Tonight, Duke University takes on the University of North Carolina in the middle of Rivalry Week, but there isn't much focus from the media on the contest. Much of the attention over the last few weeks has been on the downward spiral of the Tar Heels who have dropped six of seven and have fallen 4 ½ games behind the ACC leader, the Duke Blue Devils. But there isn't really a time when the Duke/North Carolina matchup doesn't matter. It's 90 years of tradition. It's the 227 previous meeting in the battle of Tobacco Road. It's the blood, sweat and tears the teams have drawn from each other. Two of the four winningest programs in college basketball history square off tonight in Chapel Hill and you can expect the Dean Smith Center will be packed with a raging student body.
North Carolina's Three-time All-American Forward and the ACC's all-time leading scorer, Tyler Hansbrough will become the eighth Tar Heel to have his jersey retired before tonight's game with Duke. That should only add to the fire of the rivalry game.
Even without North Carolina as one of its top competitors this season, Duke is struggling to pull away from the pack; Maryland and Wake Forest are just a ½ game behind. Tonight is a bit of a must win for both teams. This seems like an easy chance for the Blue Devils to stretch their conference lead. At 13-10, on paper the Tar Heels don't seem like much of a competitor, but don't expect either team to take the other lightly. For the Tar Heels, the defending national champion, appears to be out of the NCAA Tournament and headed for an NIT birth. If they are going to make the field of 65, a win at home against the nation's #7 Duke Blue Devils would be a great start.
Duke has lost three straight and six of seven in the series. Despite the records and streaks, ups-and-downs … it's Duke vs. UNC. It always matters.