Duke vs. North Carolina Memorable Betting Moments: Revisiting Coach K’s First Win & More Ahead of Final Four
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images. Pictured: Mike Krzyzewski (Duke)
For all the incredible moments in the best rivalry in college hoops, North Carolina and Duke have never met in the NCAA Tournament — much less the biggest stage in the sport, the Final Four.
With how competitive and intense both fanbases are about this rivalry, the result of this game will be echoed through eternity. The state of North Carolina may never recover.
Since Coach K took over the Blue Devils’ program, these two have played 99 times — Duke has won 50, North Carolina has won 49.
There’s no shortage of memorable moments in this rivalry. But a portion of the sports fandom population — the ones reading this article right now — remember those moments for different reasons.
I’m specifically talking about gambling reasons, including bad beats, unlikely covers and flat-out bad handicaps.
That being said, let’s stroll down memory lane and recap some of the biggest gambling moments in the rivalry’s history.
Coach K’s First Win Over UNC
- Duke covers +3, wins outright by 1
Most won’t remember that Coach K was an underdog against UNC the majority of the time in his first few years. Duke wasn’t an established powerhouse yet, while North Carolina was running with Michael Jordan.
So, the first three Duke-UNC matchups with K at the helm had UNC favored.
Duke actually back-doored the +2.5 spread in the first-ever meeting between Coach K and the Tar Heels, losing 78-76 at home. The Devils then got shelled in Chapel Hill six weeks later, losing by 15 as 7.5-point dogs.
But the third time around — in the 1980-81 regular-season finale in Durham — K proved victorious in a one-point win as three-point underdogs.
First Time Coach K Was a Favorite
- UNC covers +4
Building off that last point, Coach K was actually an underdog in the first nine meetings with North Carolina.
But the 10th time — on March 2, 1985 — No. 5 Duke was laying four points at home against No. 8 North Carolina. Coach K had started to establish Duke as a powerhouse program.
This time around, the Tar Heels — despite losing Jordan the prior year — bashed the Blue Devils by 10.
Duke went on to grab a three-seed in the tournament that season, but was upset in the second round by No. 11 Boston College (which was no longer throwing games).
No. 1 vs. No. 2 Matchups
Duke and UNC went head-to-head ranked as the top-two teams in the nation twice with Coach K at the helm.
Both times, North Carolina came out on top.
The first time was on February 3, 1994. Led by Grant Hill and current Northwestern head coach Chris Collins, the No. 1 Blue Devils walked into Chapel Hill as … seven-point underdogs?
Yup. Eric Montross, Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace were the pioneers of the No. 2 Tar Heels at the time. The team was legit and 18-3 overall entering the game.
Well, although Duke was catching a crazy number for a No. 1 team, North Carolina wiped the Blue Devils out, winning by 11.
I can only imagine Duke was the trendy underdog pick on that fateful night, once again reminding us why we always fade trendy ‘dogs.
The second time was on February 5, 1998. Duke was catching four points at Chapel Hill as the No. 1 team in the nation.
But No. 2 UNC handed Duke a 24-point loss. To this day, it’s tied for the worst loss that Coach K has suffered against his arch-rival in his 42-year career.
Michael Jordan’s Last Home Game
- Duke covers +13.5 in double-overtime by a shoestring
After a historic three-year run by No. 23 that saw three straight ACC regular season titles and a National Championship, Jordan was moving on to win six NBA rings in Chicago.
His last game in Chapel Hill was a doozy.
Duke had a fine season — going 22-8 and ranking No. 15 in the polls — but the Devils had lost two straight entering the game, both at home to unranked teams (Georgia Tech, Clemson).
The Tar Heels were 26-1 and undefeated in ACC play. They were the No. 1 team in the nation and led by one of the country’s leading offensive threats.
But Coach K and Duke went punch-for-punch with UNC that night, even as 13.5-point underdogs. The Blue Devils led late until Matt Doherty hit a left-leaning, 2-point jumper to tie the game with two seconds remaining.
Overtime: Where ‘dogs go to die.
Duke continued to go punch-for-punch, but UNC led by two with under 10 seconds left in the first overtime. Then, Duke’s leading scorer Johnny Dawkins hit an unbelievable left-handed finger roll to tie the game and send us to double-overtime.
Double-overtime: Where 13.5-point ‘dogs go to die.
Jordan and Sam Perkins took over in double-overtime, with MJ recording nine in the five-minute period alone. Jordan would finish with 25.
But UNC could only extend the lead to … 13! For once in our lives, we saw justice for 13.5-point underdog bettors.
Jeff Capel’s Half-Court Buzzer Beater
- Duke covers +3, loses by two
Coming into this February 2, 1995 matchup, North Carolina was 16-1 and ranked No. 2 in the nation.
Meanwhile, with Coach K sidelined on a leave of absence, Duke was 10-9 overall and a whopping 0-7 in ACC play. Pete Gaudet was the interim head coach, and he led his version of the Blue Devils to a 4-15 record. Thank goodness Krzyzewski came back the next season.
Despite the difference in talent and performance, Duke was catching just three points at Cameron Indoor that day.
And the Blue Devils lived up to that reputation, going toe-to-toe with the nation’s second-best team. Stackhouse and Wallace were still at the helm, as the two were averaging a combined 35 points and 16 rebounds per game. But Cherokee Parks and Jeff Capel didn’t back down.
While UNC jumped out to a 26-9 lead in the first 10 minutes, UNC -3 bettors were probably giddy. However, Duke cut the lead to just five at the half.
The Devils continued to run hot, leading by a whopping 12 with six minutes to play.
Despite the spurtability of both teams, Duke and UNC remained tied after regulation.
UNC led by three with just three seconds left in the first overtime period, when Serge Zwikker was sent to the line for two shots. Zwikker was a 68% free-throw shooter, and just one would’ve extended the lead to four and cashed tickets for Tar Heel bettors everywhere.
Zwikker bricked the first and rimmed out the second, with the shot going halfway down before popping back out to Parks. Parks tossed the ball to Capel, who …
UNC would win the game, but only by two. More justice for overtime underdog bettors. I just wish that could happen to me once in a while.
Austin Rivers’ Game Winner
- Duke covers +6, wins outright
On February 8, 2012, No. 10 Duke was catching six points on the road against No. 5 UNC.
The Tar Heels led 84-82 late, but then-star guard Austin Rivers was guaranteed the last shot. So, the spread was never really in jeopardy.
However, Rivers hit the buzzer-beater, leading Duke to the outright win as a moderately-big underdog.
I imagine many ML parlays were ruined that night.