By Adam Lucas
Yes, the Mailbag usually appears on Tuesday. But Saturday's Carolina-Duke game is a special occasion. How special? Let's get to the questions:
Could you please recap of all the dook-unc final games of the season which were for the outright win of ACC reg. season?
@wb22 via Twitter
This marks just the third time in the last 30 years, which is essentially the modern incarnation of the Carolina-Duke rivalry, that the Tar Heels and Blue Devils have had a winner-take-all showdown in the regular season finale for the league title. No shared championships, no tiebreaker, just winner finishes first, loser finishes second. Those games include:
2008: #1 Carolina 76, #6 Duke 68 in Durham. Duke led 68-66 with just over 5:30 remaining, but the Tar Heels reeled off the game's final 10 points. Tyler Hansbrough had 16 points and 15 rebounds while Wayne Ellington also added 16. More than all of the above, this game is better remembered for two things: it included the first-half slam dunk from Danny Green over Greg Paulus, and it was the game played in the wake of the Eve Carson murder. There were a lot of different emotions in that game.
1991: #8 Duke 83, #4 Carolina 77 in Chapel Hill. Duke swept the regular season series with a solid win over the fourth-ranked Tar Heels. One week later, Carolina would get some measure of revenge with a 96-74 victory in the ACC Tournament championship game.
1978: #8 Carolina 87, #13 Duke 83 in Chapel Hill. In one of the most memorable senior days in Tar Heel history, Phil Ford played all 40 minutes, scoring 34 points and handing out five assists. This was Ford's last victory at UNC, and his triumphant sprint off the Carmichael Auditorium court is a Carolina classic. Al Wood added 19 points for the winners. 1967: #3 Carolina 92, Duke 79 in Chapel Hill. Third-ranked Carolina beat Duke for the second of three eventual victories in a season sweep. The Tar Heels also defeated the Blue Devils in the ACC Tournament championship game, earning an 82-73 win on the way to Dean Smith's first Final Four appearance.
1958: #6 Duke 59, #9 Carolina 46 in Durham. In a game remembered more for what happened after the buzzer--Frank McGuire kept his team on the court and requested a police escort because the Cameron crowd had stormed the floor--than during the game, Duke won the first winner-take-all battle.
This will be 5th UNC/Duke game to decide ACC reg season title. Have ANY other teams played each other last game for title?
@robuck11 via Twitter
This is one of those questions that requires some complicated research, and while you're sifting through stacks of dusty old record books it seems like a pain. Then you finish and realize it was worth it, because the question has a remarkable answer.
As we talked about above, Carolina and Duke have played five winner-take-all showdowns for the regular season title. The other schools in the conference have played a combined zero winner-take-all regular season finales.
That's what people miss sometimes when they talk about the ACC being too Carolina-Duke centric in basketball. Those two programs are playing the most compelling games, not just this season but in most every season. It stands to reason the league would want to promote those games.
UNC has greatly improved its FT shooting I think. None more so than Henson. Also, Strickland looked much better from the line vs FSU.
Can you show us how much more improved UNC is from FT line the last few games vs their season average?
The Tar Heels are hitting 74.5% from the free throw line over the last five games and 69.5% in conference games. That's compared to a season-long average of 66.4%.
Henson is an especially remarkable case. It took him until the eighth game of the season to make his 11th free throw. By the end of that stretch, he was 13-for-37 (35.1%) from the free throw line. Now, he's on a streak of 11-for-12 (91.7%) from the stripe over the last three games.
A friend and I dug deep in our memory banks and couldn't recall that the Carolina - Duke game had ever been played on a Saturday night in Chapel Hill, as it will be later this week. Carolina always seems to host Duke on Sunday afternoons in the regular season finale while Duke hosts Carolina in the season finale on Saturday nights. When was the last time the regular season finale took place on a Saturday night in Chapel Hill?
Jason from Alpharetta, GA
Believe it or not, it wasn't too long ago. The 1999 regular season finale was played in Chapel Hill on a Saturday. It wasn't a fun one, as Duke capped a 16-0 regular-season in the ACC with a 20-point win in the Smith Center. The 1995 game was also played on a Saturday, and that one was much more enjoyable, as Carolina won a 99-86 decision.
This year's meeting does mark the first network primetime broadcast of the rivalry. Check out what CBS Sports executive Mike Aresco said last June when the scheduling tweak was announced:
"Duke-North Carolina is one of the most intense rivalries in all of sports. A primetime telecast on CBS Sports will generate enormous interest across the nation as the `Road to the Final Four' heats up."
Good call, Mike.
Roy Williams said several times he thought the 2009 senior day game against Duke would be one of the toughest tickets in Carolina history. This year's game seems to be approaching that level, and I'd actually compare it more to the 2005 game in terms of the vibe coming from Tar Heel fans. In 2009, there was a certain expectation that Carolina was better than Duke. That senior game was more of a "Please don't let them ruin Tyler's senior day" type of game.
This one, like 2005, has a little shade of doubt. Less than two months ago we all saw Georgia Tech whip this exact Carolina team in Atlanta. Now they're playing for the regular season championship. That element of uncertainty tends to create the most electric crowds. Add in a Saturday at 8 p.m. tipoff (by the way, if you're still hunting tickets, try Boshamer Stadium on Saturday at 2, because a pair of tickets will be given away at the baseball game) and you've got the formula for what may be one of the loudest games in Smith Center history.
I'm coming to my 1st Duke game on Saturday! Any special pre game senior day activites? If so what time?
@troylupo via Twitter
It's amazing how things line up sometimes. Saturday's weather is supposed to be terrific. If you wait until tip to come to Chapel Hill, you will have missed the opportunity for a really fun day at Carolina. My suggested schedule:
9 a.m.: Be at the Carolina Basketball Museum when it opens (gameday hours for Saturday are 9 a.m.-7 p.m.). This way, you beat the pregame crowds and have more time to enjoy the numerous displays and videos.
Noon: Carolina men's lacrosse vs. UMBC. The top-15 Tar Heels are 15-0 at games at Fetzer Field under head coach Joe Breschi.
2 p.m.: You've got a decision to make--gymnastics vs. William & Mary or baseball vs. Stony Brook. As mentioned above, they're giving away a pair of Duke tickets at Boshamer, so if you don't have tickets, head to baseball. If you do have tickets, you have time to hit gymnastics first, then head to Boshamer for the final innings. Stony Brook is an NCAA Tournament team (they eliminated NC State last year), so it should be a good series.
Post-baseball/gymnastics: Back to the Basketball Museum if you weren't in town in the morning. If you were (good planning!), head to Franklin Street for dinner and some pregame atmosphere.
7:30 p.m.: Try to be in your seats at the Smith Center. Special senior acknowledgment will start at 7:45. Arriving early usually isn't a problem for most fans for this particular game, but keep in mind traffic will be heavy and you need to allow extra time. Also, make sure you stay in your seats after the game for a quick senior recognition.
Adam Lucas is the publisher of Tar Heel Monthly. He is also the author or co-author of six books on Carolina basketball, including the official chronicle of the first 100 years of Tar Heel hoops, A Century of Excellence, which is available now. Get real-time UNC sports updates from the THM staff on Twitter.