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Joe Boozell | | February 4, 2021

Coach K vs. Roy: Breaking down the rivalry since Williams took over

The 11 best Duke men's basketball players of the decade

Duke and North Carolina will square off on Saturday in another edition of one of the best rivalries in sports.

The Tar Heels and Blue Devils, who as of February 2018 had remarkably split their last 100 matchups and their point totals separated by a mere seven points in that span, are both operating on a different level this season than they're usually accustomed.

Duke (7-6) is just 5-4 in the ACC entering the matchup. North Carolina  (11-6) has been slightly  better, with a 6-4 conference record. Saturday's matchup will be the first time the two rivals met as unranked teams since 1960.

Let’s take a closer look at the coaching matchup: Roy Williams took the UNC job in 2003, and his battles with Mike Krzyzewski have been legendary. How do the two stack up?

Here’s what the rivalry has looked like since Williams arrived in Chapel Hill.


  • Duke and North Carolina have faced each other 38 times since the start of the 2003-04  season. The Blue Devils are 23-17 against the Tar Heels in that span.

  • The longest winning streak during that stretch is four — Duke won every matchup between March 8, 2014 and Feb. 17, 2016. Relatively recently, North Carolina won three games in a row in the series — their matchup in the 2018 ACC tournament, plus a regular-season sweep of Duke last season, when National Player of the Year Zion Williamson blew his shoe out in the opening minutes of the first meeting and missed the second one as he recovered from the injury. Duke has won the last three meetings in the rivalry.

  • Since 2003-04, Duke and North Carolina have competed at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Dean Smith Center and the ACC tournament. The Blue Devils hold the edge inside two of the three venues — they’re 10-7 at Cameron and 4-1 in the ACC tournament, while the two sides are 9-9 at the Dean Dome.

  • Duke has outscored North Carolina by just 24 points in those matchups — 3,095 to 3,071 — which is an average of 0.63 points per game.

  • North Carolina’s 2005 recruiting class — featuring Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green and Marcus Ginyard — has had the most success against Duke in this time period. The group went 6-2 against Duke in four years. During a recent four-year stretch from the 2015-16 season through the 2018-19 season, North Carolina went 6-5 against Duke and Tar Heels Luke Maye and Kenny Williams were on each of those teams.

  • Eight of the 38 matchups have been decided by two points or less. Duke is 7-1 in those games.

  • In total, 27 of the 38 games have been decided by 10 points or fewer. The largest margin of victory was 32, when Duke blew out UNC in 2010.

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That’s the head-to-head story. Now, let’s take a look at how the programs have fared as a whole since Williams’ arrival.

National Championship: UNC triumphs over Gonzaga

North Carolina has three national championships (2005, 2009, 2017) to Duke’s two (2010, 2015).

  • North Carolina has five Final Four appearances (2005, 2008, 2009, 2016, 2017) to Duke’s three (2004, 2010, 2015). The Blue Devils got close each of the last two NCAA tournaments, losing to Kansas in overtime in the Elite Eight in 2018 and falling to Michigan State by one point in the Elite Eight in 2019.

  • The Tar Heels have dominated the ACC in Williams’ tenure — his North Carolina teams have finished atop the regular season standings nine times to Krzyzewski’s three since 2004.

  • Duke has made the NCAA tournament every year of this stretch. UNC missed it once (2010) and both could be in danger of missing it this season if they don't pile up more wins. In Andy Katz's latest NCAA tournament projections, North Carolina is a No. 9 seed and Duke is a No. 10 seed.

Both fan bases have reasons to be proud. Duke has outperformed North Carolina when the two have shared the court, but overall, the Tar Heels have accomplished more over the last 17 years.

As seen above, these schools have played a bunch of close games. Here are some of the most memorable over the past decade and a half.

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Feb. 4, 2004: Duke 83, North Carolina 81 (OT)

Chris Duhon’s layup with 6.5 seconds left lifted Duke to an overtime victory in Williams’ first taste of the Duke-UNC rivalry.

March 6, 2005: North Carolina 75, Duke 73

The Tar Heels trailed Duke by nine points with 3:04 left on Senior Day in Chapel Hill. Raymond Felton, Sean May and Marvin Williams spearheaded the Tar Heels’ comeback, and J.J. Redick’s 3-pointer rimmed out at the final buzzer to give UNC the victory.

Feb. 8, 2012: Duke 85, North Carolina 84

UNC was on cruise control for most of the second half, but Tyler Thornton and Seth Curry got hot from deep to narrow the gap. With 14 seconds left, UNC’s Tyler Zeller accidentally tipped the ball into Duke’s basket, decreasing the Tar Heels’ lead from three to one.

Then, it was Austin Rivers time. Rivers nailed the game-winning 3 as time expired and finished with 29 points on the evening.

Feb. 18, 2015: Duke 92, North Carolina 90

The game happened in the days after Dean Smith’s passing, and players and coaches from both sides joined at half court in a moment of silence before tip.

The game was a classic. Duke trailed UNC with about two and a half minutes left, but Tyus Jones got hot for the Blue Devils to send the game to overtime. There, Duke prevailed, continuing its pattern of winning close games over its biggest rival.

Feb. 8, 2018: North Carolina 82, Duke 78

A common theme in this rivalry — comebacks. The Tar Heels trailed by 12 in the first half, but rallied to top the Blue Devils by four.

In his last home game against Duke, Joel Berry scored 21 points and had six assists. It was a much-needed win for UNC, which was struggling in ACC play but had also lost six of its last eight meetings against Duke.

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