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Duke Basketball: The Hype Is Well Underway

Fun as it is, it could become a problem

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Duke Blue Devil
Duke hasn’t done anything yet
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

In this column, Martin Fenn saw the same things we saw Saturday from Duke, not least of all an unusually inexperienced yet intelligent team.

One of the things that can be a problem with a young group is that it starts to believe stuff like this and assumes it’s just supposed to be great.

That really wrecked Michigan’s Fab Five. In 1993, we posted words to this effect this on Prodigy (we didn’t keep it so this is approximate): “Michigan is more talented but this game will come down to the final minute and Michigan will make a dumb mistake and Carolina will take advantage and win.”

It sounds cool but if you grew up in North Carolina during Dean Smith’s heyday, it wasn’t hard to predict. It would have been hard to expect much else, frankly. We saw UNC do that to Maryland and NC State far too many times with as much talent as Michigan had and vastly more experience. A lot of Smith’s reputation rests on his ability to have his team better prepared than just about anyone else.

We never dreamed Chris Webber would be so stupid as to call a timeout when Michigan had none, but we knew it would be something. That team had the talent to be great but not the will.

This team faces a similar risk. It would be easy to get caught up in the hype and it gets even harder later. One of the most astounding sites at any Final Four is when the cameras come out on the floor at the end. They just keep coming - and that’s at the very end. It’s impossible for freshmen to understand the overwhelming level of attention you get from the media in March and especially April.

Then there’s the hotels from the ACC Tournament on through to the various tournament sites and people telling you they know you’re great...so what happens when you struggle? What happens when you run into a Wisconsin or Butler, one of those tough-minded teams that won’t buckle?

We knew Michigan wouldn’t be able to handle it and that was 1993, at the very dawn of the Internet era (Prodigy and Compuserve were still the best places to post then; AOL, now a distant memory, hadn’t even really arrived).

Nobody was texting the Fab Five, in other words. There were no Twitter storms, no memes, by today’s standards, no nothing.

We agree with Fenn’s basic take on this team, but his article underscores the importance of dealing with what is very likely to become a circus atmosphere. Duke might be the best team in March and April, but there’s a lot more involved than just basketball.

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