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A History Unlike Any Other: North Carolina vs. Kansas

North Carolina and Kansas will face off in Monday evening's national championship game, and the matchup offers a history that not even the UNC vs. Duke rivalry can live up to.


There’s no more simple and clear word to define North Carolina and Duke facing off in the 2022 NCAA Tournament National Semifinals. We often dilute words, using them to work at making a moment bigger than it actually is. But this game truly was that: historic.

Let me remind you of the context:

First-ever meeting of North Carolina and Duke in the NCAA Tournament in any round.

It happened in the Final Four.

In Coach Davis’ first season.

In Coach Krzyzewski’s final season.

The teams had split the regular season, including the Tar Heels’ win at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The following statement is in no way hyperbolic: Given all that context, this was the single-biggest National Semifinal in modern NCAA Tournament history.

And it completely lived up to the hype.

But it’s Monday and that game is dead and gone (for now). Whether you are a North Carolina fan, a Duke fan, a college basketball fan, or you just love sports, we will all obviously revisit UNC’s 81-77 victory for the rest of our lives, but first, just like Coach Davis and his team must do, Tar Heel nation turns its collective eyes to the national championship game and Kansas.

The North Carolina vs. Duke game was one type of history.

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This championship game is an entirely different type.

UNC vs. Duke is historic because of who the programs are today, and the rivalry, and the respective coaches at polar opposite ends of their careers.

The North Carolina vs. Kansas matchup is historic because this specific game and these two programs trace their roots to the very beginnings of basketball. Not just college basketball but the game itself.

Those origins all point to one man who ties it all together. No, not Roy Williams.

Dean Edwards Smith.

Coach Smith is an alum of Kansas University where he played for legendary coach Phog Allen from 1949-1953. Coach Allen’s protégé then went on to be the head coach at the University of North Carolina for 36 seasons (1961-1997).

The historic roots?

Dr. James Naismith, credited as the inventor of basketball, coached Phog Allen. Phog Allen coached Dean Smith. Dean Smith graduated from Kansas, coached at North Carolina for nearly four decades and now one of his players, Hubert Davis, is the head coach of the Tar Heels.

Roy Williams certainly is a major part of this story line as well, having graduated from UNC, coached at Kansas from 1988-2003, and then completing his remarkable career back in Chapel Hill from 2003-2021, winning three national titles.

For those who love the game of basketball, this has been one beautiful Final Four, rich in history, excellent play, and for the first time since 2019, complete with passionate fan bases in the arena.

Tonight we get to witness history once again.

For more on Monday night's historic matchup between North Carolina and Kansas, make sure to check out today’s episode of Locked On Tar Heels, hosted by Isaac Schade.