Saturday, March 8, 2008

UNC @ DUKE

Remembering 1991: The Last Time UNC-Duke Was Played for the ACC Championship
by Sportz Assassin, AOL FANHOUSE ACC

North Carolina and Duke will battle for the ACC Championship on Saturday night. The last time the ACC regular season title came down to a final game between the two hopefuls was way back in 1991. Again, it was North Carolina and Duke.

Duke won the game and the conference that year. That was the ol' Laettner-Hurley-Hill Duke team beating the Fox-Rice-Chilcutt Tar Heels' squad.

A week later, North Carolina tore into the Blue Devils, 96-74, to win the ACC Tournament in Charlotte. That win gave the Tar Heels the top seed in the East Region ... which was played in East Rutherford. Dean Smith was joined by Jim Boeheim, Rollie Massimino, John Chaney, Eddie Sutton, Gene Keady, Pete Carril and ... gulp ... Dave Bliss.

Duke was the #2 in the Midwest Region (Pontiac, MI) that featured these coaches: Lou Carnesecca, Tom Penders, Dale Brown, Tom Davis, Bobby Cremins, Jim Calhoun and Pete Gillen. Both teams would win their regions. UNC breezed through due to upsets elsewhere in the bracket (they faced a 16, 12, 10 and 9 seed on the way to the Final Four) while Duke crushed everyone in their path.

There they were, both in the Final Four. The entire state of North Carolina was buzzing that these two may actually meet for the National Championship. Imagine that kind of hype!
The funny thing is that UNC was the team favored to get into the title game -- not Duke. The Tar Heels face an upcoming Kansas team that knocked off Bobby Knight's Hoosiers and Nolan Richardson's Razorbacks to get to the Final Four. Kansas' coach? Roy Williams.

Ol' Roy would face off against his mentor, Dean Smith, for the first time that afternoon. Smith wouldn't make it to see the end (he was ejected) as the Heels were upset by Kansas, 79-73, ending the dream for everyone in the Triangle.Well, it wasn't like it was going to happen anyways. After all, Duke was going up against undefeated UNLV. The same UNLV that beat the Blue Devils by 30 in the title game a year ago. Duke was a heavy underdog.But they won anyway. 79-77.

Duke would end up beating Roy's Jayhawks in the National Championship game, 72-65, to give Mike Krzyzewski his first championship. Thinking back to that year brings back a lot of memories. It also reminds me that while the UNC-Duke game this Saturday is so important...things can change very quickly.

Even if UNC beats Duke...Duke may end up winning the ACC tournament next week and getting a #1 seed. Still, UNC has a great shot to win a championship no matter what seed they are.

So can Duke.

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