North Carolina Has Rare Opportunity to Gain on Duke’s Record

NCAA Tournament North Carolina
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Two days before Duke crushed West Virginia in the national semifinal at the 2010 Final Four, North Carolina lost to Dayton in the NIT Championship, closing the book on a season that started with hopes of repeating as national champions and ended without an NCAA Tournament appearance for just the third time in the last 45 years.

Duke’s win on April 3, and another win two days later in the national championship, gave them six wins in the 2010 NCAA Tournament and extended their own record for average wins per tournament appearance. After going 6-0 in their 34th appearance, the Blue Devils were averaging 2.7 wins per appearance, the most among all college basketball teams regardless of the number of total appearances. Over the last nine years, Duke added another national championship (2015) and three other Elite Eight appearances. However, their wins per appearance dropped to 2.6, largely due to three appearances with only one or zero wins: 2012 (zero), 2014 (zero), and 2017 (one).

Over those nine years, North Carolina won 21 games in nine appearances, bumping their average to 2.48, second in the country, and marginally closing the gap on Duke. And with Duke’s tourney whiff in 2021, the Tar Heels have a rare opportunity to gain more ground. It will, however, require more wins than North Carolina, currently an 8-seed in Bracketology, has posted in each of the last two tournaments.

If North Carolina wins zero games, their average will drop (2.43) and the gap will widen, as it will if they win only one game (2.45), as they did in 2018, or only two games (2.47), as they did in 2019. But if they win three or more games, they can close the gap:

Three wins: 2.49 
Four wins: 2.51
Five wins: 2.53
Six wins: 2.55

North Carolina already sits among college basketball’s giants. Whether they’re behind or ahead of Duke in average wins means little, if anything, in the big picture of college basketball stability and excellence. Nonetheless, it’s a rare opening to gain on their hated rival and grab own another all-time record.

Full list of average wins per appearance (min. 20 appearances):

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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM