Duke University Men’s Basketball team is the team the sporting world loves to hate. The Blue Devils and their fans have enjoyed some success (five NCAA titles), and that’s part of the hatred, but it’s the smug way they carry themselves that really fuels the hate. And the way the college basketball media has determined that Duke somehow does everything the right way, while subtly inferring that everyone else is wrong continues to fuel the fire. Case in point: in 2012 when Kentucky won the NCAA title with one-and-dones, many writers opined that Wildcat head coach was single-handedly ruining college basketball, yet when Duke won in 2015 with their own one-and-dones, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski was hailed for his innovation.
Against that backdrop, we find ourselves with Duke’s Grayson Allen becoming the story of college basketball. Three times, dating back to last season, Allen has tripped an opposing player. After no public punishment after the first two incidents, Coach K was forced to sit Allen for an indefinite suspension that lasted exactly one game (a Duke loss). Since his return to action, Allen may or may not have pushed an Florida State assistant coach and, most recently, became tangled up with Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell as they dove for a loose ball. There’s no doubt that Grayson Allen has become a target, by opposing fans on social media and perhaps by opposing players on the court… lest we forget that it was against the Cardinals last season that the tripping began.
So the national sportswriters that have deified Coach K and his Duke Blue Devils have been out in force. They’ve said that tripping isn’t that bad, it’s not as if he’s punching people, right? They tell us he’s just a kid and that he’ll learn to get through it, whatever “it” is. They have faith that Krzyzewski can handle this issue because, of course, he’s all about coaching the right way… unless of course he gets caught lying about what he told Oregon’s Dillon Brooks after the Ducks bounced the Blue Devils from the 2016 NCAA Tournament. I hate to agree with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on anything, but on a recent episode of First Take, Smith flatly stated that if Allen was one of Coach Cal’s kids, both he and Calipari both would be vilified.
As bizarre as this sounds, in the rivalry between the Blue Devils and the North Carolina Tar Heels, Duke is more the more smug and arrogant party and UNC has yet to be punished for two decades of academic malfeasance. In a spectacle that could only take place at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Coach K’s seat on the bench was left vacant as he missed his first game, stepping away to have back surgery. We get it, you love your coach, but… That’s how it is with Duke’s program. The Blue Devils want you to know that they’re better than you. You don’t get to say how their players are disciplined because that’s their job. And if that player keeps doing the same thing over and over, you, college basketball fan, are the problem.
For the rest of this season, Grayson Allen is going to be a target. And he has no one to blame but himself. He tripped three players. No one else. No opposing fans, no opposing coaches, no bloggers made him do those things. And, to paraphrase Yahoo’s Pat Forde, Allen has made his bed and now he has to lay in it. If he can’t control himself and his teammates and coaches can’t help him, this is something he’s going to have to deal with. At this point, do we believe his supporters in the media or our own eyes? Allen is the villain that college basketball deserves and it’s a role he auditioned for on his own.