Since Roy Williams began coaching at North Carolina at the beginning of the 2003-04 season, the Tar Heels and Duke have met seven times.
Duke won the first three and swept the last two in the 2010 NCAA title season. In between, North Carolina won seven of nine on its way to two NCAA championships.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who’s 34-35 in his career against North Carolina, has a chance to get to .500 if Duke wins tonight.
Those are the results that really matter – the on-court wins and losses. The long-term success of both programs shows that both coaches excel at team building and game planning.
They also both have done an excellent job recruiting. Duke and North Carolina wouldn’t be winning ACC and NCAA titles if they weren’t getting good players.
In this area, though, Williams has a slight edge over Krzyzewski, according to rivals.com’s team recruiting rankings. Neither class was ranked in the top 25 by rivals.com in 2004.
Since then, North Carolina signed more highly rated classes than Duke four times in six years (2005 to 2010). Here is the breakdown:
Class UNC rank Duke rank
2010 4 10
2009 5 8
2008 11 27
2007 NR 8
2006 1 5
2005 9 2
Year by year, here is how those classes shaped up. In 2005, Duke signed Josh McRoberts and Greg Paulus in what was expected to be one of the nation’s top classes. But North Carolina got Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green, who helped lead the team to two Final Fours and the 2009 NCAA title.
In 2006, Brandan Wright, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington gave the Tar Heels the top-rated players at three positions. Lawson and Ellington played pivotal roles in the team’s NCAA tournament success in 2008 and 2009. But Duke signed three players – Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek – who led the Blue Devils to the 2010 title as seniors.
In 2007, Williams had a deep roster and put all his focus on one player. If you were only going to recruit one guy in the class, Kevin Love was the right guy. But he went to UCLA, and North Carolina didn’t sign anybody. Duke’s signees included Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, who have made huge contributions the last two seasons.
In 2008, Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller led North Carolina’s class. Duke got Elliot Williams, an excellent guard who transferred after one season, and Miles Plumlee.
In 2009, Duke signed Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Andre Dawkins, who all have shown promise as sophomores. Similarly, John Henson and Dexter Strickland led a North Carolina class that’s solid as well.
In 2010, each school landed an outstanding player. Harrison Barnes was rated the No. 1 recruit in the nation by many, and chose North Carolina after also considering Duke. The Blue Devils signed Kyrie Irving, who might have been the best guard in the nation before a toe injury sidelined him after eight games. Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall gave the Tar Heels what appears to be a stronger overall class, as they have been more productive so far than Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston for Duke.
All-Star Sports recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons agrees that North Carolina may have had a slight edge in recruiting over Duke since Williams’ arrival, but it’s not much.
“It’s so close, it’s too close to call from my observations,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons also said that Duke’s class for 2011 appears better. The spring signing period isn’t over, so it’s possible that both teams could add more players. North Carolina may look to bring in a point guard after Larry Drew II’s sudden departure.
Only Kentucky and St. John’s have stronger classes for 2011 than Duke, according to Gibbons. Guard Austin Rivers, who’s committed to the Blue Devils, generally is considered one of the top three players overall in the nation. Gibbons said North Carolina (led by forward James McAdoo) has a top-10 class for 2011.
“The point is, here are two programs that literally are going head to head in many instances for the very elite players in the nation,” Gibbons said, “and to be able to accomplish that speaks volumes for the head coaches and the tradition of their programs.”
Ken Tysiac has covered the ACC in the Raleigh Bureau of The Charlotte Observer since 2003. He spent eight years in South Carolina covering Clemson, first with the Anderson Independent-Mail and later with The (Columbia) State. He graduated from Notre Dame in 1991.