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North Carolina’s win over Duke in men’s Final Four was an instant classic

Coach K’s career ends with a loss to his archrival in the men’s Final Four.

North Carolina v Duke Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Duke and North Carolina’s first ever matchup in the men’s NCAA tournament was always going to be historic. The fact that we finally got it in the Final Four and during Mike Krzyzewski’s final year before retirement made it perhaps one of the most anticipated games in the history of the sport.

With UNC as a No. 8 seed and Duke struggling entering March, this matchup simply felt too good to be true. It should have been impossible for this game to live up to such an immense level of hype, but somehow it did that, too.

North Carolina beat Duke, 81-77, to punch their ticket to the national championship game. The Tar Heels will now face Kansas for the national championship. The Jayhawks defeated Villanova, 81-65, in the other semifinal.

This was truly one of the best games you will ever see. Coach K’s career ends with a loss to his archrival.

The game lived up to the hype

The final minutes of this game were absolutely incredible. Trevor Keels hit a three-pointer to give Duke a one-point lead with just over two minutes left. North Carolina’s Brady Manek answered with his own three on the next possession to put Duke back up. Duke came down and found Keels for a three that missed, but Duke grabbed the offensive rebound, swung the ball to Wendell Moore, and saw him hit another go-ahead three.

North Carolina took the lead back on free throws from R.J. Davis. Then Duke’s Mark Williams missed a pair of free throws. On UNC’s next possession, Caleb Love hit a ridiculous pull-up three-pointer to put the Heels up four. This was the biggest shot of the night.

It still wasn’t over. Duke’s Jeremy Roach drove down and scored a layup to cut the lead to two. After Love split free throws following an intentional foul, Duke had one more chance down three points. Trevor Keels was fouled and split his own free throws to keep Duke down two.

Duke fouled Love on the next possession, and he made both free throws to give UNC the win.

North Carolina’s Final Four run was no fluke

This Tar Heels team was in jeopardy of missing the NCAA tournament midway through the year after Duke beat them by 20 points on their home floor. North Carolina rallied late in the season — famously giving Duke a double-digit defeat in Coach K’s last ever home game on March 5.

UNC entered this tournament as a No. 8 seed. They knocked off No. 1 seed Baylor in the round of 32, but almost blew a 25-point lead before doing it. Carolina’s Sweet 16 win over UCLA was convincing enough, but there were still some questions of whether this was a Final Four caliber team after easily advancing past No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s in the Elite Eight.

UNC proved itself in the biggest game of the season in the Final Four against Duke. Carolina showed how much talent this team always had. Love was electric, finishing with 28 points on 11-of-20 shooting. Armando Bacot was incredible inside despite rolling his ankle late, ending the night with 11 points and 21 rebounds. Davis added 18 points and Manek had 14 points in the win.

This Carolina team checks almost every box you want in a college basketball contender with great guard play, a physical force inside in Bacot, and enough shooting on the wings. These Heels are absolutely worthy of winning it all.

Paolo Banchero played a good game, but it wasn’t enough

We have had Paolo Banchero pegged as our No. 1 prospect in the 2022 NBA Draft since July. We even published a lengthy breakdown about why he’s so good before tip-off. While other top prospects have struggled on the biggest stages in this tournament, Banchero has been fantastic throughout Duke’s run. He turned in another great game against UNC.

Banchero put his full skill set on display. At 6’10, 250 pounds, he hit pull-up threes, scored in the post, and showed dynamic driving ability. He finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds on 8-of-17 shooting from the field in the loss.

North Carolina vs. Kansas in the men’s national title game will be amazing

The Jayhawks are a No. 1 seed and the Tar Heels are a No. 8 seed, but it doesn’t feel like there’s a favorite going into this one. Both are these teams are playing amazing basketball.

An outstanding men’s NCAA tournament has one game left. We can’t wait to see what surprises are still in store.