The annual matchups between North Carolina and Duke serve as mile markers during the men’s college basketball season.
On Wednesday night, however, when the vintage rivals meet in Chapel Hill, the No. 8 Blue Devils versus the unranked Tar Heels does not even present as the best game of the night. That would be No. 15 New Mexico visiting No. 23 U.N.L.V.
But the game does offer a fitting backdrop into this twisted season. The unexpected struggles of North Carolina and Duke’s quest to rejoin the elite of college basketball make the game a window into two of the season’s most prominent story lines.