The Carolina Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils. Arguably the most storied rivalry in sports. There are 11 National Titles, 36 Final Four visits, 29 ACC Tournament Titles, and 51 ACC Regular Season Titles between the two teams. Saturday's matchup between the two is the most important game in the history of the rivalry and will be the event that one team will walk away from with bragging rights for many years to come.
There are a ton of storylines to follow in this game. First, we have Coach Hubert Davis, a first-year head coach, taking on a first-ballot Hall-of-Fame coach, Mike Krzyzewski, in the last tournament and possibly game of his coaching career. As it currently stands (March 30, 2022), Coach Hubert Davis remains 1-1 against Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils. A win on Saturday would mean that Coach Davis would be one of the few coaches to have a winning record against Coach K's Blue Devils and the first UNC Coach to accomplish this.
The bigger and more surprising story of Saturday's game is that this is the first time the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils have met in the NCAA Tournament. The fact that it is taking place in the Final Four makes the game that much more significant. I'm confident that if either team knew they'd lose the title game, but it meant they won this game, they'd take it.
There is a lot of hype and buildup for this game across the state and the nation, but this game means just a little more for one county in North Carolina. Tucked away in the shadow of Mecklenburg County lies Cabarrus County, otherwise known as the home to Duke's Wendell Moore and Carolina's Leaky Black.
In the 2017-2018 season, Black and Moore teamed up at Cox Mill High School to make arguably the most incredible duo the county, and possibly the state, has ever seen. Black spent his first two seasons as a high schooler playing for the historic Concord Spiders before spending his Junior Season at the nationally recognized Montverde Academy.
While Leaky was working on his craft in Florida, Wendell Moore was making a name for himself in his hometown of Concord. In his Sophomore season (2016-'17 season), Moore would lead the Chargers to their first State Title. In that season, the Chargers went 27-6.
One of those losses was to another Cabarrus County great, Lavar Batts Jr., who would play a season with NC State before transferring to UNC Asheville. To those keeping up, in the 2015-2016 season, three basketball players in Cabarrus County would be recruited by the Tobacco Road Three, UNC (Leaky), Duke (Moore), and NC State (Lavar). Batts would lead the Robinson Bulldogs to a state title in the 2015-'16 season.
After the 2016-'17 season, Leaky decided to come back to Cabarrus County, but this time he would join forces with Wendell Moore instead of returning to Concord High. At this point, his decision to attend UNC was made. Leaky made attempts to draw Moore to UNC, but according to the Charlotte Observer and Wendell Moore, since his commitment to Duke, the two often joke about it whenever they play one another.
In their one season together, the two would lead the Chargers to a 29-3 season and the school's second consecutive State Title. Leaky would go on to play under Roy Williams and the Tar Heels. Unfortunately for Moore, his Chargers would not complete the three-peat in his senior season. They would lose to the eventual State Champions, Southwest Guilford and the Langley Twins (now at UNC Greensboro).
Leaky and the Tar Heels have a 3-2 head-to-head lead on Moore and the Blue Devils in their college careers. This will be Moore's last attempt to tie up the series between the two since Leaky is a senior and Wendell is likely heading to the NBA. Leaky should have another year of eligibility because of COVID-19, so Coach Davis and Tar Heel fans may get another year of Leaky. The pair has a few more chips in this game than some of the other players that'll step foot on the court on Saturday.
Leaky has spent his time at Carolina as a solid role player. He became a starter for the Tar Heels in his Sophomore season and has since averaged 5.6 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game, and 2.6 assists per game. This past season, Leaky was in the running for ACC Defensive Player of the Year and was on the All-ACC Defensive team. His future in basketball is uncertain for the time being, but I'd imagine his playing days are far from over.
Wendell Moore took no time creating a name for himself at Duke. In his three years under Coach K, he has averaged 29.3 minutes per game, 10.7 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game, and 3.2 assists per game. Since stepping into his role at Duke, Moore has earned All-ACC, All-ACC Tourney, and All-ACC Defense honors. Moore is projected to declare for the draft at the end of the season and is expected to go in the middle to late first round.
It's the end of an era for Cabarrus County Hoops. Leaky and Moore. Man, what a duo. I would pay just about any amount of money to go back and watch the two play together again. It was one of those "you had to be there" things. On Saturday, you can fully expect Cabarrus County to be watching and on the edge of their seats. Regardless of the outcome, the two have made CabCo proud, I'm happy that I was able to witness it all.
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