No. 8 North Carolina (24-6, 13-4) and No. 17 Duke (22-8, 11-6) will square off in their regular-season finale on Saturday, with the Tar Heels trying to clinch an ACC championship and the Blue Devils trying to beat their biggest rival for the second time this season.
Duke won at North Carolina, 74-73, on Feb. 17 despite a) trailing virtually the entire game and b) playing essentially only five players, three of whom logged 39+ minutes of action.
Few journalists, if any, can contextualize this rivalry better than John Feinstein. The award-winning author and sportswriter just penned another book, The Legends Club: Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, and an Epic College Basketball Rivalry.
“I think what’s hard to understand if you’re not from here is that these people all live together,” Feinstein said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “They interact with one another every single day because it’s one community. They’re all on top of each other.”
Perfect example: Smith and Krzyzewski’s youngest daughters are a mere nine months apart, and when they began taking piano lessons, they say together at a recital.
“That doesn’t happen anywhere else,” Feinstein said. “In fact, Linnea Smith told me this remarkable story. Her daughter was born two days before Duke played Carolina in ’81, which was Krzyzewski’s first year. She was in a hospital in Durham, and she’s watching this game on Saturday afternoon and she has, as she said, all these birth hormones raging. And every time Duke scored a basket, she’s going, ‘Oh, no, my daughter’s life is going to be ruined if we lose this game.’ Dean was going to pick her up at the hospital after the game and drive her back home to Chapel Hill. Duke ends up winning the game in overtime and she was convinced her daughter’s life was ruined. Not a word was spoken on the trip back from Durham to Chapel Hill when Dean picked her up.”
Krzyzewski and his wife, Mickie, on the other hand, spoke a lot that night – among other things.
“That same night – in the process of celebrating the victory – Mike and Mickie Krzyzewski conceived their third daughter,” Feinstein said. “Mickie will tell you: It could only have been that night. Jamie was born nine months later. So in one basketball game, you have two lives (going in different directions): an infant child whose life is supposedly ruined and an infant child being conceived – all because of one game.”