There are many reasons to believe the ACC is a perpetual two-horse parade, at least in the lifetimes of every one of its players and many college basketball fans.
Consider the preseason polls, a reflection of the (somewhat) careful considerations of media members, coaches, and other observers.
All but once since 1985, when Mike Krzyzewski's program hit its stride as a national presence, either Duke or North Carolina or both started the year ranked in the top 10 in the Associated Press poll. That litany includes the current season, which starts with UNC top-rated and Duke No. 6.
Making a strong impression stronger, this is the 16th season in the past 24, and the fourth in a row, that starts with both North Carolina and Duke ranked among the nation's top 10. That's two of every three years for nearly a quarter-century that the pair figured prominently among the game's best.
From 1986 through 1995 Dean Smith's Carolina clubs started every year ranked in the top 10. Mike Krzyzewski's Duke squads started the last five seasons ranked in the top 10, and 15 of the last 16.
The only year in the last 28 -- 28! -- that saw both schools excluded from the preseason top 10 was 1996.
Duke was not ranked at all that year. The Tar Heels, picked 20th, finished 25th, the bottom of the national rankings. Coincidentally '96 was the last time neither the Heels nor Blue Devils reached the finals of the ACC Tournament.
The pair tends to perform up to expectations, too.
Duke has finished in the top 10 in 21 of the 28 seasons since 1985. UNC has done likewise 18 times during that period. Both teams ranked in the top 10 in the majority of seasons since 1985 (17 of 28).
By contrast, the last time an ACC squad other than Duke or UNC finished in the AP top 10 was Boston College in 2006. The preceding year was the last in which ACC teams from beyond the U.S. 15-501 axis started the season in the top 10 - Wake Forest at No. 2 and Georgia Tech third. The Demon Deacons, led by guard Chris Paul, fulfilled the predictions and finished fifth. Georgia Tech wound up 25th.
No wonder it seems the Devils and Heels reign perpetually at the front rank of the ACC and the nation. That's not just an impression or an habitual expectation. That's a modern fact of life.
|LAND OF THE GIANTS|
|Duke and North Carolina in Modern Associated Press Polls
Preseason Since 1985, Final 1985-2011
|Top 10 Preseason||Top 10 Final||Top 25 Preseason||Top 25 Final||UnrankedÂ Preseason||Unranked Â Final|
|Duke||Â 22||21||26||24||2 96,87||3 07,96,95|
|UNC||Â 22||18||25||22||3 06,03,85||5 10,03,02,00,90|
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