Duke and North Carolina play basketball tonight in Durham. That two schools so close together could sustain excellence in the same sport at the same time makes this the best rivalry in the Carolinas.
No. 2 is the football rivalry between Clemson and South Carolina. And these days they play a little basketball, too.
You tell me. It could be a Friday night football game between two small towns, the streets emptying as everybody shows up two hours early to grab a space in the bleachers. It could be Independence and Butler, the rosters full of college prospects, the Patriots on top, Butler trying to knock them off.
Every college in the Carolinas has a rival. The Southern Conference offers some great rivalries. But few of them resonate with outsiders.
North Carolina-N.C. State is a rivalry in football, but the Wolfpack has ceased to be a threat in basketball. Every time East Carolina gets a shot at the Tar Heels or Wolfpack in football, that's a rivalry, but it's part-time. The Charlotte 49ers and Davidson had a nice basketball rivalry when Davidson had time to play. Charlotte's biggest rival is now the economy in the context of its spirited football fundraising campaign.
Wake Forest has done great work in football and good work in basketball, but the Deacons are nobody's primary rival. They're an island. Sometimes important guests beach up.
The Carolina Panthers' biggest rival is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Charlotte Bobcats' biggest rival is apathy.
What distinguishes the Blue Devils and Tar Heels is that when they play everybody cares, even those that claim not to. I don't pretend. Like the rest of you, I love this game.