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College Basketball Armegeddon, Part II

Duke-North Carolina.

Of course they way this thing is being played it would appear that approximately 9:07 PM when they tip the ball at Cameron some sort of cosmic intersection will occur and completely destroy the planet. ESPN is using every media outlet they have to broadcast some aspect of the game. The national sports media is in a frenzy, the local media here is in a frenzy, and the fans are obviously jacked up.

As a lifelong UNC fans and native North Carolinian, I am beginning to lament the loss of privacy this rivalry once enjoyed. Yes, it is easily the best rivalry in college sports, and perhaps in all of sports in this country(sorry Yankee-Red Sox fans). Yet it is has also been North Carolina's own little backyard brawl. It, along with ACC basketball as a whole, is a staple in this state during the winter. UNC-Duke is the absolute expression of that love of college basketball. It is not simply two rival schools. It is two school who are only 8 miles apart. It is two schools who are considered nuclear powers in college basketball. One is private, one is public. Both have and have had Hall of Fame coaches who have been the defining standard for the game of college basketball for over 40 years. It has bad blood(Larry Brown-Art Heymen), real blood(Eric Montross, 1992), unbelievable comebacks(1974,1995,1996,2005), breathless finishes(1989 ACC championship), and controversy(1997). Having watched UNC play since I was old enough to remember I can tell you that Duke-UNC has the same anxiety and feel as does the ACC and NCAA Tournament. My level of agitation is the same as if UNC is playing a national championship. In other words, winning this one is almost as important as winning it all. Two teams who, one of which has been at every Final Four since 1986 execpt four. Two teams who not only battle for pride but for ACC titles.

One thing the national attention does is it seems to cheapen it somewhat, water it down with the inclusion of bandwagon fans who do not know or understand the full Duke-UNC experience or the nature of ACC Basketball. I know there are alumni and real fans nationally who will benefit from the coverage but in the end the hype and absolute furor over the game itself takes it from being that no holds bar rivalry between two Tobacco Road schools and turns into a spectacle. I have decried ESPN in a previous post for skewing the line between showing games/reporting news and becoming an entertainment venue driven on ratings and profit. ESPN's move in regards to the way they are broadcasting the UNC-Duke game is exactly that, a ploy based on ratings and money. It also make the rivalry game a show rather than the hotly contested game it usually is.

As for me, I will be in front of the television Saturday night, nervous and excited. UNC comes in as hot as any team in the country. Duke is playing J.J. Redick's last game at Cameron and coming off a loss at Florida State. It has all the makings of an epic clash, except the only ingredient you need for an epic clash is two teams with North Carolina and Duke on the chests and 40 minutes of basketball.

Prediction: Duke 83 UNC 80