Three seconds left, down by one, ball in the hands of your team. The crowd is going crazy, the opposing team is getting ready for one final stand, your team is going for the win. Everyone is watching, everyone is fixated, and anything can happen. NCAA basketball is one of the premier sporting fields in the United States of America, and for all intensive purposes, the world. There are so many cool characteristics of college basketball from the upsets, to the rivalries, to March Madness, to the predictions made every year, to the chance that one player has to carve his own legacy.
Of course, when someone thinks of college basketball, certain teams come to mind. Teams with tradition, and winning programs, such as UCLA, Kansas, North Carolina or Kentucky. But above all, the team that always seems to stick out, is Duke. The Duke University Blue Devils. Love them, or hate them, Duke is just one of those teams that features two very distinctive fan sides, and nothing less.
But just like every sport, people are always going to have some type of problem with the best teams. In football, people don't like the Patriots, but they respect blue-collar players like Tom Brady, guys who are great players. In baseball, lots of people hate the Yankees, mostly because of their spending ways, but any true MLB fan can acknowledge that Derek Jeter is a great player. However, with Duke, it always seems different. People find it hard to respect one or two players, much less the team as a whole, and very few are able to root for them if their favorite team isn't involved.
If I told you that Duke has won 16 ACC championships, you might consider them an elite team, which they are. But what if I told you that they have won just three national championships? What if I said that a team who has played in the NIT three of the last four years, yet is often considered not close to Duke, has won the title more recently? What if I said that teams have gone to the Final Four while Duke hasn't inlcude George Mason, LSU, and Illinois, to name a few?
That might make you re-consider your perception a little bit, right? No matter, they are one of the most storied programs in college basketball history, producing great guys like Grant Hill, who are also great players.
However, I feel that there are some antics that Duke employs, and I (and millions of other people included) am not very fond of Duke. Why is this? Well, for starters: how they play. They foul. They play dirty. They complain. They talk trash. But you know what, so does everyone else. Is part of the reason that people dislike them because they are good?
Yes! I'll be the first to admit it. I don't like how great they can run the spread offense and take time off the clock, slow down the game, and knock down open shots. I don't like some of their tactics, like the chest bumping, or the floor pounding, but if my team was doing it, I'd probably love it. And I have a hard time rooting for Mike Kryzewski, their head coach, although I can say that he is one of the best coaches in basketball. Even their fan section, the Cameron Crazies, gets annoying at times; but I think we're all jealous at how dedicated they are to their team, and secretly would love their fan section as our own.
"Just this year, there have been so many incidents from other teams' fans, saying rude remarks to us"
But you know what? Much like every other anti-Duke fan out there, we all have a hard time respecting Duke. Is it because they are constantly nagging the referees? Is it because they complain about every call that goes against them? Is it because they have annoying, white players (Redick, Josh McRoberts, Greg Paulus, etc.) who exemplify everything that irritates us? There are plenty of reasons to go around, and to please many people (and irritate many more), some of the "great things" about Duke are going to be exposed, once and for all...
In an unrelated note, for a funny McRoberts play that solidifies every complaint against Duke, watch this.
Alright, who am I kidding? There is never enough time to expose all the flaws about Duke, I will merely talk about some of the current, uh, tendencies, we'll say, facing Duke...
Type in "Mike Kryzewski complaints" on Google, and over 6,000 entries come up in under one second. This year, he seems to have two major coaching accomplishments. The first is guiding the United States to the Gold Medal. This is a great feat, and I am not any less proud to root for the United States if Coach K is running things, but was this really a miracle work? I mean, he had not one, but two NBA All-Stars (Carlos Boozer and Michael Redd) who basically never played, and when Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were on, he was sometimes faced with the task of deciding which future Hall of Fame guard to put as the third option at guard, Kobe Bryant or Jason Kidd. Think about that for a minute. Also, remember that before 2004, it was expected that the U.S. would win, not hoped. So if they had won the Gold Medal in Athens, would this be such a big deal?
Secondly, he seems to have gotten all kinds of credit for inserting freshman Elliot Williams into the starting lineup. It was a smart coaching move, and I'm not sure most major coaches would do that, but how great of a move was it? Good enough for the at-minimum ten mentions on ESPN in the last couple of days? Let me throw a few things at you.
First, Williams was an All-American. As if freshman weren't doing anything special, let me remind you that just last year Derrick Rose, now in the NBA, led Memphis to the title game. Michael Beasley, now in the NBA, was arguably the best player in college basketball last year. In fact, freshman were five of the first seven picks of the NBA draft. But since he put a fresman in the lineup, he must have replaced a great player, right?
In fact, Williams replaced none other than Greg Paulus. The same Paulus who averages under six points and two assists a game? The same Paulus who has seen his minutes decreased every year? The same Paulus who was benched last year, as well? And putting an All-American in as the fifth option is such a gutsy move? I don't know, I'm not quite sold. Or maybe I just think Paulus flops too much.
A perfect example of Coach K's unbelievable "work" came after the screen Dave Neal set on Nolan Smith, as Coach K was"furious", as he yelled at the referees. Even the announcers on ESPN, who were constantly showering Duke with praise, pointed out that "that was a legal screen".
Anyway, that leads me to my next gripe; the players. This includes the trio of Paulus, Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler (although he isn't all that bad). Of course, it also includes Gerald Henderson. Now, let me say that I don't really like Tyler Hansbrough; I think he is overrated, gets too many calls, and gets away with too much. So if you do something like give him an elbow in the face, and you aren't well liked, it's safe to say that you probably aren't the most likeable basketball player. Or, maybe Henderson just gets way too much credit for everything. And again, let me say that Henderson is a very good player, but is he quite as good as everyone thinks? Chrisian Laettner, William Avery and Mike Dunleavy might have to disagree.
Like on Wednesday night, he had an awesome (and I mean awesome) dunk. But after he dunks, the guys on ESPN exclaim "He must have gotten up about twelve feet", which isn't exactly true. The replay showed that it was a great dunk...and that he got nowhere near twelve feet up. He had a great defensive play, and hit a nice jumper after that; qualities that prove the talent that he has. But this then caused the guys to exclaim that "He just made three All-ACC plays", something that was never (All-ACC) mentioned one time during the Maryland-North Carolina game for Greivis Vasquez, when he got a triple-double on the best guard in the conference, Ty Lawson. Not once, even though it was just the third triple-double in Maryland history, the first in 20+ years, and aginst probably the best team in the country, to keep his team's NCAA Tournament hopes alive. That's not All-ACC caliber!
So after Henderson lands, what does he do? He screams (acceptable, I get excited when I play basketball, as well), looks at the crowd (a little bit annoying), stomps on the ground (annoying), and spins around doing it (irritating). In my opinion, that four-step sequence is a bit over the line. Like, if someone on another team does that, it's a technical foul. Henderson does it, and there isn't even one mention of sportsmanship. Oh well...
The other thing that I find odd is the amount of credit Duke gets for their defense. While I will admit that they can play great defense, they can also be very inconsistent. Take their prasied defender, Henderson, who just let Landon Milbourne go for 19 points, while shooting 75% from the field. Talented? Yes, but inconsistent? Yes.
Unrelated note: With the seniors leaving, and good recruits coming in, if things fall into place (which they very well could), the Henderson-Milbourne talents could potentially turn into a very good rivalry. Stay tuned to find out. Anyway...
A different instance in the game, with the score close, Duke inbounds the ball from under the hoop. The play is a clearout for the center to come down the lane, and if there is a defender, you have to get around them. Or, unless you're Brian Zoubek and you have a clear path in the lane, except for the defender, you get to run them over. So what does he do? He runs over Neal (and although there was a small flop), and throws him out of bounds. Layup good, two points Duke.
After this, as Maryland is inbounding the ball, Singler comes up, and steals the ball away in the backcourt. By "steal", I mean knock ball loose by fouling, and pick up ball cleanly, making the foul no foul, if you follow me. If you disagree with this, it's alright, it happens all the time. Anyway, Singler gets a dunk, after the no-call. Timeout Maryland. Loss of timeout. Loss of lead. Loss of momentum.
Do I even have to mention the fifth foul (and block) that fouled out Vasquez and forever swung the momentum? Or the immensely clean blocked shot by Milbourne that even the announcers agreed was a horrible call? How is it that Coach K can work the referees all day, and there is never a mention of this?
"Very physical game. It's interesting. As you know, I can't say anything" said Gary Williams. Funny, Coach K seemed to talk more to the refs than his own team. If I didn't know any better, I would think something of it...
Fans are a great part of college basketball. The Cameron Crazies are some of the best college basketball fans in the country, but I think everyone would agree that there are just things about them that irritate everyone. Is it the fact that graduate students paint their bodies? That as they chant "BULL S***" after every call that goes against Duke, they get to call out Maryland or North Carolina or Boston College fans for terrible things?
Take Speedo Guy, for example. Now, when Coach K is going to tell the media that there is "no room for that" (remember who this is coming from), isn't that kind of symbolic? Like, that it's kind of, uh, immature for a graduate student to be wearing a speedo at a basketball game? Yeah, it was funny. Yeah, it was clever. But no, that guy shouldn't be regarded as a hero.
More examples are needed? What about when Scott Williams, a former North Carolina player, lost both of his parents in a murder-suicide, which truly is a sad thing for anyone, and was playing in a Duke-North Carolina game. What did the Crazies think of this? He was introduced to the chants of "ORPHAN! ORPHAN!". Seriously, and a "**** YOU" chant that goes on at every sporting event in the world is "despicable"?
Maybe people are irritated by the lack of awareness presented by most fans of Duke? Now, that's not to say that they aren't basketball-smart: plenty of them are, and that's what makes them great fans. However, if you think there aren't many, many, many Blue Devil fans who know nothing and merely defend themselves by claiming jealousy by others, you are wrong.
It's bad enough to have a student section hated by your rivals, but what about when it is hated by every team in the ACC? What do North Carolina, Maryland, North Carolina State, Virgnina, Miami, Boston College, Wake Forest, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech all have in common? They don't need to hand out cheer sheets that say what to do in order to make some creative cheers.
There is no media bias towards Duke! None at all! What is that picture above? Well...it sure isn't "college basketball expert" and ESPN announcer Dick Vitale, being held up by the Cameron Crazies...is it? It can't be, remember? The media hates Duke.
This year, Duke is "arguably the best team in the country". Really, ESPN? Is this the same team that had trouble aginst Rhode Island and St. John's? The same team who lost to Boston College, sixth in the ACC, lost by 27 to Clemson, and after giving them their worst loss in 40+ years, could barely put away 17-10 Maryland? Because I don't know about you guys, but when I see a senior class like the one at North Carolina go into Cameron and win four times, my first though is "an even rivalry". I mean, geez, that's being pretty conservative to the success Duke had, isn't it?
I honestly don't even really have to continue to go on, because whether you like Duke, or hate Duke, you know what I'm talking about; the media loves Duke. And it's as simple as that. In fact, everyone should love those Blue Devils, right?
"Thank you for reminding me of the reason why I left Duke. People like you cannot and will not ever understand my situation. I'm sure daddy worked very hard to send your rich self to college, while real people struggle. I would also like to extend an invitation for you not to waste your or my time ever again. Never being considered a part of your posh group of yuppies reallly hurts me to the heart. Yeah, right, because I don't care about you or your alumni"
Is Duke a great team? Yes. Is Duke overrated by the media? Yes. Do they get too many calls? Yes. Am I going to get killed for writing this? Most likely. Oh well, for lack of better judgment, what are the thoughts of college basketball fans?