Rejoice, all you Duke haters out there. The Blue Devils will not be making the trip to Atlanta for this year's Final Four. Thank you cards and letters of appreciation can be sent to Louisville University in care of Rick Pitino.
Seeing the explosion of celebratory posts on Facebook and Twitter once the final horn sounded in today's Elite Eight matchup got me to thinking. For as long as I can remember, Duke has held the dubious distinction of being the most hated team on the collegiate hardwood. People loathe them, and I've never really understood why.
If it's that whole Christian Laettner shot thing, get over it already.
|Photo by: Getty Images|
Duke IS college basketball. They've been the gold standard since the mid-80s. Their games matter more, if for no reason other than the sheer number of people who obsessively despise them. But how did it get to this point in the first place?
Over the past 25 years, the Blue Devils have had exactly one bad team. One. That's absolutely amazing when you take into consideration the overall limitations of the talent on their roster year in and year out. I mean, outside of Kyrie Irving, Grant Hill and Elton Brand, how many Duke players have turned into top-tier pros? Those three are pretty much it.
You could make a strong argument that Luol Deng is the fourth-best player to have ever come out of Durham. Shane Battier, who's never been more than the third-best player on any NBA roster he's been a part of, might be fifth overall. Laettner was underrated as a pro, but he only made one All-Star team. Don't even get me started on Carlos Boozer.
Traditionally, Duke's greatest players are only slightly better than good. If the 12 all-time best Duke alumni at their professional peaks took on the 12 all-time best North Carolina alum, the Tar Heels would easily win by double-digits. If the game was uncoached, a Blue Devil all-star squad would probably lose to the '84 Tar Heels, and that team didn't even make it to the Final Four. Still, Duke-North Carolina remains an annual toss-up.
Makes you hate the Blue Devils even more, doesn't it? But why?
If you truly care about the sport, you should want to see it flourish. Since Duke IS college basketball, rooting for them is like rooting for the sport as a whole. In essence, Blue Devil haters are basically rooting against their own best interests, assuming they actually want the college game to remain relevant.
Obviously, none of them care, though.
The point is, somewhere along the way, hating on Duke basketball became the norm. The "in thing" to do. I have no idea what brought this about, and I seriously doubt the majority of Blue Devil haters can give a plausible cause for the universal animosity towards the team other than the generic "because it's Duke," spiel.
What I do know is, the Blue Devils aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Coach K will see to that. For over three decades, Krzyzewski has manufactured top-rank teams with second-rate talent. Nothing is going to change.
That should give all the haters something to look forward to for many years to come.