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Taking The NCAA Torch

You don’t have to beat the champs to become the champs. But it doesn’t hurt.

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North Carolina v Duke
Devils drives to the basket against Joel Berry II #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 3, 2018 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Duke couldn’t play itself, so we won’t count 1991 and 1992. But there have been three times that consecutive NCAA champions met in the intervening ACC tournament, a clash that could occur again at Barclays Center this week.

In each previous instance, the defending national champs won the ACC Tournament matchup with its NCAA successor and went on to grab the conference title. In order for the trick to be turned in 2018 North Carolina, last year’s national champion, would have to be involved.

The Tar Heels would need to get by the winner of the first-round game pitting disappointing Wake Forest against disappointing Syracuse. Surviving that, UNC would meet Miami in the quarterfinals. The Hurricanes beat the Heels last week on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Ja’Quan Newton on Senior Night at the Smith Center.

Newton’s clutch jumper, which followed his conversion of a pair of one-and-one opportunities in the final 24.8 seconds, was of a set with a game-winning three by Lonnie Walker IV against Boston College and a free throw by Chris Lykes to top Virginia Tech. Miami finished the regular season with four straight victories.

Get past the Hurricanes and Carolina has a chance to face Duke in the semifinals. The last time the rivals met after one had captured an NCAA title and the other was en route to the next one was 1992, when the Blue Devils beat UNC by 20 in the ACC Tournament final.

Duke of course just defeated the Tar Heels this past Saturday at Durham.

Consecutive NCAA Champs Meeting in Intervening ACC Tournament
Years Title Teams Round ACC Result
1982 #1 North Carolina semifinals W,58-46
1983 #4 NC State
1992 #1 Duke final W, 94-74
1993 #3 North Carolina
2001 #2 Duke semifinals W, 84-82
2002 #3 Maryland
2009 #1 North Carolina DID NOT MEET
2010 #3 Duke
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