Something was missing.
After a disappointing 2022-23 season that saw UNC get swept by Duke and miss the NCAA tournament, Saturday was set for a top-10 clash between the Tar Heels and Blue Devils — the first since 2019.
Yet, after the spoils that then-head coach Mike Krzyzewski's final season delivered to North Carolina fans, I couldn’t help but feel the absence of one key rivalry element heading into Saturday: hatred.
This Duke team, even the bluest of hearts can admit, is generally likable. Gone are the Christian Laettners, JJ Redicks and Grayson Allens. First-year Jared McCain makes his silly TikToks with a bright smile on his face. Senior Jeremy Roach is even "cool" with UNC’s RJ Davis and Armando Bacot.
But with less than five minutes remaining in the game, I found my answer when Bacot went to work in the post and earned an and-one over Kyle Filipowski. Bacot turned around and hit the "too small" celebration. His teammates on the court followed suit. And then the bench.
Did it matter that Filipowski was voted the preseason ACC Player of the Year? Based on how that play, and how the overall night, went — no. Just ask Bacot himself.
"At the end of the day, the ACC runs through me," he said.
If Saturday night was any indication, Filipowski has emerged as a brand-new dark blue target for the Tar Heels and fans alike.