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DBR Talks To Seth Davis About Duke-UNC!

Seth Davis, of and CBS, took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about the Duke-Carolina game and various things surrounding the rivalry.  We greatly appreciate his time and thoughts.

Hi, Seth, thanks for talking with DBR.  When did you first become aware of the nature of this rivalry? How old were you?

That's a great question.  I would say probably when I was in high school.  I grew up a big Redskins fan so that was my focus, but when I got into high school I discovered Maryland basketball largely because of Len Bias, who I still think is the best college basketball player I've ever seen.  So that's when I got tuned to ACC basketball and college basketball. I went to the ACC tournament one year when it was at the Capital Center - I'm from the Maryland-D.C. area - so I would say when I was in high school it got on my radar.

Did it factor into your decision to come to Duke?

In a way it did. I really did know back in high school that I wanted to be in sports journalism.  [Eventually] I realized I couldn't be quarterback for the Redskins, although I have not officially given up on that dream, but I played the odds and decided that [journalism] would be the better way to go.  So the fact that Duke had a great basketball team and a great basketball  program was definitely a factor in my wanting to go there.  Obviously it was a great school and I was not dissuaded by the fact that there was no journalism or communications program.  It was a good school and a good liberal arts education so with no journalism school and no communications school, I guess it was important to have a great athletic program to be able to cover with the student outlets. So it was definitely a factor.

What is the media perception of Duke?  There is a national disdain among fans, but how is it among the media?

I would describe it as a begrudging respect. I think that the "disliking of Duke" or the "hating of Duke" is a sign of respect. You can't hate something that's not good.  It's like the Yankees or the Dallas Cowboys.  Believe me, I grew up a Redskins fan and I absolutely despised the Dallas Cowboys, but that's a sign of respect. I don't have that same venom for the Cardinals who were in the same division at the time.  I think a lot of the "dislike" is sort of tongue in cheek.  You hear a lot of times, yeah, you're a Duke guy, and people take shots at it, but they understand that #1, it's a great school, and #2, it's a great basketball program.

Is it hard for you in your professional capacity to not be a fan?

It's really not that hard.  When I'm doing my job, my loyalty to my alma mater's really not a factor.  I call it as I see it. I've had people accuse me of playing favorites towards Duke, I've been accused of being overly critical of Duke.  It's not my job to worry about perceptions. It's my job to analyze something intellectually. Just because you're a fan of something doesn't mean that you don't see the warts.  You know, sometimes the fans are more harsh on their own teams than they are on other teams.  You're more inclined to see weaknesses of a team that you root for. I get the question a lot, is it hard for you to criticize Duke, is it hard for you to put your fandom aside and just be straight analytical, and it's really not. I think it's what fans do anyway.

Around here the State fans are pretty harsh right now.  They're having a tough time with their program.

Yeah, I know.  What can you say, you have to get results.  It's hard. They've had to struggle there for a long time. I think maybe N.C. State fans are looking at what Herb Sendek is doing at Arizona State right now and thinking maybe we shouldn't have run that guy out of town. [That's] not a shot at Sidney Lowe, I think he'll get it going there, but I'm sure it's frustrating for N.C. State fans to have to go to work with all those Carolina and Duke fans and grads and have to hear it from them.

When you were at Duke, what was your favorite game in the series? What was the greatest play you saw in the rivalry?

You know, it's like they all just bleed together.  I was in the Dean Dome as a fan. Somehow I got tickets, I scalped tickets, and I was sitting way at the top. My senior year, Duke went in there ranked #1, undefeated, reigning national champs, and Carolina won in a very close game that ended up with Carolina fans storming the court. I remember one night being in the Dean Dome when Joe Forte hit a three pointer to send it into overtime.

I also have a vivid memory - to me, the loudest I ever heard Cameron was a Carolina-Duke game - it had to be '98 because it was Elton Brand's freshman year and Brand had hurt himself. I think he broke his foot at the beginning of the season and they thought he was gone for the year, and he came back, somewhat surprisingly, towards the end of the regular season, and Carolina had been beating Duke in that game.  Wojo was the point guard and Elton was becoming more and more of a factor and he made a couple of plays to get them back in the game, and Carolina called timeout, and I remember thinking as the teams were going to the huddle that I'd never heard Cameron that loud.   It was like everybody knew not only that they'd come back but that they were going to win and that Elton Brand was back and that there was nothing that Carolina was going to be able to do to stop that. That was very, very loud.

What are some of your best memories about what the Crazies have done over the years?

When I was a student, I don't know if allowed was the right word, but they were still throwing things onto the court as part of a plan.  One year Jim Valvano took N.C. State into Cameron and there had been an incident where some of the State players were caught selling their shoes and the players were suspended and there was a mini-scandal on that.  So when the announcer said, "and now, the North Carolina State Wolf Pack," I remember being in the stands and not even realizing that people were doing this, everyone threw, probably 500 shoes onto the court.  And then there was another time, [I think] my sophomore year, when Georgia Tech came in with Dennis Scott, and Scott had just lost a lot of weight, and everyone threw Twinkies and cupcakes at him.  I think they had to put the kibosh on that because they were worried about somebody getting hurt. But those two things were pretty funny.

What's your take on tonight's game?

Like everybody else, I expect North Carolina to win, but like everybody else, the #1 rule with Duke-Carolina is that you have to expect the unexpected.  It just seems that every time that something obvious should happen the exact opposite happens. It's like the George Costanza effect in basketball.  I'd be surprised if Duke got run out of the gym the way they were against Clemson.  I think Duke's going to fight. If they get behind double-digits in the second half I think they'll claw back because I think it's the kind of game where you just fight as hard as you can to the end and that's hard to pull away from.

I do think that Duke has some problems that are getting worse at a time when they should be getting better at the point guard position and at center, which are the two most important positions on the floor.  I have a sort of detached curiosity about tonight, about who's going to respond well, who's going to play well that you don't expect, who's going to play worse than you expect.  I'm just really interested to see how it all plays out.

It should be a really interesting game. We have a feeling that they've probably gotten inside Nolan Smith's head and he's probably going to play better than he's been playing.  Krzyzewski has a knack for doing that.  He might be a key player tonight.

No doubt.  Krzyzewski is a master psychologist and right now Nolan Smith needs that.

In terms of the two coaches, how do you see them individually and also competitively? They're both obviously masters of their craft.  But how do you compare and contrast them?

That's an interesting question.  I think that they're both obviously ultra-competitive.  I think their teams reflect that.  I think they're both also mature in the sense don't want to make this game bigger than it already is.  There's a lot of basketball to be played and both of these coaches and I assume both coaches and I assume all of the fans would trade a win tonight for one on April 6th.

I'm not even [sure] what the biggest difference between them would be. I think Krzyzewski is a little bit more about the psychology of coaching where I think that Roy Williams, coming out of the Dean Smith school, he's probably more about the teaching of the game and playing it a certain way, which is not to say that Roy is not a good psychologist and K can't teach...but Krzyzewski is much more fixated on personalities and how they mesh together to create a team than just about any other coach that I've ever been around. I think that's really what makes him unique.