What would happen if North Carolina and Duke met in the Final Four? According to the Fayetteville Observer, “Armageddon”.
With Louisville and Kentucky meeting on Saturday evening in New Orleans, the “intrastate rivalry” question has been raised, but because of the stakes, parties on both sides of the UNC-Duke line say it would be the biggest game in the history of the rivalry.
“You could argue the point it would give ultimate bragging rights,” former North Carolina player and current UNC radio analyst Eric Montross told the Observer.
The backstory is familiar: Duke and North Carolina are separated by 11 miles, have met 234 times, and harbor more unkind feelings toward each other than most any two teams in college basketball.
Outside of the programs themselves, who wouldn’t want to see that?
Fans were treated to a delight this year, as Austin Rivers hit a rainbow three at the end of regulation to give the Blue Devils a road win over the Tar Heels. North Carolina bounced back in the rematch and trounced Duke by 18 points. Revenge.
But imagine the implications of a moment like the one Rivers had earlier in the season on the landscape of college basketball, were it to have taken place in the Final Four. The two bitterest rivals in the sport, and a freshman knocks down a shot to advance to the national championship or, heck, even win the whole thing.
“I felt like it would suck,” Jay Bilas, former Duke assistant and now broadcaster told the Observer about the possibility of a Final Four matchup. “It would be the last word, the trump card, and it might never happen again.”
Maybe Kentucky-Louisville could be the test run. We haven’t seen an intrastate Final Four matchup in 50 years. If this goes well, we could wish for North Carolina-Duke. Just wish.