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‘Blue Blood' Final Four features first Duke-North Carolina matchup in tournament history

Duke and North Carolina will meet in the NCAA Tournament for this first time ever in next weekend's Final Four. A first for Hubert Davis and a last for Coach K.

NEW ORLEANS — This year’s Final Four in the NCAA Tournament will be as “Blue Blood” as Blue Blood gets as Duke, North Carolina, Villanova and Kansas are all in.

Duke and Villanova made it as No. 2 seeds while Kansas was the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region and North Carolina makes it as a No. 8 seed out of the East Region.

Somehow, Duke and North Carolina have NEVER met in the NCAA Tournament. Now college basketball’s premier rivalry will get another rematch in this year’s Final Four after the two teams split their two regular season games. 

Candace Cooper of the Locked On ACC podcast joined Peter Bukowski on the Locked On Today podcast to discuss how Duke and North Carolina got to the Final Four and what to expect in their next matchup.

SUBSCRIBE: The Locked On Today podcast hosted by Peter Bukowski gets you caught up every morning on the biggest stories in sports without taking up your free time.

Duke is clearly playing their best basketball of the year. They’ve had some dominating wins like their Elite Eight game against Arkansas but they’ve also been able to pull it out down the stretch against teams like Michigan State and Texas Tech on their way here.

Cooper said with all the pressure of it being Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final season, Duke has stepped up and showed maturity.

“After the regular season, the pressure seems to have subsided because the one game you were supposed to win (Coach K’s final home game against North Carolina), you blew it, so what else can you lose? Now there’s nothing to play for but pride, wanting to win,” Cooper said. “I think Coach K had to have a self check in the mirror and the guys are dealing with too much and maybe I need to come in and say it doesn’t matter, I’ve won all I need to win, I want you guys to have fun.”

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Cooper said on the North Carolina side, head coach Hubert Davis has showed in the way he’s talked about his players on their way here, how he just wants them to have this experience and have fun and maybe Coach K has been approaching it in the same way with his players.

“Beyond the outsides of it, Duke has played the best basketball we’ve seen of them this season,” Cooper said. “They have looked mature, they’ve been in tough spots, but they have looked super resilient. I think they’ve had a lot of guys step up in ways we haven’t seen in the past.”

Cooper said one of Duke’s keys has been to see A.J. Griffin get the opportunity to be the floor general for the Blue Devils and he’s run with that. Mark Williams has also been increasingly effective for Duke, especially seen in their win over Arkansas.

Meanwhile, North Carolina makes it to the Final Four as an 8-seed. They’re the first 8-seed to make the Final Four since 2014 when Kentucky made it, eventually finishing as the national runner-up. Cooper said this UNC team has had this potential all year long, 

“Them being an 8-seed was something that they earned, because of how they played,” Cooper said. “But if you look at the way they’ve played in this tournament, they were probably a 2-seed-type team all along. They had this in them, but they just didn’t get it done (in the regular season).”

For more coverage ahead of the Final Four, subscribe to the Locked On Tar Heels or Locked On Blue Devils podcasts, daily shows covering North Carolina and Duke. Free and available on all platforms

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