Duke Continues to Take High Road, As Integrity Nets Another Title

Peter LomuscioCorrespondent IApril 7, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - APRIL 05:  Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils receives the trophy as his players celebrate after they won 61-59 against the Butler Bulldogs during the 2010 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 5, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

After Butler star Gordon Hayward’s halfcourt prayer bounced just off target, Duke was crowned NCAA Basketball Champions for the first time since 2001.


The Duke Blue Devils now have four NCAA Tournament Championships, all under legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K is now tied for second most all-time with Adolph Rupp, only trailing the legendary John Wooden with ten.


The Duke Blue Devils may not have been as talented as the 2001 National Championship squad, who had the likes of Jason Williams, Shane Battier, Mike Dunleavy Jr, Carlos Boozer, Chris Duhon, and Dahntay Jones. But the players knew their roles on this 2010 Duke squad.


The trio responsible for the majority of Duke’s production Nolan Smith, Jon Scheyer, and Kyle Singler might not be remembered in the same way or go on to have as effective NBA careers as the 2001 champs, but they still put it all together to achieve the same ultimate collegiate success.


Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas may be names that will slip everyone’s minds within the next couple of years, but their output as a supporting cast was a key to Duke’s championship run.


The NCAA might not have had the most talented field this season, with a bulk of universities having to deal with players leaving early for the pros and messing with the team chemistry and bond. But this doesn’t take away anything from Duke’s accomplishment.


What stands out the most about this championship and tournament, as a whole is the importance of the team over individual mentality. The Duke Blue Devils are the ideal example of this style of program, as they manage to keep this reputation while playing in a major conference (The ACC) and competing and performing with the best the nation has to offer consistently.


Coach K intentionally recruits players that fit into his belief on what makes a successful team go. He has to be admired for sticking to his ways of integrity in this time of College Basketball, where it would be easy to sell your soul to the “most talented” recruits.


But Coach K does his best to avoid the “one and doners” even if it means missing out on some supreme talent. He looks beyond the obvious and puts the well being of the team before any individual.  While making this sacrifice he still manages to comfortably produce with the best programs in the nation.


Take a look at the three other schools that made it to this years Final Four, West Virginia, Michigan State, and Butler. All of these programs had developed a solid core of players that are committed to their program beyond a selfish one-year stopgap.  This should be a lesson to programs across the country and to the NCAA.


Duke has proven after winning another National Title with smart, team basketball that they can compete consistently no matter the recruiting rules. The team first mentality has once again ran supreme across the nation, outperforming teams that most certainly could be labeled as more talented and athletically gifted.


So what is it that makes college basketball fans nationwide despise the Duke basketball program year in and year out? This has always been a mystery to many for some time now.


Is it just their consistent success?


Or is it the way they are just coached up to perform as one and overachieve every season?


Is it just because they don’t look like your typical image of what a basketball team should look like?


When hearing some of those possible explanations it makes the hatred even more confusing because these characteristics would usually be the base for an underdog role. But the Duke Blue Devils execute so well that they have hardly ever be known as an underdog and probably never will be again.


The toughness, effort, and teamwork that is consistently seen in the Duke Basketball program under Coach K can’t be matched. Duke is clearly the golden standard for what all College Basketball programs should achieve to be.


Love them or hate them, they must be respected and admired for the integrity and success on and off the court, from the winning basketball, to the graduation rates.