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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Even this year’s fan-friendly Duke team still inspires haters

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — If a pro-Arizona crowd showers Duke in boos and catcalls during Thursday night's Sweet 16 matchup in Anaheim, it still won't be anywhere near as bad as the treatment the Blue Devils often receive in their home state.

Duke forward Kyle Singler recalls walking into a burger joint just outside of Chapel Hill and attempting to place an order. Instead, the owners were such ardent North Carolina supporters that they refused to serve him dinner.

"I don't want to make this a big story or anything," Singler said. "I just wanted a cheeseburger."

Like the New York Yankees in Major League Baseball or the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL, Duke is college basketball's flagship program that much of America loves to hate. From T-shirts bearing the slogan "Breathe if you hate Duke," to the defaced illustration of Mike Krzyzewski on the cover of the Indianpolis Star's sports section last April, to the character on "Glee" who declared he hated Duke like "the Nazis," the Blue Devils are the villain of every NCAA tournament.

This year's team doesn't have as many antagonistic characters as the J.J. Redick- or Christian Laettner-led teams of years past, yet the level of vitriol spewed at players is just as vicious as ever.  Each time Duke guard Seth Curry walks into a visiting arena or checks his Facebook or Twitter pages, he hears from fans telling him that he should never have transferred to Duke and that he'll never be as good as his older brother.

"I kind of like it because it means people are watching all the time," Curry said. "We have a lot of fans across the country, but we also have a lot of people that don't like us a lot.  It's something we try to embrace. That's the best way we can handle it." {YSP:MORE}

Singler also uses the anti-Duke taunts from opposing crowds as motivation, but he insists it won't be anywhere near as bad in Anaheim on Thursday night as what Duke players hear walking down the street in their own state.

"You can really see it when you're in the Carolina area," he said. "I think it's just a lot of traditions in Carolina and a lot of universities that won a lot. When you have that inside one state, you're going to have to pick sides."

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