The intense rivalry between the North Carolina Tar Heels and Duke Blue Devils stands among college basketball’s most revered. As the two Tobacco Road titans prepare to square off once more, a historical trend emerges – UNC has generally thrived more often in March after initially losing to Duke.

UNC and Duke rank third and fourth respectively in all-time D-1 wins, combining for over 4,500 all-time victories. The fabled programs have also reached a stunning 38 Final Fours and won 11 national championships.

This season, both currently rank in the AP Top 10. But #9 Duke recently fell 93-84 at third-ranked UNC.

How Big an Indicator is the Initial Duke-UNC Outcome?

Utilizing historical data, our team examined how each squad performed in postseason play based on the first head-to-head result over the last decade.

The findings? While Duke has claimed nine of those initial matchups, UNC ended up compiling more March Madness victories after starting off with a loss to their bitter rivals.

  • UNC has tallied 32 postseason wins after losing the first Duke clash
  • Duke logged just 23 postseason wins when winning Game 1 vs. UNC

Tar Heels fans surely recall 2017 after an early Duke loss. Seeded just #6 entering March Madness, UNC caught fire to win six straight for Roy Williams’ third national title.

Meanwhile top-seeded Duke squads that previously beat UNC have consistently stumbled prior to the Final Four.

Good Omen for UNC’s Title Hopes?

Further analysis reveals UNC reaching three Final Fours and claiming the 2017 championship after first tasting defeat versus Duke. That rivals Duke’s two Final Four trips following an initial win over the Heels.

In fact, the 2014-15 Blue Devils remain the lone squad from either school to cut down the nets after winning the first intrastate showdown. So history bodes quite well for #3 UNC in 2023 despite last weekend’s setback.

Plus with North Carolina sports betting debuting March 11th, more fans can back Hubert Davis’ emerging Tar Heels. DraftKings posts +1500 odds for UNC to win its seventh NCAA title.

Duke faces longer +2800 odds at NCAA Tournament books after the early loss to their hated rivals. More so than usual, Duke now likely needs an ACC Tournament win to help its seeding.

So while the opening clash grabbed headlines, UNC could ultimately have the last laugh against Coach K’s successor Jon Scheyer if past trends persist deep into March Madness.

Stay tuned to all spring for the best March Madness coverage, sportsbook promos and odds boosts across North Carolina!

✅ Fact Checked on February 16, 2024 by Ken Weaver