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The Final: Devil's Advocate?

Can one program be both the nation's most and least rootable? The author posed that infernal question to himself about Duke

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By John Walters

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Duke Blue Devils' J.J. Redick
Duke Blue Devils' J.J. Redick
John Biever/SI

Do I hate Duke? Or love Duke? Rebuke Duke? Or salute Duke?

Voices. I hear voices. A devil in one ear, a Blue Devil in the other. Here's what they're saying:

BD: This summer Coach K turned down $40 million -- 40 extra large! -- to coach the L.A. Lakers, in part due to a heartfelt e-mail from a Duke student that, according to Coach K, "made us all cry, really."

D: How precious. When did Cindy-Lou Who enroll? I guess the Cameron Crazies stood hand in hand outside the Duke Chapel singing, "Fah who for-aze! Dah who dor-aze! Welcome, Christmas, come this way!"

BD: Clever. Listen, you know Coach K is the paragon of college hoops coaches. Three NCAA titles, 10 regular-season ACC titles and a graduation rate (92%) that rivals those of most defensive driving classes.

D: The Führer phoned. He wants his haircut back.

BD: Oh, nice. How about the Cameron Crazies? They invented the "air ball" chant and perfected the heckle. Like when they showered 400-pound Florida State freshman center Nigel Dixon with chants of "Please don't eat me!" every time he touched the ball. Think a Maryland fan could come up with something like that? The Crazies are the most loyal, passionate and clever fans in the country.

D: Sure, just ask them.

BD: C'mon. You have to admire Krzyzewskiville, a veritable tent city where our students camp out half the semester to land the best seats to games. That's commitment.

D: There are people who live in tent cities all over the globe. They're called refugees! And their parents can't afford to drop 40K a year on tuition.

BD: What's your beef with the Dookies? We're the gold standard of hoops programs over the past quarter century. What about 18 NBA first-round draft picks ...

D: One of whom is always on injured reserve.

BD: ... and zero -- zeeeero -- NCAA violations. Surely you must like something about Duke.

D: Actually, I love the way the gingerbread mansions dot the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi. Wait, that's what I love about Dubuque.

BD: National Players of the Year Johnny Dawkins, Danny Ferry, Christian Laettner, Elton Brand, Shane Battier, Jason Williams ...

D: ... who have a total of one NBA championship ring. Coach K stockpiles more blue chips than Charles Schwab, but in 10 trips to the Final Four he has only three championships.

BD: And who has as many titles in the past quarter century? No one. How can you damn a guy for getting to 10 Final Fours?

D: Fine. Duke has been the class of college hoops since 1980. But they're just so arrogant. That sneer Coach K gives the refs whenever a call goes against him? I expect him to pull the receipt out of his pocket and say, "I paid for these calls two hours ago."

BD: Duke's no worse than anyone else.

D: Oh, yeah? At halftime of the ACC semifinal last March a Duke fan yelled, "You suck!" at the referees as they headed into the tunnel.

BD: Happens all the time.

D: The fan was Mickie Krzyzewski, the coach's wife.

BD: Why are you so down on Duke?

D: Have you ever tried typing, "Coach Krzyzewski had nothing but praise for assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski" on deadline?

BD: You didn't get in, did you?

D: Wait-listed.

Issue date: November 11, 2004

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