In college sports, some schools are allowed to do to others what nobody is allowed to do to them. Notre Dame historically blew out everybody in football, but when Miami did it to them in the 1980s, it was wrong. Tennessee basketball is now suffering from the same rule.
Apparently, playing physical with Duke is not allowed. After the Vols beat the Blue Devils 65-52 in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32 Saturday to reach the Sweet 16, Duke had its machine of fans and media stooges come out of the woodworks and cover for them.
The narrative is pretty simple. Tennessee basketball is dirty, they play the game the wrong way, and they looked like a football team. However, what’s angering so many people is that they did it to Duke, a blue blood that has curried every favor ever because of Coach K’s legacy.
Doug Gottlieb was the worst offender. Uros Plavsic had a hard foul and a physical box-out early in the game, and Gottlieb made a point to go after him, the European style of play and the way the Vols performed.
To Gottlieb’s credit, he gave the Vols praise on that last tweet. However, the attacks on Plavsic are rich coming from him. Let’s see what he had to say seven years ago about the most notorious dirty player ever in college basketball, Grayson Allen, when he played for Duke.
Oh, all of a sudden, Gottlieb can separate Allen’s play from his dirty tactics? What could be the difference? Is it the fact that he played for Duke? Gottlieb wasn’t the only one complaining, though. Other media members and Duke’s fan base took to Twitter to throw out the word “dirty” in their whining.
Let’s call it what it is. Duke fans are the Karens of basketball. This is all from the fan base that cheered on Grayson Allen relentlessly. Also, heading into the game, they bragged about going on a run late in the season because they were more physical than the rest of the ACC.
See the point? Duke gets to be physical and even play blatantly dirty. When they run into a team more physical than them, though, it’s dirty no matter what. This is the protection Duke gets from national media, and fans create the narrative.
Now let’s address these comments. Yes, Plavsic threw an elbow early and then had a rough box out on a rebound. So what? Has that never happened before in a basketball game?
If you look at the stat line, Duke finished with six more fouls than Tennessee basketball. That wasn’t because they were fouling late to try to catch up either. They had gotten in foul trouble early on.
Also, on the elbow and box-out, there was certainly some flopping going on from the other side. Now, Plavsic flopped too at times. It’s gamesmanship. However, Duke acting so sanctimonious when they are the program that had Grayson Allen is hilarious.
What does the “dirtiness” have to do with the Vols going 9-of-21 from three while Duke went 6-of-22? How does that explain them going 10-of-13 from the free throw line while Duke went 4-of-7?
Are they just mad that they surrendered 12 offensive rebounds even though they switched to a zone with 12 minutes left while the Vols have a ton of length? Is dirty play the reason UT only had nine turnovers?
None of these stats were about dirty play. Yes, Tennessee basketball exposed Duke’s lack of physicality and set a tone early. However, the Vols were more efficient in the game across the board.
To be fair, neither Jon Scheyer nor the Duke players made this excuse. In fact, Scheyer shut down any excuse of Duke playing without Mark Mitchell, as he pointed out the Vols didn’t have Zakai Zeigler.
None of this is a shot at Scheyer or the team. It’s all about the annoyance of the fan base and the media members that cover for them. This exposes what we’ve all known in college basketball: Duke plays by a different set of rules.