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Duke vs. North Carolina for first place

Mason Plumlee #5 of the Duke Blue Devils

Mason Plumlee #5 of the Duke Blue Devils talks to teammate Kyle Singler #12 against the St John's Red Storm at Madison Square Garden. (Jan. 30, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

It's back to the scene of the crime for North Carolina.

Last season Duke topped the Tar Heels twice, including an 82-50 thrashing at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Roy Williams' crew will get a chance to return the favor in a nationally televised game on Wednesday night.

Making this game more interesting is the fact that first place is on the line. The No. 5 Blue Devils (21-2, 8-1 ACC) have been cruising for the most part, while No.20 North Carolina (17-5, 7-1) has had to claw its way back onto the national scene.

The Rivalry obviously goes deeper than what happened last season. Wednesday will mark the 230th all-time meeting between the teams. Duke has had control of the rivalry in the regualr season in recent years, winning 19 of the last 28 games dating back to the 1998-1999 season.

Here are some more numbers: Duke and North Carolina have won the last two national championships. Duke has a 32-game home winning streak, which is the longest in the nation.

Oh, it gets better. Duke is 61-2 over the last four seasons at Cameron. Duke's Nolan Smith (21 pts, 5.6 ast) is one of four players in the country to average 20 or more points and five or more assists. Hofstra's Charles Jenkins (23.2, 5.3) is one of the four.

North Carolina doesn't have a superstar like Smith or Kyle Singler, but the Tar Heels have great balance. Tyler Zeller (14.1 ppg, 6.9 reb) leads the way along with freshman sensation Harrison Barnes (13.3, 5.5).

But this rivalry goes far beyond numbers. Duke and North Carolina are the top two programs in college basketball. There is always a hot debate surrounding which of the two programs is No.1.

Here's why Duke is No.1: The Blue Devils have been to 11 Final Fours with four national championhships under Mike Krzyzewski's guidance. Duke's first Final Four appearance under Coach K came in 1986. Tough to argue against that. 

Here's why North Carolina is No.1: The Tar Heels have been to nine Final Fours with three national titles during that same period.

But here's the big difference. North Carolina's three titles and nine Final Fours came under three difference coaches -Dean Smith, Bill Guthridge, Roy Williams. That hasn't been the case for Duke. Krzyzewski had to sit out the 1994-1995 season due hip surgery.

His assistant Pete Gaudet took over. Duke finished 13-18 and 2-14 in the ACC that season.

This isn't to say Duke couldn't survive if Krzyzewski decided to retire, but North Carolina has survived coaching changes.


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