How Does The Winner of The First Leg of The Tobacco Road Rivalry Fare in The Postseason?

How Does The Winner of The First Leg of The Tobacco Road Rivalry Fare in The Postseason?
Fact Checked by Nate Hamilton

North Carolina versus Duke is one of college basketball’s great rivalries, with fans even outside of Tobacco Road drawn to the two — or more — games the Tar Heels and Blue Devils play every season. It's something that will be popular on North Carolina sports betting apps after the launch in March.

The schools are two titans of the sport, with UNC (2,361) and Duke (2,290) ranking third and fourth, respectively, in all-time Division I wins. They also have combined to reach the Final Four 38 times and win 11 national titles, with 10 coming since 1982.

This year is no exception, as both schools are in the Associated Press Top 25. UNC placed third in the current poll, and voters picked Duke as the ninth-best squad. The Blue Devils fell a couple slots after losing at UNC 93-84 last Saturday.

But does winning the first battle lead to more success in March? Our team at BetCarolina.com wanted to see how the winner of the first leg in the historic rivalry has finished their season. Utilizing SportsReference.com, BetCarolina took a quick timeout from North Carolina sports betting to compile the winners of every initial UNC vs. Duke game since 2010 and tallied the number of postseason wins that team finished with. 

The results indicate the loser of the first leg has had more success in the postseason than the winner.

How The First Leg Winner Finishes Season

Winning Team Season Postseason Games Won
Duke 2010-20112
Duke 2011-20120
Duke 2012-20133
UNC 2013-20141
Duke 2014-20156
Duke 2015-20162
Duke 2016-20171
UNC 2017-20181
UNC 2018-20192
Duke 2019-2020N/A
UNC 2020-20210
Duke 2021-20224
Duke 2022-20231
UNC 2023-2024TBD
23

How The First Leg Loser Finishes Season

Losing Team Season Postseason Games Won
UNC 2010-20113
UNC 2011-20123
UNC 2012-20131
Duke 2013-20140
UNC 2014-20152
UNC 2015-20165
UNC 2016-20176
Duke 2017-20183
Duke 2018-20193
UNC 2019-2020N/A
Duke 2020-20211
UNC 2021-20225
UNC 2022-20230
Duke 2023-2024TBD
32

Losing Not Always A Bad Thing

Going back to 2010, Duke has won the first game nine times, but the Tar Heels have now won four out of the last seven initial encounters. However, only once has the winner of the first game in the Tobacco Road Rivalry gone on to cut down the nets at the Final Four. That was the 2014-15 Duke squad, and the 2021-22 Blue Devils were the only team to reach the national semifinals. If you’re a fan of either team, you know how that season, the last for legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski, turned out.

The Tar Heels beat Duke in that Final Four before succumbing to Kansas in the championship. UNC actually has fared better in seasons when it lost the first Duke game. After those nine losses came five trips to the Elite Eight, three Final Four appearances and the 2016-17 NCAA title. In seasons when the Heels beat Duke first, they’ve amassed just four wins in four March Madness appearances.

Even the Blue Devils have overcome the loss to reach the Elite Eight twice.

North Carolina sports betting won’t be allowed statewide until March 11, but that will give Tar Heels and Blue Devils fans time to place bets on the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. DraftKings gives North Carolina odds of +1500 (meaning a $100 winning bet would payout $1,600) to win its seventh NCAA title, while its oddsmakers give Duke +2800 odds of winning its sixth. BetCarolina.com will have all of the best NC sportsbook promo codes very soon!

Want to know more about these NC college basketball teams? Check out our odds pages for both and an odds page dedicated to the rivalry here:

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Author

Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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