You may benefit from the Duke mystique this month when a co-worker makes the potentially bracket-busting call to pick Duke to reach its first Final Four since 2004 — or win its first NCAA title since 2001.

The fourth-ranked Blue Devils’ regular season ends Saturday with a less-than-lustrous rivalry game against North Carolina (16-14, 5-10 ACC). And while Duke (25-5, 12-3) is still in line for a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed, its recent penchant for losses in big games (e.g., to Maryland, 79-72) has swathed Dukies’ hopes for a fourth national title in doubt.

Historically, Duke’s success bred a good deal of (jealousy-fueled?) hatred. Under coach Mike Krzyzewski, top recruits flowed into the elite private school, won big, graduated and found riches (last season, Duke alumni earned $73.4 million in NBA salaries). Some have even maligned the media for an alleged bias toward some of Duke’s undynamic, clean-cut stars.

But with each March Madness failure (including a 2007 first-round upset and a 2008 second-round exit), Duke gives its detractors less reason to go on caring so much.

Max J. Dickstein is amNewYork's sports editor.


Three NCAA weekend games to watch

• (7) West Virginia at (8) Villanova, noon on CBS: Round 2 for these Big East heavyweights, who may well face off a third time in next week’s conference tournament.
• UAB at (25) UTEP, 9 p.m.: Two overlooked teams atop Conference USA with impressive records face off.

• Florida at (2) Kentucky, noon on CBS: Currently on the bubble, the Gators would punch their ticket to the NCAAs with a win in Lexington.

(Ravi Shankar)

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