INDIANAPOLIS — Five percent of singles in a recent Match.com survey said cheering for Duke would be a dealbreaker.
Friday, the Indianapolis Star pulled some editions of its newspaper after about 30,000 copies were printed with a photo illustration that doodled on a picture of coach Mike Krzyzewski in a crude attempt to paint him as a villain.
Columnists and bloggers all week have published various reasons why you should root against the Blue Devils in the Final Four.
Once again, Duke is being cast as the team to hate.
Yet the Devils don't seem as vilified as in the past. "These guys don't have it quite as bad as we used to,'' said a grinning Duke assistant coach Chris Collins, who played guard from 1993 to 1996.
There's no doubt that Duke, playing in its 11th national semifinals under Krzyzewski, is the most disliked out of the four teams that will play tonight at Lucas Oil Stadium. After all, Butler is the hometown favorite. West Virginia, Duke's opponent, hasn't made it to the Final Four since 1959. Michigan State is playing in Big Ten country.
In a switch from the 1992 Final Four in Minneapolis - when Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley were pelted with cups and pom-poms when they took the practice court - a guy wearing Butler garb happily caught a T-shirt thrown into the stands by a Blue Devil Friday.
Unlike 2004 - when Krzyzewski said he worried that the raging anti-Duke sentiment had reached a point where it might influence games - this edition of the Blue Devils was greeted with more cheers than jeers when they worked out during Friday's open session.
Hatred is down a notch
Unlike the days of Laett ner, Hurley, Collins, Steve Wojciechowski and J.J. Redick - who embraced the role of villains while consistently winning - the past six years have been a dry spell for Duke. That's how long it's been since the team last reached the Final Four.
"In some years, we're the more hunted team throughout the season, so maybe you see it [the hate] more in those years," Collins said. "With this team, we've gotten better as the year has gone along, and as we've advanced farther, you see it happening a little more."
And then there's a matter of finding a player to hate. Senior point guard Jon Scheyer probably comes the closest, but what opposing fans really seem to dislike is the odd facial expressions he makes.
"I think youngsters who come into the program have to know, and I think it's exciting for them to know, that every game they play will be an exciting one," Krzyzewski said. "You know, there usually aren't going to be any empty seats when you're playing. You're going to be watched a lot. As a result of being watched a lot, there are going to be people who really want you to win and really want you to lose."
Hating the head man
And Krzyzewski, in his 30th year as the Blue Devils coach, still bears the biggest brunt of it.
Miami Herald columnist Israel Gutierrez actually compared Krzyzewski to the devil earlier this week.
And an early edition of the Indianapolis Star on Friday featured a picture of the Hall-of-Famer - on which had been doodled a bull's-eye, horns, glasses, moles and a mustache in blue ink. "LOSE!" was also drawn in seven times around his neck tie. The story's headline reads "Despising Duke" - and "Duke" is bracketed in ink with the words "Is No Good."
Over the top? Maybe
Jim Lefko, the Star's senior editor for sports, said the illustration was replaced with a regular photo of Krzyzewski around midnight. "The designer had the story, and thought it was a clever way to illustrate it," he said. "But it was a concept that didn't meet our standards ... and we wish it didn't make the papers [that it did]."
He also said he apologized to a Duke team spokesman.
Still, Krzyzewski wasn't pleased.
"I did see that, and first thing, I thought 'that can't be.' How could a newspaper do that?" Krzyzewski said. "... It was kind of juvenile - not kind of, it was juvenile. My seven grandkids didn't enjoy looking at it - 'that's not Poppy.' So it is what it is. It's very juvenile."
Taking it in stride
And as for his team taking on the role of devil again?
"We've got great kids that go to school, they graduate," he said. "If we're going to be despised or hated by anybody because we go to school and we want to win, you know what? That's your problem. Because we're going to go to school and keep trying to win. You don't like it? Keep drawing pictures."
Or writing columns.
Or refusing to date Duke supporters.
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