For the record, I hate Duke. Like every other college hoops fan outside of Durham, I hate and despite the mere mention the Blue Devils, and yet I picked them in our recent Inscriber Magazine tournament bracket challenge to win it all. Here’s why.
Thanks to their easy opening round win over North Dakota State, 85-62 after only being up by four over the No.16 Bison at halftime, their much-hyped frosh trio of Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish helped them pull away late.
And make no mistake, the Blue Devils—who are the prohibitive favorites to claim their sixth national title, which would also tie them with long-time archrival, North Carolina—is as easy a bet as anyone could make in Vegas.
While they have three bona-fide lottery picks for the upcoming NBA Draft, Zion at times looks lazy and unpolished, Barrett is the best pure scorer and Reddish looks like a modern-day 3-and-D type of player who many are stupidly sleeping on.
There are many things in life that are staples you can count on. Death, taxes and Duke being in the Final Four.
The Blue Devils are like that rich, spoiled and arrogant cousin that shows up every holiday and brags about their new house in the Hamptons, backpacking in Europe or their dividends cashing out.
And every year, you have to hear about it to the point where you want to give them involuntary reconstructive surgery to their perfectly Botox W.A.S.P. face right in front of their Barbie doll-looking Instagram trophy WAG in an effort to shut him up.
Duke is like that. Bet money.
If there is a living and breathing example of white privilege. It is Duke.
Classic example: the men’s lacrosse team.
Just the name alone evokes royalty and faux Ivy League-wannabe status, even though the school was founded as Brown School by Methodists and Quakers in 1838, it wasn’t until 1924 that tobacco and electric power industrialist, James Buchanan Duke had the school name changed to honor his dead father, Washington Duke, to the all-powerful and omnipotent name that we have all come to love and hate.
Eye roll please.
Whether its’ because it costs over $53,000k-plus to attend—mostly by rich kids from the Northeast, and predominantly New York City, California and Florida—or it’s 11 percent acceptance rate, there is just something about the school and its hoops team that makes you want to beat them.
Perhaps its their annoying fanbase, the Cameron Crazies, or seeing a bunch of losers camp out in “Krzyzewskiville”, or just having to hear about how great they are from their biggest cheerleader in the ever-eternal brown-nosing Dick “Dukie” Vitale non-stop 24/7 on ESPN.
We get it, none of us are rich, smart or talented enough to go there. Whatever.
And to top it all off, Duke always—and I do mean always—gets slotted into either the South or East region of the tournament, giving them an almost Easy Street path to the Final Four. I mean, look at how many Final Fours they’ve been to and count how many of those were out of wither the East or South region, I’ll wait.
When they’re not going back-and-forth with the hated Tar Heels, they have played some of the greatest hoops games ever such as arguably the greatest basketball game in modern-day history vs. Kentucky, beating Michigan’s frosh-led “Fab Five” or upsetting the seemingly invincible UNLV Running Rebels.
But to go back to above in talking about what we all HATE, and I meant HATE the Blue Devils. I have one name that will make all college hoops fans blood boil. Christian Laettner.
If there is a perfect villain for college basketball. It was him.
Not because of who he was, but because of where he played and how good he was.
Four Final Fours, two national titles, the only college player on the 1992 Dream Team and strikingly handsome. Yeah, let those hater tears flow, because he was the perfect embodiment of Mr. Perfect—note my nod to the former WWE star there.
If Laettner were to be the ultimate 007 bad guy, then their Hall-of-Fame head coach in Mike Krzyzewski would be the perfect mad scientist behind the scenes. Dapper suit, sharply coiffed hair, a nice crooked beak of a nose, right down to a scowl that’ll make James Bond quiver and a surname worth of some crazy Eastern European physicist or smooth-looking money smuggler, both Coach K and Laettner helped allow Duke to make college hoops their proverbial oyster.
At around the turn of the millennium, the seemingly natural hate for Duke only grew to even bigger proportions thanks to Nike practically anointing them champions before their 77-74 upset loss to the underdog UConn Huskies in the title game down in St. Petersburg, and while Duke would go on to win three more titles in 2001, 2010 and 2015, they would continue to be a major pain in the ass for all of college basketball.
Flas forward to the present and in the era of The Age of One-And-Done and players such as Brandon Ingram, NBA champion Kyrie Irving and Jahil Okafor have come and gone down on Tobacco Road, one thing remains the same; Duke will always be Duke and the Blue Devils will always be the team we all love to hate.
And while I’ve been reduced to hate-watching them myself and have already accepted that they will make quick work of my newly adopted second fave school in UCF—after Ohio State of course!—I’ll always have a special place in my heart for loathing that team from Durham.
Maybe its because when I was growing up that I loved North Carolina and their tough-nosed style of play. They were the blue-collar lunch-ail kind of team compared to Duke’s fancy and bourgeois-loving caviar finesse or because I like a lighter shade of blue, but for now, I have to put aside my feelings of disdain for Coach K, Zion, R.J. and Cam in hopes of winning my own magazine’s bracket challenge.
It’s just business, nothing personal. As they say down in Tobacco Road, here comes Duke!
P.S. And yes, after all these years, like all college fans outside of Durham, I still hate Laettner.