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Tait's Take: Return of KU-UNC matchup good for college hoops

3 min read
This was the site of the most recent meeting between historic college hoops programs Kansas and North Carolina — New Orleans for the 2022 national title. [Matt Tait photo] 

Storied college basketball programs Kansas and North Carolina will meet on the hardwood in the regular season once again, starting in 2024.

The schools announced on Monday the creation of a home-and-home series between KU and UNC that will feature a game at Allen Fieldhouse during the 2024-25 season (Nov. 8, 2024) and a showdown at the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill, North Carolina during the 2025-26 season (Nov. 14, 2025).

For years, the idea of the two blue blood college basketball programs meeting anywhere other than the NCAA Tournament was off limits because it seemed unlikely — if not downright impossible — that former KU coach Roy Williams would ever want to face his old team if he didn’t have to.

With Williams now retired — and having come back to take in a couple of KU games as a fan during recent years — the path was cleared for the two programs that have long been connected at the hip to jump start some regular action against one another again.

Williams’ North Carolina teams played KU three times after he left KU. All three came in the NCAA Tournament — 2008 Final Four, 2012 Elite Eight and 2013 second round — and Bill Self’s Jayhawks won all three meetings.

Self and the Jayhawks knocked off UNC again in the NCAA Tournament in the 2022 NCAA title game in New Orleans, moving Self to 4-0 against UNC during his time at Kansas.

The all-time series is tied at 6 wins apiece and KU has not hosted Carolina on its home floor since 1960. That game — 1 78-70 KU loss – marks the only meeting between the two in Lawrence. The Jayhawks have never played a game in Chapel Hill.

For those reasons alone, the revival of this series is a wonderful thing for both schools and for college basketball.

One of the best parts about college basketball has always been that schools can play these types of games without fear of them hurting their postseason chances the way they always had in college football.

So, for my money, you can never have too many of these, with the best of the best squaring off against one another in high-profile matchups.

The Champions Classic gives us that every year, with Kansas, Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State consistently challenging each other early in the season.

Thanks to the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, KU and Kentucky have faced each other a ton in recent years, as well, with both schools making multiple trips to the other’s campus for regular season games in addition to their meetings in the Champions Classic.

I’ve covered most of those and no matter how many times you see it, the look and feel of the arena when you see jerseys that read Kansas and Kentucky occupying the same court is always on another level.

It brings instant hype and buzz. It often features some of the best players in the college game. And the two uniforms just look right out there together.

You’d have to think the same will be true when it’s the white Kansas jerseys and Carolina blue uniforms tipping it off in Allen Fieldhouse a little more than a year from now.

Let’s hope this is just the beginning of a regular run of matchups between these two.

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