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Welcome fellow scholars Said the sarcastic sign that was waved at the UNLV team by the Blue Devil mascot. "We try to draw off that stuff emotionally," said Anthony, the vice-chairman of Las Vegas's Young Republicans, who last summer worked for Nevada Congresswoman Barbara Vucanovich in Washington, D.C.
Try? With slightly more than 16 minutes left, UNLV led 57-47. In the next 2:51, the Rebels scored those 18 straight points while Krzyzewski frantically tried to halt the deluge by calling two timeouts. During the run, Hunt, a 6'1" sophomore from Detroit, sank two treys and three other baskets. Previously best known as the rebellious Rebel who had been suspended for a game for being delinquent in making payments on his student loan, Hunt finished with 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting and was voted the MVP of the Final Four.
The surprise was that he had none of UNLV's 16 steals. He didn't need any. Duke committed seven more turnovers for a total of 23. "This wasn't a game of X's and O's," said Krzyzewski. "It was one of complete...domination."
While the Rebels burned, Tarkanian fiddled most of the second half, undoubtedly wondering how he could get out of taping an instructional video in Tulsa the next day so that he could participate in a parade back home in Vegas. Nobody asked him if there would be a float reserved for the Two Ay.
After UNLV defeated Loyola Marymount in the West Regional final on March 25, Augmon spoke about the tournament's morality play, in which his team has had the leading role. "Good versus bad?" said Augmon. "We don't mind what anybody thinks of us. The Detroit Pistons were the Bad Boys, too, and look where they ended up."
Having ended the tear-stained run of Team Courage (Loyola Marymount), which had touched the heart of the nation while playing without its fallen leader, Hank Gathers; having worn down the tournament's most compelling player, Georgia Tech's teenage Ninja monster, Kenny Anderson, in the semis; and now facing everybody's favorite Dookies-next-door, those clean-cut guys from the postcard campus who had taken all those sentimental (that is to say, losing) journeys to the Final Four—well, you get the picture. If ever there was a perfectly cast villain, it was UNLV trying once again to win the NCAA trophy and simultaneously escape NCAA probation. "Sure, I'll be back next season," said Johnson, in answer to speculation about whether or not he would jump to the NBA. "If there are any games."
But wait. As much as this was a tournament of the buzzer-beaters—28 games won by four points or less, including five decided in overtime before Monday's blowout—it was also a season for muddying images. Both Vegas and Duke barely escaped elimination in regional competition at the hands of those legendary national powers, Ball State and Connecticut, respectively. And off the court, the Blue Devils may have forever rid themselves of their boring reputation, while their unangelic fans were losing their devilish rep.
First, back in January, Krzyzewski dressed down the student sports staff from the campus Chronicle in front of his team because the newspaper had dared to write objectively about the Blue Devils. Of course, the young journalists secretly taped Coach K's profane outburst. Later Henderson was reprimanded by the ACC commissioner's office for criticizing a referee, and following Duke's loss to Georgia Tech in the conference tournament, Henderson ripped into his teammates, calling them "babies" and "cop-outs." Was this actually Duke or put up your dukes? Finally, the Blue Devils' notorious student rooters toned down their harassment of visiting teams (who can forget their enchanting reference to Navy as "pond scum"?) and because of a new ACC rule had to cease throwing items onto the court lest Duke be penalized with a technical foul.
Not to worry. The Blue Devils blew away the other three teams in Denver with lightning-fast breaks of elocution. Abdelnaby, for example, credited Duke's success to "the maturation process." A typically cynical national press corps, having endured far too many charming, sensible, polysyllabic sentences from the Blue Devil intelligentsia at this event over the years, responded in kind. "This good-versus-evil story line?" said one writer. "I'm not sold on it. Duke isn't so evil. Annoying, maybe."
To anybody outside the Southeast, the chant of "ACC! ACC!" for member schools Duke and Georgia Tech must have seemed especially irritating during this Final Four. Sure enough, Arkansas heard its fill of it as the anticlimactic seconds ticked off in Duke's 97-83 semifinal victory. Razorback coach Nolan Richardson had spoken of the "Five P's—preparation prevents piss-poor performance." But how could Arkansas's Lenzie Howell have been prepared for what he faced when he went to the foul line with six minutes remaining and his team behind 78-77? Not only did the Duke band sing Old MacDonald Had a Farm ("And on this farm he had some pigs"), but the Georgia Tech band chimed in with "Pig!...Pig!...Pig!"