski (2001 as a coach) and Grant Hill (2018 as a player). In this category, North Carolina’s 13 HOFers rout the Blue Devils. UNC features the following inductees:
- Ben Carnevale (1970, coach)
- Frank McGuire (1977, coach)
- Dean Smith (1983, coach)
- Billy Cunningham (1986, player)
- Bob McAdoo, (2000, player)
- Larry Brown (2002, coach)
- James Worthy (2003, player)
- Sylvia Hatchell (2004, coach)
- Roy Williams (2007, coach)
- Michael Jordan (2009, player)
- Charlie Scott (2018, player)
- Bobby Jones (2019, player)
- George Karl (2022, coach)
Olympians and National Teams
UNC has produced 19 Olympians (men and women), including several who played for Team USA at least twice, including Michael Jordan.
Duke has 16 Olympians (players and coaches), including women’s player Chelsea Gray, who won gold in Tokyo in 2021. Krzyzewski was part of 15 medal-winning Team USA Basketball teams.
NBA and WNBA Draftees
Players from UNC routinely make NBA all-time greats lists, including Jordan, Bob McAdoo, Vince Carter, James Worthy and Billy Cunningham. The program has had 113 players drafted into the NBA and 21 into the WNBA.
- NBA Champions: 18
- All-NBA Team members: 8
Seventy-one players from Duke have been selected in the NBA draft and have appeared on NBA rosters. Twenty-five Blue Devils are WNBA draftees.
- NBA Champions: 7 (Shane Battier has two titles)
- All-NBA Team members: 5
With talented young coaches on both the men’s and women’s sides, the high expectations for Duke and UNC continue. And, of course, the rivalry still burns hot.
Image: Ben McKeown / The Associated Press