The college basketball court is 90 feet long and 50 feet wide. The hoop is 10 feet from the floor and 15 feet from the free-throw line.
Here's another number: 9. That's the mileage down "Tobacco Road" from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill to Duke University in Durham. A few minutes drive separating America's reigning basketball powerhouses.
The University of North Carolina Tar Heels have the hardware as the 2005 NCAA men's basketball champions. Duke looks to the past and future. The Blue Devils have won more championships than any other school in the modern era and this year have dominated the polls since the preseason. As of Thursday, Duke was ranked No. 1 in the AP poll, while North Carolina was 23rd.
That the teams happen to hold court in two of the prettiest campuses in the United States is a bonus for the traveler. Whether you are a roundball fanatic or just love college towns, a trip to Chapel Hill and Durham during basketball season is a must on any tour of the South.
"The rivalry is very much alive," said Ryan Tuck, editor-in-chief of the Daily Tar Heel, the college newspaper in Chapel Hill. "You see a Duke shirt on Franklin Street on a Friday night and they are going to get comments."
The dismissive attitude to the other town's school and fans is mutual, say Duke rooters.
"I stay pretty close to home," said Herb Neubauer, a Duke alum and superfan known as "The Crazy Towel Guy" for his courtside antics. "I don't go to Chapel Hill except maybe once or twice a year for a meal. No reason to."
Chapel Hill, Durham and the nearby state capital of Raleigh make up an area called "The Triangle." Basketball season is prime time to visit the area. Much more pleasant than the scorch and sweat of the long North Carolina summer.
Autumn comes late to central North Carolina, the leaves often turning only when the calendar flips to November. Around March Madness, as the NCAA championship is called, the state is seeing the first buds of spring.
Actually seeing a basketball game at either campus is a tough ticket. Your best bet is to attend the open-house scrimmages that start in late October and preseason games in early November.
But even if you can't get into Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke) or the Dean E. Smith Center (Chapel Hill), the towns swarm with an invigorating basketball fever during the winter.
Chapel Hill is much more the classic college town of the two. The University of North Carolina's red-brick colonial-style campus (think Harvard) blends into the town on all sides. Visitors head to Old East, a dorm that dates to 1795, the signature bell tower, or the shady commons of McCorkle Place. Nearly every postcard rack features pictures of The Old Well, a drinking fountain surrounded by a colonnade. A first sip is said to confer good luck on the drinker.
Those seeking knowledge or culture can head over to Morehead Planetarium. Or visit Playmakers Theatre, which was built 10 years before the start of the Civil War. But the best pleasure is to duck in and out of the student hangouts along Franklin, the main street that runs right by the campus. Many of the shops are plastered with Tar Heel posters, including some fading salutes to the 2005 championship won last spring.
Chapel Hill is regionally renown as a liberal enclave in a conservative state. But you get all political flavors. "Trim the Bushes" bumper stickers sit on cars next to trucks with ones touting "Gun Control Means Using Both Hands."
Tar Heels head over to Mama Dip's for sweet-potato biscuits and grits for breakfast or fried chicken and dumplings for dinner. The slogan there is, "Put a taste of South in your mouth."
Mama Dip is the nickname for Mildred Council, who at 76 still oversees the kitchen at her restaurant on Rosemary Street. The walls are lined with plaques, articles and cookbook pages featuring her recipes going back more than a half-century.
"I started cooking in 1939," she said. "That was the only job for a black woman in those days. That and being a maid. Nobody taught me. Until the 1970s, I raised children and cooked. Then I opened my own place. Now I'd rather cook than get in a car and drive to some job and work."
Crook's Corner is a New South hangout, where jalapeno hushpuppies are on the menu and the patio is decorated with woodcut animals by chain-saw artist Clyde Jones of nearby Bynum.
With basketball legend Michael Jordan among its alumni and a perennial Sweet 16 team, UNC should be a source of envy. Instead, the relative greater success of nearby Duke means North Carolina can't even beat Duke in the hatred game. When MSNBC conducted a recent poll of the most-hated team in college basketball, Duke was the runaway winner, with 53 percent. North Carolina came in second - with only 18 percent.
Searching for bile directed at UNC, Atlanta Journal-Constitution sportswriter Wendy Parker admitted she'd come up short.
"Unless you're a dyed-in-deep-blue Dookie, it's hard to hate the Tar Heels," she wrote.
The 20-minute drive along what locals call Tobacco Road leads to Durham, a red-brick Southern town whose grittier post-industrial downtown is hard-pressed to compete with the beauty of Chapel Hill.
The town was built on the four-pack-a-day smoker. A tall brick chimney with the words "LUCKY STRIKE" is still a city landmark. Just outside of town is the Duke Homestead & Tobacco Museum, a bucolic landscape of old farm buildings that salutes Washington Duke, the father of North Carolina's tobacco industry. The tobacco museum gives an upbeat, if not entirely one-sided, history of the rise and decline of the American cigarette.
Duke was a failed corn and sweet-potato farmer and sailor in the failed Confederate Navy. But out of those failures came a big idea. During the war, Duke learned that Northerners had a taste for bright leaf tobacco he had started to harvest on his farm.
It made him a millionaire and birthed the American Tobacco Company, one of the largest trusts in the world at one time. With the rise in recent years of reports of severe health risks linked to smoking, a local joke goes that Washington Duke killed more Yankees than Robert E. Lee.
Money from tobacco fueled dozens of philanthropic causes, including the Sarah Duke Gardens. But the biggest enterprise of all was the creation of the university that has born the family name since 1924. There's more of a separation of town and gown here. Unlike UNC, the Duke campus is removed from the city center, forming a second self-enclosed community.
If UNC looks like Harvard, Duke takes its cues from Cambridge University. The Gothic architecture reaches a pinnacle with the Duke Chapel, based on the Canterbury Cathedral in Britain. Completed in 1932, the dour and imposing church with a 210-foot-high steeple features a 50-bell carillon and booming pipe organs. A suitably medieval-feeling marble-lined crypt includes the remains of university luminaries such as former governor and senator Terry Sanford.
Basketball is king here, and the ruler is Mike Krzyzewski, universally known as "Coach K." His only distraction on the way to the 2006 Final Four may be his selection as head coach of the United States' 2008 Olympic Men's basketball team. Gender is no barrier to basketball success - Duke's women's team has been to the NCAA playoffs every year since 1998.
Sports Illustrated columnist Phil Taylor explained the basis of Duke enmity (see www.hateduke.com for a taste) in an article last year titled "Blue With Envy."
"The only thing Duke has done to deserve such enmity is win, a fact that says far more about the haters than the hated. People may think they hate Duke, but they don't. They are jealous of Duke, they are bored by Duke, they are intimidated by Duke."
Like Chapel Hill, Durham has its share of famous eateries, with the loudest media lip-smacking going to Bullock's BBQ. If you are tired of the traditional chopped North Carolina pork, sample the ribs at Q Shack, south of town on University Avenue. Alongside a slab, try the sweet-potato french fries.
For now, Chapel Hill is walking tall, while Durham is playing wait-and-see. It won't be until March that we'll know which spot on Tobacco Road will come out on top on the hardwood.
If you go
Duke University, Durham, (919) 684-8111, www.duke.edu. Guided and self-guided tours of the campus are available.
The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, (919) 962-1630. www.unc.edu. The visitors center offers tours by appointment.
HANG YOUR HAT:
The Triangle area has plenty of chain hotels and motels in all price ranges. Favorite spots include:
Carolina Inn, 211 Pittsboro Street, Chapel Hill, (800) 962-8519. www.carolinainn.com.
The Washington Duke Inn, 3001 Cameron Blvd., Durham, (800) 443-3853, www.washingtondukeinn.com.
Mama Dip's Kitchen, 408 W. Rosemary St., Chapel Hill, (919) 942-5837.
Crook's Corner, 610 W. Franklin St, Chapel Hill, (919) 929-7643.
Fearrington House, 2000 Fearrington Village, Pittsboro, (919) 542-2121.
Cafe Parizade, 2200 Main St., Durham, (919) 286-9712.
Magnolia Grill, 1002 Ninth St., Durham, (919) 286-3609.
Bullock's Bar-B-Que, 3330 Quebec Drive, Durham, (919) 383.3211, www.bullocksbbq.com.
Big Ed's City Market, 220 Wolfe St, Raleigh, (919) 836-9909.
Angus Barn, 9401 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh, (919) 781-2444, www.angusbarn.com.
JUST ASK THEM, CLICK ON IT:
For information on sights around the Triangle area, contact the North Carolina Division of Tourism at (800) VISIT NC (847-4862) or online at www.visitnc.com.
'Heels & Dookies
Comparing Chapel Hill and Durham (and their famed universities):
Location: Durham, N.C.
Founded: 1838. Known as Duke University since 1924.
Team name: Blue Devils
Campus: 9,432 acres
Endowment: $3.3 billion
Interesting alumni: President Richard Nixon, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, feminist Eleanor Smeal, Clinton prosecutor Kenneth Starr, Internet pioneers Jim Ellis and Tom Truscott, novelist Anne Tyler, author William Styron, big-band leader Les Brown, journalist Charlie Rose, journalist Judy Woodruff, basketball coach Mike Dunleavy, basketball player Christian Laettner, basketball player Elton Brand, football player George McAfee, football player Sonny Jurgensen.
Official Web site: www.duke.edu/
Location: Chapel Hill
Team name: Tar Heels
Campus: 729 acres
Official Web site: www.unc.edu/
Interesting alumni: President James Polk, Novelist Thomas Wolfe, basketball star Michael Jordan, basketball coach Larry Brown, basketball star Bob McAdoo, soccer player Mia Hamm, beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, historian Shelby Foote, sportswriter Peter Gammons, journalist David Brinkley, journalist Charles Kuralt, actor Andy Griffith, singer Emmylou Harris, singer James Taylor, vice presidential candidate John Edwards, golfer Davis Love III, football player Lawrence Taylor, Pepsi inventor Caleb Bradham.
Jokes about UNC
Did you hear that Nike is coming out with a new shoe in March called "The Final Four?" The special feature has no Heels.
Did you hear they were going to change the UNC mascot from a ram to a possum? It's because they play dead at home and get killed on the road.
What is the difference between a UNC fan and a 3-week-old puppy? Eventually, the puppy will stop whining.
Jokes about Duke
What is the only sign of life in Durham? "Chapel Hill, 12 miles ahead."
What does a Duke alum say to a North Carolina alum: "Welcome to McDonald's - may I take your order?"
What's the three longest years of a Duke basketball player's life? His freshman year.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times