Familiarity breeds contempt. If playing copious amounts of Civ V has taught me anything, it's that true contempt comes from irreconcilable differences mixed with longstanding opportunities for those differences to crop up. (Also, to freak the hell out if Caesar is your neighbor, because he is a lying shitbag.)
1) Religious Undertones
Boston College belongs to the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, and thus has roots that hark back to Ignatius Loyola and Spanish Catholicism. Wake Forest, on the other hand, was until recently affiliated with the Southern Baptist denomination, which is technically a Protestant sect. (I would pay money to see what Martin Luther would think of modern Southern religious thought.) While not quite as extreme as the Celtic-Rangers rivalry in Glasgow, the religious undertones present whenever the two teams meet gives the game a more epic quality due to the religious stakes, as compared to a more simple rivalry based on a nebulous concept such as proximity or state pride.
2) Regional Rivalries
Ask just about anyone with a base knowledge of college basketball why Duke-North Carolina is special, and you'll inevitably hear about how the schools are 8 miles apart. Well guess what? US 15-501 sucks, and that proximity doesn't breed actual contempt and hatred. For that, you need longstanding socio-economic underpinnings based on true ideological differences that simply cannot be found on such a local level within the ACC's geographic footprint. It's been approximately 150 years since the end of the Civil War, and the country is as badly divided politically now as it has in any point in that period between liberal Northeast and conservative South. The hatred in this rivalry reflects this schism.
3) The Same, and Yet Not
In the old ACC, Wake Forest held the distinction of being the only school not actually in the place it claims to be. North Carolina at Chapel Hill is in Chapel Hill. Clemson is in Clemson. Virginia is in Virginia. Wake Forest, however, is not in Wake Forest, NC, but in Winston-Salem.
Boston College took Wake's oddball accomplishment and one-upped it: not only is Boston College not actually in Boston, but it's also not actually a college. Wake fans have never forgiven the Eagles for the blatantly dick one-upsmanship in this move.
4) The Evolution Debate
Hear me out.
An eagle is one of the largest types of birds of prey; falling into the raptor category. Yes, raptor... as in those things that could open doors in Jurassic Park. Indeed modern scientists believe that dinosaurs such as the velociraptor may have evolved into birds of prey. However, religious factions dispute this, including the tried-and-true defense of "I didn't come from no goddamn monkey." Indeed, one of the big hot-button issues in recent memory is the teaching of evolution (the eagle) vs. creationism/intelligent design (the preacher) in public schools. Each Wake-BC game serves as a national referendum on this topic.
5) Tyrese Rice
Naturally, rivalries have to have some basis on the court to truly transcend their sport. Enter Tyrese Rice, a player from Virginia who BC landed after Wake was unable to make a late recruiting pitch. Rice made the Deacs pay over his career with the Eagles: In six career games, Rice tormented the Deacons, averaging
approximately a gajillion 20.5 points per game in leading the Eagles to a 4-2 record.
What I'm trying to say: fuck Tyrese Rice.
6) Because Duke-North Carolina Is for Chumps
I touched on this earlier, but Duke-North Carolina is not a great rivalry. The too-close proximity of the schools means that fans and alums have constant interactions with one another year-round, which prevents any sort of actual hostility from growing. Instead, the schools and their fans have something of an ironic rivalry, wherein they each pay lip service to its greatness while patting each other on the back, secure in their supposed superiority. ESPN, with its horde of Duke/North Carolina alumni on staff, is only too happy to play along. And that's how myths get perpetuated.
7) The Stakes
The most watched sporting event in the world is the World Cup Final, which occurs once every four years. In terms of annual sporting events, the most watched is either something similar - like the Champions League final - or the Super Bowl.
Wake-BC, in the words of its own participants, is the college basketball Super Bowl. It is the single objective measure separating a successful season from one deemed a failure. It has cost coaches jobs, players their reputations, and fans their sanity. It is the culmination of an entire season of hard work, skills and techniques honed for use in these 40 minutes. And it means more to the players and coaches involved than any postseason game.*
* Maybe because neither team actually ever goes to the postseason.