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Just because it's difficult to imagine Bobby Hurley with a couple of teammates enjoying a dip in the hot tub of a game-fixing gangster, or Grant Hill on the lam from unpaid hotel room charges, or Christian Laettner being escorted by police from a crack house, doesn't mean that life at the top of the college basketball heap will now look much different to those unfortunate souls who reside below.
When the young and restless Blue Devils shocked UNLV last March and went on to usurp the Rebels' national title, it simply meant that the names and faces...and image...of the best team in the land had changed, but not the improbability of beating that team. Did Duke players practice together before the official opening date of Oct. 15? Undoubtedly—just as did every other team on Dick Schultz's good green NCAA earth. It's just that the Dooksters didn't have a coach inside lurking behind locked doors so that their own university felt compelled to unleash an air-duct video spy patrol to find out what was happening. It is refreshing to note, though, that this year the defending champs' season won't be just one long Legal Discovery Period. Then again, this same honored institution hard by the tobacco warehouses in Durham, N.C., also gave us Richard Nixon (law school class of '37).
Like Nixon, Duke bounced off the deck several times—nine Final Fours, five in the last six years under coach Mike Krzyzewski—before ultimately clutching the big prize. The Blue Devils were routed by ACC brethren Virginia, Wake Forest and North Carolina last season, but as point guard Hurley grew in confidence, the team's poise and intensity swamped the NCAA field.
Play slow? Laettner, though 6'11", can pull the ball outside and run the show himself.
Play fast? Hill, the unrelated Thomas Hill, and Brian Davis are speedy slashers who may be even better on the defensive end.
Finesse Duke? Laettner and Davis would just as soon tear your throat out as primp before their huge mirrors.
Will Duke miss the outside shooting of Bill McCaffrey? He transferred to Vanderbilt. Will burnout be a factor? Most of Duke's key men played international ball last summer. Will alternative complacency set in? Coach K is an Olympic team assistant coach. Hardly, three times. Unlike their predecessors at UNLV, this gifted, motivated aggregation will be competing against the gnarliest schedule imaginable—St. John's, Michigan and LSU in addition to the usual suspects in the ACC. For somebody to stop Duke from becoming the first repeat NCAA champion since Bill Walton's UCLA team of 1972-73, it may take....
Strangers in a Strange Land