When a No. 15 seed in the NCAA tournament takes out a No. 2 seed in the opening round, there are bound to be cheers from fans of the Cinderella and panic from those fans of the highly seeded team that just took a nosedive. When that No. 2 seed happens to be the Duke Blue Devils, you can multiply those feelings on both sides perhaps infinitely.
That was certainly the case when Lehigh ousted the Blue Devils on Friday. Much of the world rejoiced at a pair of 15 seeds advancing, especially if it didn’t kill your bracket. For Duke fans, however, it was time to question everything. Relax, former Duke player and current Miami Heat forward Shane Battier says, the Blue Devils simply ran into the wrong team at the wrong time.
Shane Battier joined WFNZ in Charlotte with the Mac Attack to discuss what happened to Duke, how good this Blue Devils team really was, one-and-done players, what he’d do if he could change the rule and playing for a Miami team that has no shortage of haters.
What happened to Duke against Lehigh and what do you say to fans who are panicking?:
“I would tell my Duke nation faithful to stay the course. The formula that has worked for a couple years now is a pretty good formula. The fact of the matter is we ran into a team in Lehigh that deserves a lot of credit. They played their tail off. … Duke had a heckuva year and they had wins against Kansas and Michigan State and North Carolina — three teams that could possibly win it this year and we just ran into a tough game. That’s the beauty of March.”
How good do you really think this Duke group was?:
“I think Coach K did a heckuva job, one of his better coaching jobs. I don’t think the talent, across the board, was what it usually was, especially in the frontcourt. … I thought Coach K did the best he could to squeeze out some pretty big wins against some good teams and compete for an ACC title against a much, much more talented Carolina team. I’d cut Duke a little slack. Those kids played hard and deserve a lot of credit for having a great year despite all the distractions and a lot of injuries.”
On the influx of one-and-done players and their place at Duke:
“It’s a different generation. Even when I was coming out, I was probably one of the last of the Mohicans. I graduated in 1997 in high school and there were a few guys talking about going to the pros … but for the most part guys were talking about playing a couple years in college — three or four — and getting better and, when they’re ready, going to the NBA. Nowadays, the kid in high school who is a junior is talking about, ‘OK, where can I go for a pit stop on my way to the NBA?’ The mentality is entirely changed. I blame the AAU culture. The value of playing college basketball has greatly been diminished in the eyes of the kids coming up through the ranks now. It’s sad. You can see the quality of college basketball way down from where it used to be. It’s still exciting, especially now in March, but for the most part it was very tough to watch a lot of the regular-season games just because the talent isn’t there and there isn’t the chemistry and the camaraderie that you develop by staying three or four years.”
Do you have a problem with the rule as it stands now?:
“I’m in favor of the baseball rule. If you want to come out of high school, great, come out of high school and try to make it as a pro. No one should be denied a chance to earn a living. But if not, I think that the kid would be better served and the NBA would be better served by having a crop of more mature players coming in after two years of college. … For every young guy who comes in the league every year, that’s a veteran job, a guy who’s been there the year before, who’s out. To make this league as strong as possible, let’s make this a league of guys who are NBA-ready.”
What do you feel about the reaction to your Miami team and people who kind of root against you guys?:
“It really doesn’t matter. Obviously it’s nice to be cheered, but our goal is to win an NBA Championship. Whether people like us or not or cheer for us or not, it’s not going to make the ball go through the hoop any easier. … What I will say is people like to watch our team. We have exciting players. And if you like basketball, it’s hard not to like a LeBron James or Dwyane Wade. … The funny part is a lot of people say, ‘I don’t like LeBron or I don’t like Dwyane.’ Well, guess what? People watch because they want to see what they can do.”