For many Duke fans a first round loss to a team from a mid-major conference is like deja-vu all over again.
Except this time around it isn’t an upstart Anthony Grant from VCU with one very talented player in Eric Maynor. No this time it is a young upstart Brett Reed and his outstanding player CJ McCollum of Lehigh who put an end to Duke’s tournament run before it really got started.
The experience was so similar to the one in 2007 that I Tweeted about it during the game. Others drew the connection to Maynor but I felt like I was watching that same tired, worn down, inexperienced Duke team from 2007 that finished with 11 loses.
This team I had predicted would struggle but I thought they surely would manage to get out of the first round. McCollum is a great player, perhaps the best player who played on the court Friday night. The Blue Devils as they’ve done all season against quality players, failed to stop him, and once he got going his teammates believed and followed suit.
The Blue Devils had no answers on either end of the floor and like so many other times this season, when you were waiting and expected a Duke run it never came.
Austin Rivers may have said it best when he said it seemed like the team was sitting around waiting for the switch to come on and it never did. In many respects the fans have been feeling that same experience all season long. And this type of season-ending loss does nothing but leave a sour taste.
Now most fans, the truly good and respectable sort, which I would like to think I fall into, tip our cap to Lehigh, wish them well, thank our departing senior(s) and count the days till next year. We support the team no matter what and we hope to see a few new pieces come into play and perhaps a few old ones who can stick around for just a bit longer.
Then there are the disgruntled bunch of fans who just have no clue what it means to support the team no matter what. It starts with the criticism of this years team and trying to justify why the loss occurred. Fair enough, it is only natural to try and decipher why it is the team lost. But some take it too far.
They blame the kids for having no heart, or no talent. Forget the fact they are in most cases Division I basketball players on scholarship playing at a major school with a hall of fame coach who knows a thing or two about talented basketball players. Still they think they know all.
But their vitriol doesn’t stop there. They attack the coaches. “Duke’s bigs didn’t play well enough because Wojo’s the big man coach,” they might say. Or they say that Krzyzewski should have done this or that. Don’t believe me? You know those “fans” exist as well as I do. Some how their collective zero wins tops the 927 that Krzyzewski has.
I get it though, a loss especially to a 15th seeded team hurts, and the fact it has some historical significance makes it worse. But that is sports folks. If you don’t want the heart ache then don’t watch. There are far more failures than we all would like but attacking the team with which you pull for, especially college kids, just makes no sense.
This team was good, but never great. If you didn’t realize early on that this wasn’t likely a National Title Contender you were kidding yourself. Now that doesn’t mean you don’t pull for it to happen. I didn’t see the 2010 championship coming but come it did. Anything is possible and that is what makes college basketball, especially in March, great.
We as Duke fans are spoiled by the unbelievable successes we’ve enjoyed under the Krzyzewski era. We should appreciate those and understand that you can’t always be on top. Duke can’t win every national championship. Really what fun would that be knowing you are going to win it every year? Even if you are a fan it makes for a pretty boring sport.
Once upon a time Duke was the little guy fighting the big guys for a chance to get its first title and make a name for itself. Now Duke is the big guy and the little guy is fighting them.
And while it may hurt like heck to lose, the best of us fans will realize that what Lehigh did was something special and we can appreciate it. But we also stand behind our team and count the days till the Blue Devils take the court and show us all over again why we are true fans.