It’s the most annoying thing I hear by every College Basketball fan I know, or by anybody who fills out a bracket every year. “Oh, I hate Duke”.
Ok, great, you hate Duke. But why?
What does Duke do besides play on national television all the time and win consistently? This isn’t Duke of the 1990s and 2000s. Those teams were very, very hateable. They won and were arrogant and let you know it. They started that whole floor slap (which is tired and played out and kinda pathetic now). But these Duke teams over the past few years haven’t been that. They play every opponent who wants to challenge them, unlike other powerhouse teams that won’t play strong mid-major teams non-conference (looking at you Kansas). They get top-tier recruits the same way everybody else does without a hint of scandal or academic scandal. They do it all the right way.
So why does everybody hate them?
They aren’t the only team that wins consistently.There are other Division I teams that have strings of dominance like Duke’s. Look at Syracuse (before this season). Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyewski are pretty much the same people. Same type of programs, same level of success, same style of coaching. Yet, for some reason when it comes to tournament time Boeheim and the Orange are heroes and Duke is the enemy yet again. Okay, so I understand if you’re really intent on hating Duke. Hating all that they stand for, hate their style of play, blah blah blah. Then I’ll just ask you one thing. Why don’t you hate Wisconsin? I mean, if you look over the best decade Wisconsin has been a team much like Duke is perceived to be. Wisconsin has neglected to join the bandwagon of one-and-done’s, instead recruiting players intent on staying four years. That’s great, I love it, only Krzyewski was criticized for being late to the party on one-and-done’s. Wisconsin has won consistently and produced far runs in the tournament. They are by no means a small basketball March Madness darling school, as expectations for Wisconsin basketball are Fours every year now, much like Duke’s.
Duke for years was killed by the public because they didn’t play off athleticism, only playing efficient, smart basketball and living and dying by the three. Let me know if this is a stretch, but I don’t think it’s crazy to say that this Wisconsin team is very reminiscent of the 1990-1991 Duke team that won the National Championship. That Duke team went to the final four the year before out of nowhere before returning as a 1 seed to knock off the unbeaten Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV. Sound familiar? Can’t you see it though? Frank Kaminsky is a Christian Laettner clone. Sam Dekker can do his best Grant Hill impression and Traevon Jackson will just be scrappy ass Bobby Hurly.
But I digress. Duke plays a different style of game than they used to play. There are no more Christian Laetner’s or Steve Wojohowski’s or JJ Redick’s or Josh McRobert’s or Greg Paulis’s (wow I didn’t realize until after I named all those guys in a row how many douchy players come out of Duke). Those guys are gone though. You know where those guys are now? Wisconsin, Michigan St, Virginia, all teams that people Duke has eight scholarship players. The lack of depth is incredible. But what’s amazing is that 4 of those are for Freshman, three of whom are starting. Make the case all you want for Bo Ryan for coach of the year, but what Coach K did with this team is unbelievable.
Not often does a Mike Krzyewski Final Four team go against an opponent with more experience than them like they’ll face tonight.
So now Duke finds itself on the other end of the argument. Wisconsin has more depth. Wisconsin has more experience. Wisconsin just beat Kentucky yada, yada, yada. Duke will win this game, don’t get me wrong. I wholly expect to be buying a National Championship t-shirt tonight.
But this game is different. You shouldn’t spend this game hating Duke non-stop, because they are actually doing something incredible. Kentucky was lauded for the “inexperience on the team.” That’s why it was amazing how great they were. Duke played most of this season with six or seven players. They completely changed from a run and gun offensive juggernaught to a slow you down kill you in the half court team that plays spectacular defense. They arrive in the finals boasting an average point differential of 17 this tournament.
This is a different Duke team. This is not the Duke that has made everybody in America, outside of Durham, hate them for almost three decades. This is the ushering in of a new era. Maybe this is the Badgers time to knock Duke off the throne. Usher in the new era of the Big Ten. Maybe Wisconsin is ready to be the most hated team in America, because this could very well be their last game as America’s sweethearts.
Or maybe they’ll get run out of the building by Winslow and Okafor and it becomes a 20 point embarrassment.
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