"All this has happened before, and it will happen again." -- Cylon proverb from Battlestar Galactica
As the Evil Empire prepares to play for a national championship, it is easy to draw a parallel to a time not all that long ago when the roles of Duke and UNC were reversed.
The time was 1992, and Duke was coming off back-to-back national championships and three straight Final Fours. Coinciding with the explosion on college basketball on ESPN, Duke was the new face of college basketball, having supplanted North Carolina as the premier program in the ACC.
Carolina, meanwhile, despite having guys named Jordan, Perkins, Smith, and Reid in the lineup, suffered through a nine-year Final Four drought that finally ended in 1991, but was overshadowed by Duke's first title and its repeat performance the next year. Dean Smith turned 60 in 1991 and the whispers were beginning that the game had passed him by and that UNC would never regain its glory of the 70s and 80s.
Of course, Smith and the Tar Heels answered Duke's titles with a magical NCAA run in 1993 with a team that ranks as a fan favorite even today. Despite having no real NBA superstars (although George Lynch and Eric Montross would draw an NBA paycheck for many years), the Tar Heels dispatched highly favored Michigan to win Smith's second title and remove all doubt as to his place in the college basketball pantheon. Smith would lead the Heels to two more Final Fours before retiring in 1997.
Fast forward to 2009, when Roy Williams has led UNC to its second title in five years. Tyler Hansbrough becomes the ACC's all-time leading scorer and the Heels are named the team of the decade. Duke, on the other hand, had only been to one Final Four since winning a title in 2001 and was fast becoming a blip in Carolina's rear-view mirror. Mike Krzyzewski turned 60 in 2007 and his work with USA Basketball caused question as to whether or not he was giving everything he had to Duke. UNC and Williams landing star recruit Harrison Barnes after Barnes was seemingly a lock to attend Duke was supposed to be the final nail in the ascension of Carolina basketball over the Blue Devils.
Yet, just five short months after Barnes rocked the UNC-Duke rivalry and just 365 days after Duke basketball was seemingly banished to irrelevancy, the Devils will play for the school's (and Krzyzewski's) fourth NCAA title at the same time Carolina suffered through a season to forget. Much as Carolina was to be tossed on the scrap heap of history in the early 90s but rebounded to win a title the very next year, Duke stands in an eerily similar situation nearly two decades later. Crazy parallels, but in many ways, the unbridled success of both programs have shared such parallels, particularly over the past 30 years. Without yin, there is no yang.
With all that being said, Butler will have a multitude of light blue brethren tonight - GO BULLDOGS!