Well the die is cast and there’s no way to get around it: Duke and UNC will meet in the NCAA tournament for the first time, and in the Final Four no less.
It’s not the first time it could have happened of course. Both teams were in the Final Four in 1991 but UNC lost to Kansas while Duke beat UNLV.
The situation at the Hoosier Dome was, frankly, a bit frightening: the UNC fans went in one door while Duke went in another just down the way and they were taunting each other. It was extremely intense - and they didn't even play each other.
And of course in 1979 both teams were in the Eastern Regional, in Reynolds Coliseum - and both lost on the opening day.
Black Sunday they called it.
Still call it.
UNC didn't get to this Final Four by chance. Since beating Duke in Cameron they crushed Virginia before losing to Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament.
Then they dominated Marquette before escaping an insane Baylor comeback. UCLA was a dogfight and as it turned out, Saint Peter’s was out of magic in Philly. This team is playing very well.
So what should we expect in NOLA?
Well, as far as we can grok, the standard Duke-UNC atmosphere x 10 and squared by the Coach-K’s-Last-Ride business.
It could only possibly be more intense if it were in the finals.
The best insight we have right now is this: “Let me just say, it’s unacceptable. Today was unacceptable, but the season has been very acceptable. And I’ll tell you, the season isn’t over.”
First, people - well probably not as many Duke fans but lots of other folks - misunderstood that comment.
What was unacceptable was not the loss. Losing, if you compete at your highest level and lose to a better team, well, that’s life. No one wins everything all time and if you do your best and another team beats you anyway, so be it.
But what you can do, and what Coach K was talking about, is meeting your standards.
Duke didn’t do that and while it might have been embarrassing for him personally, not least of all because of the ceremony, what angered him was the inability to meet the standards expected. His team didn’t play Duke Basketball.
We don’t know if Duke will beat UNC in New Orleans or not. Win or lose though, we’re pretty sure of one thing: you will see a supreme effort to live up to the standards of the program.
What’s going to happen in the Triangle?
Well that’s up to the fans. As far as Duke fans go, we hope that everyone will be sane and not bait anyone or taunt if Duke wins. We should do everything we can to behave this week and if we win Saturday, be gracious.
As locals know, a lot of people are going to have a tough time with this and we mean families. Marriages will be strained and some people won’t want to call their relatives for a while after it’s over. We’d suggest watching at home because emotions at a bar are going to be high. So will the drinking.
And if you really want to have some fun, try driving home and the cop who pulls you over pulls for the other team.
Really, we recommend watching at home.
One other thing we mulled over tonight too.
Kansas, or possibly Villanova, is probably in the catbird seat. A Duke-UNC semifinal is going to be a draining event, emotionally and physically. And given that Villanova has a key injury since Justin Moore is out after blowing out his Achilles at the end of the Houston game, you have to think Bill Self sees opportunity yawning wide. It doesn’t mean things will absolutely break his way, but it does mean Kansas could have a great path ahead.
Kansas handled Miami much better than we expected. Miami hung in there for about 24 minutes before KU just blew their doors off.
Miami only managed 10 points in the last 14 minutes. Kansas, meanwhile, ripped off 36 and fouled out Sam Waardenburg and Jordan Miller to boot.
It wasn’t the uber quick, uber smart Miami team we’ve enjoyed so much, but it was a spectacular run.
The ACC had 37.5 percent of the Elite Eight and 50 percent of the Final Four. And you know, that’s pretty damn good for a conference that was supposed to be dreadful.