"I don't know what all this hype is about," he said. "We're battered. We've won the ACC. When we play UCLA, we're playing for absolutely nothing. We're not in the same conference. We're not playing for Number One. To me, this is like a great scrimmage. These are the primaries. The election is later."
To get to the ballot box in L.A., however, the Blue Devils not only had to fly 2,300 miles but also had to hoof the most treacherous stretch of the journey—down Bruin Walk past hundreds of UCLA students camped outside Pauley waiting for seats. The students serenaded the interlopers with such clever chants as: "We're gonna kick your ass," "My dog's name is Duke" and "You ain't ——." Los Angeles Times humorist Mike Downey wrote that UCLA students are so mellow "nine out of 10 have absolutely no idea where in the world Duke University is located or whether it was endowed by John Wayne or named after Patty."
"They were too close to us to get really mean," said Laettner. "Not like the Cajuns at LSU. They threw beer cans."
Despite UCLA's traditional laid-back-ness and Coach K's disclaimer, this game had been ultrabig since the Bruins pounded Indiana back in November and proceeded to hold the No. 2 ranking for most of the season. As recently as the weekend before the game, when Duke and UCLA were a combined 42-2 and their meeting looked like a Poll Bowl clash for No. 1, the game was said to be one of the hottest tickets in the history of Los Angeles sports, ahead of even Sumo Babe Pudding Tai Chi. But when UCLA was upset by Notre Dame on Feb. 22 and the Blue Devils lost to Wake Forest the following day, scalpers' prices plummeted from $700 to $150. Ultimately, after the Bruins fell again—last Thursday to crosstown enemy USC, their second loss to the Trojans this season—the only place UCLA was No. 2 was in its own area code.
"By all rights we should still be second in the polls," said UCLA coach Jim Harrick early last week. "Duke and we have the two best records in America—not counting Montana."
Whether Harrick was discounting Montana from the rankings or from America was difficult to ascertain, inasmuch as his priorities seem to vary. Witness his unabashed lobbying for a raise. Said Harrick last month, "I beat Bobby Knight, I beat Lute Olson, I beat Denny Crum, and I should be paid on the same scale as those guys."
But could he beat Coach K? Last Friday the Daily Bruin featured a 16-page pullout section on the hotly anticipated game, and UCLA's campus bookstore displayed a special stock of 200 Duke sweatshirts and T-shirts. Even a pep rally was held. All of which helped produce a Pauley attendance record of 13,023.
The Bruin players denied looking ahead amid all the buildup, but their desultory performance in the 83-79 loss to Southern Cal—MacLean and Murray combined for but five defensive rebounds—spoke volumes. "I'm getting tired of losing big games on national TV," said UCLA captain Gerald Madkins after the Southern Cal loss. "It's hard to contradict those East Coast people who always blow us off. But the fact is, the Pac-10 is tougher than it's ever been."
"Your game with USC was a war," Krzyzewski told Harrick when they met following Duke's practice on Saturday.
"Yeah. Hey, they're more athletic than you guys," Harrick said.