On Thursday night, UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University will meet for the first time this season in one of the greatest rivalries of college basketball. And they both have a lot to prove.
Earlier in ACC conference play, both teams faced North Carolina State University and lost. At a first glance, NC State plays a limited role in the Tobacco Road rivalry. But before Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski were big names in college basketball, former NC State coach Everett Case popularized the sport throughout North Carolina.
History professor and adviser Matthew Andrews explained that when Case arrived in North Carolina, UNC-CH and Duke were considered big football schools. Case was hired to bring basketball to the university so that N.C. State could compete against their neighbors in a sport that wasn’t as expensive as football.
“His original players all came from Indiana, where basketball was huge then," Andrews said. "He wanted it to be huge here, so in the off-season, he would actually travel the state and give talks to Rotary clubs and civic organizations about basketball, and how basketball would turn young boys into men.”
Through what Andrews considers to be Case’s “Johnny Appleseed” ventures, basketball spread quickly. In 1949, Case started the Dixie Classic tournament, which lasted for 11 years. The event included the top four regional teams — Wake Forest University, NC State, UNC-CH and Duke — facing four other top teams from across the country, which helped the Southern teams grow and gain respect nationally.