It happened in 2005.
It probably will happen again.
When Duke and North Carolina played first- and second-round games in the NCAA Tournament in Charlotte four years ago, the crowd was overwhelmingly in favor of the Tar Heels.
Duke’s players say they are prepared for more of the same this week in the first- and second-round NCAA games in Greensboro.
“Whether it’s people cheering or people booing, at least people will be there,” said Duke guard Jon Scheyer. “That gets us excited to play. So no matter what it is, having a full stadium, a fun crowd, that’s fine. The one thing, we’re used to being booed. So that’s not really a big deal for us.”
The unbalanced crowd is a natural product of the Duke-North Carolina rivalry. In the 1990s, the Blue Devils built a national following that equaled and might have surpassed that of their in-state rival.
But Duke’s alumni are vastly outnumbered within the state because Duke is a smaller university whose in-state enrollment is dwarfed by North Carolina’s. That means in-state “neutral” sites are likely to have a larger Tar Heel following.
“There’s so many Carolina fans around here,” said Duke center Brian Zoubek. “But I think we feed off of that. We like it. We play in environments like that all the time. And we hear that all the time.”
For much of the season, there was a lot of speculation that the Blue Devils would prefer to play in Philadelphia if the Tar Heels were going to be in Greensboro.
But on Sunday, coach Mike Krzyzewski said Duke had “earned” the right to play at the in-state location, as if it were a good thing. Despite the possibly unfriendly crowd, Zoubek explained that ease of travel to Greensboro is a plus.
Zoubek said it will be nice to get on a bus for a short drive rather than bothering with the difficulties of air travel. And guard Nolan Smith said Duke has experience turning the crowd in its favor after winning the ACC Tournament in Atlanta.
“Right now I don’t think anybody on my team is worried about the fans,” Smith said. “We’re going to have great fan support in Greensboro, and the Carolina fans, they stayed even after Carolina lost, trying to see us lose. But that didn’t matter. We played our game, and eventually I think the whole Georgia Dome was on our side.” – Ken Tysiac
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
It happened in 2005.