There’s a good chance when Duke and North Carolina meet annually – this year on Feb. 5 and March 5 — one or both teams will be worthy national championship contenders. This season that’s probably Duke; the Tar Heels have yet to crash the ’22 polls and don’t appear sufficiently consistent or polished to make a title run.
The history of the annual series is so crowded with high-achieving squads, however, it’s a surprise when neither is prominent on the national stage when titles are being contested.
Consider that over the 42 years Mike Krzyzewski has been at Duke – not counting the 2020 season, when there was no NCAA tournament, or the ’22 season still in progress – either the Tar Heels or Blue Devils or both have been to the NCAA regional finals 33 times.
To repeat: Duke or Carolina made it to the Elite Eight, the fourth round of the NCAAs, in 33 of the 40 most recent tournaments, 82.5 percent.
Regional finalists tend to come and go in popular appreciation. Win and you’ve reached the Final Four, the pinnacle weekend. Lose and you’re gone, stinging from doing well but falling short at the threshold.
For many programs, getting to a Final Four is a much coveted and seductively satisfying achievement, an end in itself when there are two games left to play. The Tar Heels and Blue Devils are accustomed to getting that far, their coaches and support staffs undaunted by the distractions.
That’s made it easier for the pair to make it to 25 Final Fours across four decades, cashing in a remarkable 62.5 percent of their chances, approaching two of every three years.
And of course the schools combined for 10 national titles during those years, one in every four: 1982, 1991, 1992, 1993, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017.
For now, let others revert to trotting out lists of favorite plays, favorite game outcomes and favorite cliffhangers, sorting through memory like kids fingering their collection of shiniest pennies. We just offer this list of achievements to outline the very promising possibilities of where one or both neighbors will wind up when the games are done.
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Duke and North Carolina in Championship Competition Since 1981
|Year||NCAA Champ||Final 4||Elite 8||ACC Champ||ACCT Final|