Duke left Brooklyn a little more than three weeks ago with an ACC title and its second win over North Carolina this season.
The Tar Heels left Glendale, Ariz., on Monday night with the national championship. That’s a trade UNC, after its redemptive 71-65 win over Gonzaga in the NCAA title game, will make every time.
It does illustrate the push and the pull between the two powerful programs. Tough neighborhood? Former N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried wasn’t kidding when he often described living with the Tar Heels and Blue Devils as such.
But the truth is, no matter where you are, every program has to go through Duke and Carolina (or Carolina and Duke, if you will).
Upstart Butler, the darlings of March and the little guy everywhere? Reached the NCAA championship game in 2010 and lost to the Blue Devils.
Gonzaga, the original mid-major and modern tournament Cinderella? Reached the championship game this year and lost to the Tar Heels.
Whether you’re Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA and Indiana or Mount St. Mary’s, Texas Southern, Troy and Radford, you’ve got to get through Duke and Carolina to be the best.
Since Mike Krzyzewski was hired at Duke before the 1980-81 season, Duke and UNC have won the most national titles (five each).
Carolina in 1982, ’93 (both under Dean Smith) and then three more in 2005, ’09 and ’17 (all under Roy Williams).
Krzyzewski’s five titles came in 1991, ’92, 2001, ’10 and ’15.
That’s 10 titles between the two Triangle schools, or two more than fellow blue bloods Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA and Indiana have combined for over the same period of time.
Duke and Carolina have made more trips to the Final Four, a 13 to 12 advantage for UNC, than any other program over that same span. Kentucky, with nine, is the next best.
The question after last night: Which Triangle program has been better over the past 37 seasons?
It’s close, maybe too close to call.
Carolina, under Smith, did have a head start. Krzyzewski didn’t make the NCAA tournament in his first three seasons but he has been remarkable ever since.
Carolina has won more games (1,003 to 1,002) but Duke has a better winning percentage (77.8 to 76.7) since the 1980-81 season.
Duke has won more ACC titles (14 to 10) but Carolina has won finished first in the regular-season conference race more times (17 to 12).
Carolina has a better record in ACC play and the NCAA tournament but Duke has the head-to-head advantage (45 to 40), including the recent domination (winning 13 of 18).
Either side can win the argument. The tale of the tape to help with your debate:
Record (37 seasons)
Note: *includes the games from the 1994-95 season credited to Pete Gaudet’s record (4-15)