HOUSTON -- All year long you hear it, every year, from every fan base that doesn't call Cameron Indoor Stadium home.
Stop talking about Duke!
Get Duke off my television!
I'm so tired of reading and hearing about Duke!
My response is always simple: Duke is on television so much because A.) Duke is typically very good (if not great), and B.) people watch television when Duke is on television, like it or not. As Pete Gillen once said, Duke is Duke, and there's a reason the Blue Devils get the attention they get. They deserve it and every measuring device suggests people care about Duke even when they hate Duke.
So I must confess that it's strange to be here at the South Regional with the top-seeded Blue Devils -- led by the man who will one day be the winningest coach in NCAA history -- as a complete afterthought.
Nobody is talking about Duke.
Saint Mary's is a story because of Omar Samhan.
Baylor is a story because of how it bounced back from a 2003 scandal.
Purdue is a story because it's in the Sweet 16 despite the loss of Robbie Hummel.
What's the story with Duke?
"It's Duke," Purdue guard Keaton Grant said. "The name speaks for itself."
But who's speaking the name?
Answer: Almost nobody.
And it really is weird.
I mean, this is Duke -- the school some love and everybody else hates. But it seems the nation has instead opted to hate John Calipari and Kentucky, which eliminates a typical March storyline.
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils don't have that one player most folks despise like a Christian Laettner or a J.J. Redick, and though they are a one seed they were never ranked No. 1 and are rarely mentioned as a serious national title contender. They're the ACC favorites who won the ACC, a preseason top 10 team that finished the regular season in the top 10.
So there's no great story about how the Blue Devils overachieved (like Saint Mary's), overcame adversity (like Purdue) or did something that hasn't been done in decades (like Baylor), meaning Duke's season and run to the Sweet 16 is mostly -- what's the word I'm looking for? -- boring.
|In the discussion about the South Regional, it seems as if Mike Krzyzewski and Duke are barely in the picture. (US Presswire)|
They're too good to dismiss but not great enough to admire. They didn't overcome off-the-court incidents because they don't act like idiots, and there weren't any real on-the-court problems, either. They don't have big mouths like Samhan, don't have flashy dancers like John Wall, and they don't even take offense to the reality that they're completely overlooked both nationally and here in Houston.
"We don't really mind it," Duke's Kyle Singler said. "We're just here to play basketball."
In total anonymity.
And did you ever think you would see the day?
Duke is a one seed and -- at least according to oddsmakers -- on its way to the Final Four for the first time since 2004, and nobody seems to care. Perhaps this will change by the end of the weekend, but I doubt it. The more likely scenario has the Blue Devils, ever so quietly, passing and shooting their way to Indianapolis while Kentucky and Butler and Evan Turner and Ali Farokhmanesh and Da'Sean Butler -- plus Kalin Lucas' Achilles and Bruce Pearl's orange suspenders -- get all of the attention and the majority of the stories.
"Duke is Duke," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "That's a pretty big story."
In most years, yes.
But not this year, for whatever reason.