User menu

Main menu

5 Reasons You Need to Watch March Madness Even If You Go to a Liberal Arts College

Duke legends Christian Laettner and Grant Hill explain why March is for Madness.

Photo: Mark Dolejs | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012

Twenty years ago, the Duke men’s basketball team scored back-to-back national championships with legendary players like Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, and Grant Hill. Duke 91 & 92, a new documentary on the amazing team, will air March 11 on TruTV, as part of the NCAA Selection Sunday. Not to be confused with our bi-weekly “Nacho Selection Sunday.” We spoke with two of the documentary’s stars, Laettner and Hill, about what keeps them invested in March Madness decades after they were considered the Beatles of college basketball.

Buzzer Beaters
GRANT HILL: There are buzzer beaters every year, so it becomes very entertaining. I think of Bryce Drew,  he hit one.

That’s what makes the tournament unique. I mean, obviously Christian’s (below) was just the greatest shot in college basketball --- but I’m biased.

It’s fun for me to have played a small role in such a unique play. You know, people call it ‘the shot.’ It’s still relevant, people kind of know where they were when they saw it happen.

Bracket Busters
CHRISTIAN LAETTNER: Someone really huge always doesn’t make it. I’m always interested to see which top 10 teams doesn’t make it. ‘Cause that’s the biggest challenge. When you’re a top 10 team, like we were every year, there’s a lot of pressure on you. I always write in the top four seeds, I always have them going to the Final Four. And then it never works out that way. Except maybe one year. Maybe. But I’m always interested in that. You know, Ohio State’s great: Are they not going to make it?

There’s No Place Like the Tournament
HILL: You know, I think we were spoiled. You’re in this championship environment and then you don’t always get that in the NBA. That’s what makes you hold onto those memories even more so, because you know it was that much more special. You appreciate it more. I don’t want to disrespect the other environments I’ve been in, but it’s the truth.

March Madness May Lead to April Sadness
LAETTNER: It’s only one game. It’s not like an NBA series, where a team has to beat you four games out of seven. And in that situation, usually the better team’s going to win. But in college one-game elimination, a freak thing can happen - a team can zone out for one game and a lower-ranked team can  knock off a superpower like Duke or Ohio State. It’s fluky, but it doesn’t matter. That’s what everyone loves about March Madness; something fluky can happen.

March Isn’t For Roller Hockey or Archery
HILL: I’ve been in the NBA for seventeen, eighteen years now and I feel like during the month of March everyone kinda loses focus of the NBA and they focus on college basketball. Rightfully so, because it’s just a great sporting spectacle.

Photo: Mark Dolejs | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012

SUPER SPECIAL BONUS INSIGHT FROM HILL AND LAETTNER

Pick and Choose
HILL: I’m curious to see what Kentucky does. They have an interesting team. Syracuse, you know, they’ve done well…Obviously Duke. I always pick them to go all the way. But then I’m also excited to see the bubble teams and the teams that upset. Obviously we want Duke to win, but it almost doesn’t matter. It’s just getting your brackets out, watching March Madness, looking for the upsets, looking for the highlights.

The Upperclassman-Underclassman Dynamic
LAETTNER: When you’re a freshman in the ACC, you’re playing against a senior in the ACC who can just rip your head off. So I needed Antonio Lang to be ready his freshman year. I needed Grant Hill to be ready his freshman year. I wouldn’t have been able to win a championship my junior year if he and his fellow classmates weren’t ready. And what do you think happened to me my freshman year? They all whipped me into shape so I could help them. So that’s all it comes down to. Holding each other accountable and just being demanding like our coach was. That’s what the upperclassmen do in Coach K’s system.

Photo: Mark Dolejs | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012

What You’ll Learn by watching “DUKE ’91 & ’92: Back to Back”
HILL: Some people just think we rolled the ball out. We didn’t. There was adversity, there were moments when we were challenged. There was overcoming obstacles and doing that together.

LAETTNER: I remember on one of the first conference calls we had for the documentary project I said to everyone on the phone, “I don’t want this to be a puff piece, because I don’t think people will believe it or respect it.” And everyone on the phone said, “Great. We don’t want it to be a puff piece, either.” And I said, even to the point where some not-so-nice terms are used to describe a certain person or player, I’m fine with that. Because we were trying to do great things there, we were trying to win championships, and you can’t always be the choir boy or the good friend all the time when you’re trying to win championships. Sometimes you have to literally smack people on the back of their head, or challenge them to play harder.

Why They Love Coach Krzyzewski
LAETTNER: Even if there are some people who don’t necessarily like Duke out there, I think a high percentage of the population at least respects Coach K and what he does. There’s something charming and endearing about Coach K that people see over the airwaves via TV or print…He’s had such a high level of success that I think people can maybe not relate to what he’s saying but want to hear what he’s saying.

HILL: I’ve been impressed with Coach K and his ability to still connect with the modern-day athlete, the modern-day teenager. You know, the kid that Johnny Dawkins was in 1985 is different from Christian Laettner in ’92 or Elton Brand in ‘99. And to be able to understand that and still relate, still connect, still motivate and inspire, you know it’s hard to do over that period of time. He’s done it.

Duke 91 & 92: Back to Back premieres on truTV on Selection Sunday, March 11, at 8 p.m. Check out the trailer here, or head to the official site for more information!