Let me clarify the lead of today's SN column: I am not saying that UNC-Duke isn't a great rivalry. It is, for sure, the best rivalry in college basketball.
It is also, however, entirely overrated. Because there is no downside for the game's loser. Ever. Not in the regular season. Not in the ACC Tournament. (If they met in the NCAA Tournament? Absolutely. Doesn't happen.) Both teams stroll into the NCAA Tournament field. (The ACC championship, either regular-season or tournament? Honestly: Who remembers those?)
Michigan-Ohio State. Lakers-Celtics. Yankees-Red Sox. These "best" rivalries are enhanced by actual, live-or-die stakes between the two teams: A conference (or national) championship. NBA title. AL pennant.
Again: UNC-Duke is great pageantry and great fun. As far as regular-season rivalries go in sports, it's entirely entertaining. If they ever met in the Final Four, it would be epic. But they don't do that. And so it's hard to call Duke-UNC the "best" rivalry when it's all sizzle, no steak.
Or no stakes.
UPDATE: I'm nothing if not flexible in the face of an interesting counter-argument. The idea that the Duke-UNC winner *could* get the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, triggering a couple of rounds of games that don't take the team too far from home? That counts. But it's not like UNC or Duke -- if they lost this game (as opposed to the other reg-season game as opposed to their inevitable meeting in the ACC Tourney) -- would have that much of a more difficult time in the NCAA Tournament. I think both coaches might even be offended at the idea that home-region advantage is so big that if they didn't get home-region advantage, their team would have a tough time with it. (Based on the last few years, both will choke anyway.)
More you'll find in the column:
*Derek Jeter isn't acting like a captain.
*The BBWAA needs...Jose Canseco.
*Damn you, Jodie Meeks.
*Marquette exposed, as expected.
*JR Smith? What happened to Joe Alexander?
*Mo Williams, All-Star: Stop griping now, Cavs fans.
*UFL: Letting fans vote on Vick is genius.
*Best. Westminster Dog Show Winner. Ever.
Complete column here. More later.
Oh, and I guess Brett Favre is retiring. Whatever.