Editor, White Cover Magazine
Duke is infuriating. Duke is easy-to-hate. Duke is a mother fu*ker for predictions, and they can be the belt busters who drain your forehead of all its sweat glands. Trying to wrap your head around Duke and its potential can take up every minute of your pre-NCAA tourney schedule, and you’ll no doubt have them winning one game, then three games, then the Final Four, then the whole damn thing, then just one win again, and then ending in the Sweet 16. (At least, that’s how I had them this year. And, last year. And, the year before. Every year, really.)
But, don’t make the mistake of the masses. Don’t go around saying, “Oh man, this Duke team always chokes” after you watch them lose in the 16, or the Eight, or even Round 2. Don’t be a drive-by expert, and don’t pretend to know more than you do.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand Duke and their bipolarity. You just need to treat them like they’re anyone else, and then you’ll be fine.
Duke can be sh*t, but Duke can also be amazing. They can be a shoo-in. They can be the best team in the country, and then they can prove it. That’s how good the school is and that’s how good Coach K is.
Of course, they can bust and blow up early, and nothing is scarier than a team that should win it all starting off as a No. 2, as Duke is in Twenty-Thirteen.
The trick with Duke — and it never changes — is knowing which Duke you’re betting on. Once you get comfortable with accepting Duke for what they are, then it makes the whole thing that much easier.
Some years, Duke is a poser school. It’s a fringe contender that you know will bottom out before the Dance even begins, if not because they’re overrated then because there are just so many teams that want to ruin their day.
That’s what happened in 2008, when Duke lost in Round 2 to No. 7 West Virginia, and it happened last year, when the Blue Devils went home crying in Round 1 to No. 15 Lehigh.
People say there’s parity in this tournament, and that’s true, but Duke’s year-to-year bulimic schizophrenia is a cause, not a symptom.
This year’s Duke team is good. You should know this. They’re stable, they’re consistent in attack and field goal percentage, and Seth Curry can ball. They’re not to be taken lightly, and they’re not the same team that stunk up the joint against Lehigh in 2012, against West Virginia in 2008, or against VCU in 2007.
But, this Duke team isn’t the one led by Laetner and Grant Hill. It’s not the 2010 squad that shut down Butler and ruined the tournament’s greatest-ever Cinderella Story.
This Duke team is a legit No. 2, but that’s about all they are.
Once you know that, you’ll know how far they’ll last, and you’ll know not to expect any more from them then you should.
(*By the way, I have Duke losing to Louisville in the Elite Eight, and I have Louisville winning the whole damn thing.)