The storied basketball rivalry between Duke and North Carolina will be renewed on Saturday in a highly anticipated showdown between two top 10 teams. For the first time since 2019, the Blue Devils and Tar Heels will face off with both ranked in the top 10, adding extra intensity to the famed Tobacco Road rivalry.
The game is set for a 6:30 p.m. ET tipoff at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where the No. 3 Tar Heels will look to defend their home court against the No. 7 Blue Devils. North Carolina enters with a 20-4 overall record and a 10-2 mark in ACC play, sitting atop the conference standings. Duke is 17-4 overall and 8-2 in the ACC, just one game back of the Tar Heels in the loss column.
This marks the first matchup between top 10 Duke and North Carolina teams since their thrilling showdown at Cameron Indoor Stadium in 2019, when No. 1 Duke edged No. 8 North Carolina 74-73 on Zion Williamson’s putback dunk in the final seconds. The simultaneous strength of these bitter rivals ratchets up the stakes for Saturday’s game as both teams jockey for ACC supremacy and prime NCAA Tournament seeding.
North Carolina rides into the game on a 10-game winning streak after dispatching Clemson on Tuesday. The Tar Heels are undefeated at home this season and will look to keep that mark unblemished against their archrivals. Duke, meanwhile, has won 11 of its last 12 games since opening ACC play with a loss at Georgia Tech.
While the Blue Devils hold a slim 251-107 edge in the all-time series, the Tar Heels have had the upper hand recently. North Carolina has won three straight over Duke, including a sweep of last year’s regular season series as the home team prevailed in each game.
This year’s matchup features plenty of new faces on both sides who will experience the passion of the rivalry for the first time. Duke boasts a cast of ultra-talented freshmen, led by sharpshooting guard Jared McCain, to complement veteran leadership from senior point guard Jeremy Roach. North Carolina counters with core veterans like senior big man Armando Bacot and senior guard RJ Davis, who is enjoying a career-best season.
Containing Bacot in the post will be key for Duke. The 6-foot-11 center is averaging 16.5 points and 11.1 rebounds per game this season while anchoring North Carolina’s interior defense. He forms a formidable frontcourt duo with lanky freshman Zach Edey. Shutting down Davis, UNC’s leading scorer at 16.5 points per game, will also be crucial for Duke.
For North Carolina, finding a way to counter Duke’s outside shooting will be pivotal. The Blue Devils are knocking down 36.1% of their 3-point attempts this season, paced by the shooting of McCain, Jaylen Blakes and Dariq Whitehead. Rebounding will also be critical for the Tar Heels, as Duke features considerable size across its roster.
The coaching chess match between retiring Duke legend Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina’s Hubert Davis will be fascinating to watch. In what could be his final game coaching against the Tar Heels, Coach K will try to counter Davis’ athletic lineup with a versatile rotation highlighted by playmaking wings like AJ Griffin and Mark Mitchell.
This Tobacco Road showdown promises to add another thrilling chapter to one of basketball’s greatest rivalries. With both teams highly ranked and jostling for ACC supremacy, expect a back-and-forth affair coming down to the wire. If North Carolina can control the glass and get clutch shot-making from Davis, they should be able to defend home court. But never count out Coach K and his uber-talented squad coming up with some late magic. Either way, this game will be must-see TV for college hoops fans.