Yesterday Duke announced that it gave men”s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski a well-deserved lifetime contract. Krzyzewski has led his team to three national titles and six ACC titles in his 21 years at the university.
This season, Coach K”s Blue Devils are again surrounded by hype as they return the majority of last season”s NCAA championship team, including perhaps the best point guard in the nation in Jason Williams.
His return has put Duke on the regional cover of nearly every preseason college magazine and on the national cover of the Sports Illustrated”s college basketball preview.
Here”s hoping the Blue Devils fall flat on their face everybody else on the cover does.
Personally, I think the Sports Illustrated curse is blown way out of proportion. Sports Illustrated usually chooses an underdog or darkhorse, so it isn”t that surprising when the team that is chosen fails miserably. Did anyone really expect Oregon State to win or even compete for the national title this season?
But this season, rather than choose a mystery team for its college basketball preview, Sports Illustrated decided that Duke was just too much of a sure thing. It is really hard to argue with that.
The Blue Devils have the most talent in the country, starting with two of the nation”s elite point guards in Williams and Chris Duhon. Their roster is filled with McDonald”s All-Americans and there are more on the way.
Duke is expecting a “Super Six” group of freshman in Durham next season after Coach K convinced one player to walk-on to avoid college basketball”s 5/8 rule.
While good for Duke fans, the Blue Devils” virtual monopoly of the nation”s elite players outside of Flint has earned Duke the hatred of fans across the nation.
It”s already bad enough that every highly-touted high school phenom wants to trade his graduation gown for NBA warm-ups as soon as possible it”s even worse when those that don”t go pro end up going to Duke.
Give credit where credit is due. Somehow Krzyzewski is able to convince these recruits that Duke is in fact the perfect fit for them until they graduate a rarity in today”s landscape. Krzyzewski claims that this combination is formed by finding the players that fit perfectly in the program.
But let”s be honest lately Duke hasn”t so much been getting the players that make the best fit, but rather finding the best players and making them fit. It isn”t like Corey Maggette or William Avery ever had intentions of staying at Duke for four years and graduating not to take away from Coach K”s exceptional graduation rate.
Duke”s near-invincibility is taking away from the fun for college basketball fans. Come NCAA Tournament time, it is Duke and everybody else. Either you are with them or you are against them.
This year, it seems more and more members of the media are with them. At first it was just ESPN”s Dick Vitale (a.k.a. “Dukie V”) who was all over the Blue Devils. Now everyone is enamored with the Dukies.
It”s time to break that trend. I”m sick of the Blue Devils and the season is only a week old. As Arizona was defeating Florida and Maryland in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, announcers couldn”t help but say the Wildcats would be no match for No. 1 Duke.
The conclusion has already been drawn that the Blue Devils are unbeatable.
Before you break out your mat to jump on, remember that on top of having the most talent, as the favorite, Duke faces the most pressure. I can”t remember the last time a team was favored so heavily to win the title. Every team in the nation will be gunning for college basketball”s golden boys.
And this year, not only will they have that pressure, but they also will suffer from the Sports Illustrated jinx.
Jeff Phillips would like to give a special thanks to Sports Illustrated. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.