North Carolina will play both of its neighbors in a 42-hour span this week, but senior guard Joel Berry said only one is the Tar Heels’ rival.
“Honestly there’s only one rivalry game with Duke,” Berry said. “I don’t count N.C. State as being a rivalry.”
The Tar Heels will face the Blue Devils at 8 p.m. Thursday in Chapel Hill and then turn around and play the Wolfpack at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Raleigh.
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UNC coach Roy Williams said recently there are some games “that you get more fired up for.” Both the Duke and State games would qualify but Williams, 67, has always gone out of his way to acknowledge the rivalry between State and Carolina.
“To me, they were the biggest rival, it wasn’t Duke,” Williams said before UNC’s home loss to N.C. State on Jan. 27.
The younger generation of UNC players, and fans, aren’t always on the same page.
N.C. State, under Everett Case in the 1950s, was the original ACC power and then Dean Smith built UNC into the league standard.
Duke’s success under coach Mike Krzyzewski has changed the dynamic of the Triangle rivalries. All five of Duke’s national titles have come since N.C. State won its second title in 1983.
Duke and UNC have combined for 23 Final Four trips since N.C. State’s last one.
N.C. State, I just don’t consider that being a rivalry. We just don’t like them.
UNC guard Joel Berry
UNC, under Williams, has also dominated the series with the Wolfpack with 27 wins in 31 games.
“I don’t necessarily treat that as a rivalry,” Berry said. “I mean, whenever you talk about a rivalry, we always talk about Duke-North Carolina. That’s the biggest one. I love being a part of the Duke-Carolina rivalry.
“N.C. State, I just don’t consider that being a rivalry. We just don’t like them.”
UNC has struggled to find wins against Duke. The Tar Heels have a 2-5 record against Duke during Berry’s tenure. Even last year, when UNC won the national title, it lost two of three games to Duke.
It’s more of a rivalry between the fans more than it is the players.
Williams has a 12-18 record against Duke – the only ACC team he has a losing record against – since he returned to his alma mater in 2003.
Berry, who was AAU teammates with Duke’s Grayson Allen in Florida, said there is more of a familiarity, and respect, between Duke and Carolina players.
“It’s more of a rivalry between the fans more than it is the players,” Berry said.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio