Allow me to set the stage for you for a moment: It's February, 4, 1938, and the Duke Blue Devils are taking on the St. John's Red Storm (they weren't called that, but you get the idea) from Madison Square Garden. Babe Ruth is still alive and coaching in the Major Leagues. Franklin D. Roosevelt is the President of the United States. World War II hasn't even started yet. And what the hell is an iPhone?
The final score of that first contest back in 1938? 44-28, St. John's. Of course, the Garden wasn't quite yet "The Garden," but the first official matchup between the two goes back nearly 77 years.
After that, there was a 40-year hiatus. The two would not lock up again until 1978, when they would once again meet at the Garden, but this time for the ECAC Holiday Festival. Duke was the number one ranked team in the nation, but that didn't seem to matter much to the Johnnies, who knocked them off 69-66 in front of more than 18,000 strong.
As fate would have it, the two teams would not nearly be done with one another that season. In a second round matchup in the NCAA Tournament, New York's finest once again got the better of the Blue Devils, upsetting the #2 seed, in Raleigh, North Carolina, nonetheless.
And then, Coach K arrived.
Mike Krzyzewski has been the gold standard of coaching in any sport for bordering on 30 years now. In fact, it was 30 years ago when the two teams met for the first time in the Coach K era.
The star power for the top-25 matchup (Duke checked in at #6, St. John's at #18) was immense. It was a budding young star in Coach K vs. the legendary Lou Carnesecca. It was Chris Mullin vs. Johnny Dawkins, Jay Bilas, David Henderson, Danny Ferry. It was the Garden. And best of all, it was a one-point game. Granted, the contest didn't end the way the Johnnies wanted to, but the spectacle outshone the final result.
Since the introduction of Coach K into the rivalry, the contests have been dreadfully one-sided in the win column. There have been 20 matchups between the two teams since that time, and the Johnnies have won only three of them; two of which came by a single point. The most historic was from February 26, 2000, when they upset the #2 ranked Blue Devils on their home floor at Cameron Indoor Stadium, 83-82.
The most recent toppling of goliath came on January 30, 2011, when the Red Storm thrashed Duke, 93-78 from MSG. It was the most points St. John's has ever scored against the Dukies.
It seems fitting that while Duke and St. John's aren't natural geographic rivals, or don't play in the same conference, they still will be able to fill the World's Most Famous Arena to capacity on Sunday afternoon.
Coach K is already widely viewed as the single greatest college hoops coach by many, but winning his one thousandth game on the hardwood at MSG against a storied program such as St. John's will only cement his legacy.