The best teams of the Coach K/Roy Williams era

From ESPN - February 8, 2018

Here's the weird thing about this storied rivalry between two programs that have long ruled the ACC like a shared fiefdom: Duke and North Carolina are always very good, of course, but, with the possible exception of 2004-05, they are rarely dominant at the same time.

It's almost as if they take turns.

See for yourself. Here's how I'd rank the 10 best teams these storied programs have produced, starting when Roy Williams took the job in Chapel Hill in 2003.

(Yes, the 2017-18 Blue Devils and Tar Heels were eligible for inclusion here. No, neither one made the cut.)

You will note the presence of 10 different seasons, with zero instances where both teams were list-worthy in the same one. Go figure.

More to the point, Duke and North Carolina have produced an amazing number of historically great teams over the past 15 seasons. Enjoy.

Duke Blue Devils

1. 2014-15
35-4 (15-3), national champions
Starting lineup: Quinn Cook, Matt Jones, Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow

By the end of the 2015 NCAA tournament, this Duke bunch was a fit opponent for any team on this list -- but it was not always pretty getting to that point. The Blue Devils gave up a whopping 177 points in back-to-back January losses to NC State and Miami. One-and-done freshmen just ca not play defense, it was said. Then Mike Krzyzewski's one-and-done freshmen -- Okafor, Winslow and Tyus Jones -- started playing defense, aided and abetted by old geezers Cook and, especially, Amile Jefferson. The rest is history: Duke went 21-2 after its January defensive holiday, and Okafor set a standard worthy of a latter-day Bagley or Ayton for simultaneous 2-point sorcery and tireless hegemony on the offensive glass. To win a national title in a season where one of the strongest Final Fours of the tournament's modern era had self-assembled is no small claim to fame. The Blue Devils of 2015 can always make that boast.

2. 2009-10
35-5 (13-3), national champions
Starting lineup: Nolan Smith, Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler, Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek

This might be a surprising choice at No. 2, but who among us is to say what is right and what is wrong? I am. I am right. It's not this team's fault that it never got (and still does not get) the respect it deserved. The proof is in the performance. Duke fans today would collapse in a dazed collective stupor if they saw a few possessions of shutdown defense like those played consistently by this team. Meanwhile, on offense, Zoubek ruled the offensive boards like a ruthless despot on the rare occasions when 3s from Scheyer, Singler and Smith did not fall. No, this team did not put a single player into the first or even second round of the 2010 professional draft. Well, NBA, schmem-BA. Duke that season was statistically elite, not to mention a demographic precursor to the likes of Villanova 2016 and, possibly (we will have to wait and see), the best teams of 2018.

3. 2005-06
32-4 (14-2), Sweet 16
Starting lineup: Greg Paulus, JJ Redick, Sean Dockery, Josh McRoberts, Shelden Williams

Everything was set in the bracket that season, and everyone just knew that Duke and Connecticut would meet on the first Monday in April to decide the national title. Neither team made it that far, of course, but UConn's demise at the hands of George Mason has at least been observed ever since as a classic of the upset genre. The Blue Devils' exit that March was less iconic but no less jarring. Coach K's team was manhandled by Glen Davis and, especially, Tyrus Thomas of LSU, as Redick was pitilessly hounded into a 3-of-18 self-immolation from the field.

4. 2003-04
31-6 (13-3), Final Four
Starting lineup: Chris Duhon, JJ Redick, Daniel Ewing, Luol Deng, Shelden Williams

North Carolina Tar Heels


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