College basketball's marquee rivalry will have a new home next season.
In addition to ESPN televising the Duke-North Carolina rivalry game in February as usual next season, CBS Sports announced Tuesday that it has purchased the rights to the March 5 matchup in Chapel Hill. This will be the first time that a matchup between the Blue Devils and Tar Heels will air in primetime on network television.
"Duke-North Carolina is one of the most intense rivalries in all of sports," said Mike Aresco, executive vice president of programming for CBS Sports. "A primetime telecast on CBS Sports will generate enormous interest across the nation as the 'Road to the Final Four heats up."
CBS attaching itself to Duke-North Carolina is significant for two reasons:
1. A combination of an attractive matchup and a great network time slot should provide the perfect opportunity for the casual fan to get excited about college hoops heading into the NCAA tournament. Defending national champion Duke figures to be among the favorites again next year and youthful North Carolina will likely be much improved.
2. Perhaps more importantly, it spares us from having to watch the game on mute to avoid hearing Dick Vitale slobbering all Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski for 2 1/2 hours.
Considering that ESPN paid $155 million for its new TV contract with the ACC and the Duke-North Carolina showdown was the centerpiece of that agreement, CBS must have shelled out a lot of money for the March 5 game.
It's a risky investment for CBS, but it should be one that pays off both for the network and college basketball.