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DUKE IN THE FINAL FOUR

THE CHRONICLE

FRIDAY, APRIL 2, 2010 | 7

If you’re a real American, root for the Blue Devils In the national media’s (grossly oversimplified) Final Four narrative, every team has a storyline. Butler is the homecoming Cinderella; Michigan State’s Tom Izzo is the greatest Tournament coach of this or any generation; West Virginia’s Bob Huggins is the local boy returned home and made good. Duke, of course, is the big bad villain. While grossly oversimplified story lines are fun, sometimes they can be a little, um, oversimplifying. Back when Alex Christian Laettner went to four Final Fours in four years, stomping on a chest or two along the way, Duke might have been a villain. But that was 18 years ago. When Laettner hit The Shot to beat Kentucky, Andre Dawkins was six months old. The world has changed a lot since then. College basketball has changed a lot since then. There are plenty of good reasons to root for Duke. For anyone that loves the sport of college basketball, there isn’t a better team for which to cheer

Fanaroff

in Indianapolis. So now, since it wouldn’t be a Final Four column without a gimmick involving the number four, I present the top four reasons why any college basketball fan should be rooting for Duke in the Final Four. 1. These guys are in school to learn. It probably says more about the state of the sport than it does about Duke’s likeability, but there isn’t a one-and-done to be found on Duke’s roster. Instead, among the players in Duke’s nine-man rotation, there are National Honor Society members, Math Olympians, class presidents, class salutatorians and National Merit Scholars. I may be old-fashioned, but that has to count for something. 2. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is literally an American hero. The game of basketball was invented in the United States. For dozens of years, the U.S. dominated international competitions. Then, the United States men’s basketball team lost two straight major international competitions involving NBA players. So who does USA Basketball call on to fix the program? Coach K. Of course, Krzyzewski’s Redeem Team won gold in Beijing. For a couple days, everyone was happy, then we forgot about it. But how was this not a bigger

deal? If this were England, Coach K would’ve been knighted. (Seriously, the last manager to guide England’s soccer team to a World Cup championship, Alf Ramsey, became Sir Alf Ramsey a short time later.) Instead, everyone continues to hate Coach K, and by extension, his Duke teams. 3. These guys appear to enjoy each other’s company. Whether it’s Lance Thomas designing personalized logos for each of the team’s seniors or the 27-part handshake that Dawkins and Nolan Smith manage to flawlessly execute prior to each game, you get the feeling that these Blue Devils are goofy, 20-something-year-old buddies who also happen to be some of the best basketball players in the country. Other media accounts corroborate this: In a Dime Magazine feature, Smith, Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer traded good-natured barbs regarding each other’s bowling games, and Singler revealed Smith’s habit of parking his car really close to his teammates’ cars so that they have to crawl in through the passenger side. And then there’s Nolan Smith’s Twitter account, perhaps the best evidence of the team’s human side. Actual quote from the day of Duke’s regional final MICHAEL NACLERIO/THE CHRONICLE

SEE FANAROFF ON PAGE 19



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Brian Zoubek has only recently become a key contributor to Duke’s unique team.


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