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Why Norlander’s Wrong About Duke’s Schedule (And Why It Doesn’t Matter)

Duke is playing a very tough schedule.

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NCAA Basketball: Army at Duke
Nov 11, 2018; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward R.J. Barrett (center) and forward Javin DeLaurier (12) react after a basket by Barrett during the second half against the Army Black Knights at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Norlander has taken some heat for his criticism of Duke’s schedule.

To recap if you missed this tempest in a teapot, he lavished praise on UNC for playing at Elon and Wofford and criticized Duke for playing Kentucky in Indianapolis and Eastern Michigan at home.

Those were indeed road games, but for a bit of perspective, Elon is currently #224 in Elon and Wofford #117.

Kentucky by contrast is #9 while Eastern Michigan comes in at #123. Oh and Army? A whopping 215.

Big whoop.

Duke used to do those road games. We saw the Blue Devils in Tucson and they’ve been to various places over the years, including Kansas, UCLA, Michigan and Texas, among others.

So why no more?

Well we’ve never been told this but we’re pretty sure this is close to being right: Duke quit doing on campus road trips because the atmosphere just gets too poisonous.

In 1992, LSU “fans” spent most of the evening calling Christian Laettner “fag” (Laettner for his part spent most of the evening exposing Shaquille O’ Neal’s inability to guard a jump shot).

Duke had to play at Maryland, where Carlos Boozer’s mom got a concussion from a tossed bottle. They had to play that one of course since Maryland was then an ACC team but it was instructive.

JJ Redick took an enormous amount of abuse wherever he played, which he didn’t mind and in fact seemed to enjoy.

However, when his younger sister was met with slurs and obscenities things had gone too far.

The whole thing with Duke hating is probably fun for other fans, not that we would know.

But for young kids, not to mention their families and younger siblings, what’s the point in going to places where they’re going to face abuse simply because their talented son plays for Duke?

Who needs it?

Faced with an unprecedented level of nasty behavior, we believe that Duke made a rational choice to control it as much as possible by not going to on-campus venues if possible.

It’s one thing to boo and taunt players on an opposing team but injuring parents and issuing sexual slurs against teenage girls is just too much. What would you do? Keep going to those gyms? Or adjust to the reality and take the games somewhere less threatening?

If it bothers Norlander, well, big deal. He’s never had to deal with that particular gauntlet and if he did, we’re pretty sure he’d be unhappy about it, and even more so if women and children in his family were targeted too.

Anyway, it’s not like Duke’s schedule is a joke. The Devils opened with (and destroyed) Kentucky and are off soon to Hawaii, where they will play in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.

The rest of the field?

Auburn (#9), Xavier, Arizona, Iowa State, Gonzaga (#3) and Illinois.

Illinois is in a rebuild mode, but like every other school in the field, the Illini have a strong basketball identity.

This is a great field.

Additionally, as our friend Michael points out to us, Duke may end up playing fourteen teams during the season that are currently ranked.

So let Norlander think what he wants. It’s a very demanding schedule, wherever the games are to be played.

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