Duke Basketball: Noise from fans, haters, media to test Blue Devils

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

A tough schedule — yes, as critics jump at any chance to mention, it contains no out-of-conference road games — will consistently challenge the young Duke basketball studs, but tuning out the sure-to-increase chatter from all directions will ultimately be the Blue Devils’ toughest test.

It took no time at all following the Duke basketball team’s 118-84 opening display of greatness against then-No. 2 Kentucky on Nov. 6 for the hype to be heard around the world of college basketball.

Spectators, including this one, started debating the possibility of an undefeated season. Some wondered aloud whether this team will become the greatest ever at the college level. A few even predicted the squad could beat the worst NBA teams.

And then there’s the through-the-roof hype specifically directed at the play of freshman Zion Williamson. Dominique-like dunks. Magic-like passes. Barkley-like rebounding. Shaq-like blocks that could potentially pop a basketball. The 6-foot-7, 285-pound freak of nature with a 45-inch vertical leap has drawn comparisons to seemingly every legend of the game.

More from Ball Durham

But it also didn’t take long for some of those who had to initially admit their amazement at what they witnessed to start making snide remarks about the Blue Devils.

Writers began questioning the schedule. One did so with a tweet that criticized head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s decision to play no road games before conference play begins while at the same time praising UNC coach Roy William’s apparently gutsy — notice the sarcasm — decision to schedule games at Wofford and Elon in the first four days of the season (the obvious intention of this tweet was to earn, successfully, attention from both lovers and haters of Duke).

And another guy with an AP ballot, after Duke overtook Kansas for the top spot on Monday, responded to that tweet by going one step further, insisting that he would not put the Blue Devils in his top 25 at all until after they played their first true road game in January — another plea for attention that damaged his credibility in the eyes of any logic-based reader.

The key for Duke, though, is to keep all this outside noise, good or bad, from seeping inside.

And Coach K is fully aware that will remain a challenge.

"“Part of becoming good is keeping the noise out of your locker room,” the Blue Devils’ 39th-year coach told the media following the team’s 94-72 home win over Army — a far less impressive display than the win over the Wildcats. “And when something good happens and you have the start of the season, there’s a lot of noise. For us, it’s not always good noise but in this case, it was exceptional noise, where, as an 18 or 19-year-old, when you’ve got four freshmen and you don’t have veterans, you have to be mature about listening to that and I don’t think we handled that well.”"

And the noise isn’t going away as long as the Blue Devils keep winning and maintaining their top ranking. In fact, the noise is sure to only increase from one game to the next as more highlights wow all who watch.

But haters are going to continue hate. And fans are going to continue to border on ridiculous with their hype. Also, media members are always going to do anything possible to garner views.

Meanwhile, Zion and Co. just need to invest in earplugs and continue to play.

As for this Duke basketball fan — giddy as I anticipate my first trip of the season to Cameron Indoor Stadium tonight — I’m currently using Q-tips to ensure both ears are fully unplugged so that I can fully appreciate the noise created by a Zion dunk, a Cam Reddish three-pointer, or a sweet move to the basket by R.J. Barrett. The Blue Devils face 3-0 Eastern Michigan at 7 p.m.

What I’m saying is thank you, Coach K, for providing yet another home game for Cameron Crazies to embrace this spectacular squad before conference play begins.

Next. Top five small forwards of the Coach K era. dark

The noise just wouldn’t be the same — and Duke fans would be robbed of extra chances to express their excitement for this remarkable group of youngsters — if the GOAT showed more guts by scheduling games at Wofford and Elon.