Duke Faces Most Pressure of No. 1 Seeds As It Starts Catch-22 Run

Mike KlineAnalyst IMarch 19, 2010

DURHAM, NC - MARCH 06:  Kyle Singler #12 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates in front of Marcus Ginyard #1 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 6, 2010 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Duke is damned if it does and damned if it doesn't.

The Blue Devils who begin their NCAA Tournament run Friday were clearly the talk of the NCAA selection show last week, when by all accounts they drew the easiest path to Indianapolis.

You can't argue with those sentiments especially since Villanova, the No. 2 seed in the South Region, almost tanked in the first round, and two other higher seeds from that side of the bracket also fell.

But that is just one of the problems facing how Duke's post season success will be judged this year.

If the Blue Devils make it to the Final Four, as many claim it should with the easy draw, then many will declare that its run was not justified because it was tailor made.

If Duke fails to make it to the Final Four then it will hear the chorus of "I told you so," all the way back to Durham and until the beginning of next season.

In all my years of watching the tournament I'm not sure I've seen a number one seed with an easier draw potentially facing such a perilous road.

Fortunately it appears that Mike Krzyzewski and crew don't really care about all the talk. If anything, they are motivated by all the doubters.

A Raleigh television station sports blogger reported that Duke practiced harder than any other team he saw at the Jacksonville site and that players were intensely focused.

Junior guard Nolan Smith tweeted his frustration with all the negative chatter about Duke and proclaimed that they would have something to prove.

That is a good sign even if every game, and every round the Duke players will be scrutinized by both media and fans.

While the pressure is certainly on any number one seed, I argue that Duke is facing the most pressure of them all.

Win or lose, fail or succeed nothing will be good enough for those that hate or doubt the Blue Devils.

The doubts aren’t all illegitimate either. They stem from the past four to six years of tournament frustration. The Blue Devils haven't been in a Final Four since 2004.

I can't think of any other prominent teams that have gone six years without a Final Four. Oh wait, yes I can.

The Blue Devils also have been knocked out uncharacteristically early the last few years even when they were a higher seed.

Perhaps that is something Georgetown will get after Thursday's loss to a No. 14 seed Ohio.

So to say Duke is being judged on its recent history is an understatement considering many feel Duke could loose as early as the second round this season.

Even though Kansas has the hardest bracket and Kentucky has the best No. 2 seed in West Virginia, and Syracuse was penalized for a late two-game loosing streak with a tougher draw, the Blue Devils face the most pressure.

Strangely it might have less to do with the games and more to do with off court perceptions.

The only thing that may convince the doubters otherwise is for Duke to win the National Title.

And while I'm an optimistic fan I'm not quite that optimistic, at least not yet.