I had the opportunity to talk with The Athletic’s Brendan Marks. He has previously covered the Carolina Panthers for The Charlotte Observer. Now, he covers Duke and UNC basketball. We talked about the main differences between Duke and UNC, if he thinks we see college hoops in 2020, how the media will be handled during the season & a fun hypothetical involving 2015 Duke and 2017 UNC.
Q: Covering both Duke and UNC, I was curious to know if there is anything that really differentiates the two schools (not necessarily better than the other) but more so what is the main differences between covering the two?
“I get asked this question a lot, and there’s a few things that immediately come to mind. First, obviously, is the difference between Roy and K. They’re both good interviews, but I usually tend to go to them for different things. Roy gives you good color, those folksy lines that people remember and love. K, on the other hand, has a sneaky good sense of humor, but also gives you more specific basketball insight.
Also, the fan bases are different. UNC fans are much more nostalgic, I would say, than Duke fans, where Duke fans really embrace whoever is on the team at that given moment. Not that both things aren’t of interest to both fan bases, but definitely there are differing priorities.”
Q: Growing up a UNC fan, how has it been covering Duke?
“Ha, so actually I didn’t grow up a UNC fan! I was born in Jersey, and my family bounced around a lot before settling in Raleigh for high school. I actually ended up going to UNC in large part (not totally, but a good bit of why) because of the financial assistance I received. But certainly people always think I’m a UNC fan for having gone there.
I don’t have any problems covering Duke; actually, it’s probably more exciting for me in the long term because I am learning more on a daily basis than I do at UNC, where I’m a little more familiar with things. When they play, I only root for one thing: the best story that gets me home the earliest. The Tre Jones story this year, for example, was amazing to write.”
Q: Do you think we see college basketball before January 2021?
“I do! Actually, I think we very may well have non-conference games, too. I’ve spoken to a few schools/venues/organizers the past couple of weeks, and they’re all planning as if games will begin around Thanksgiving. Given advancements in testing, and the fact that it’s MUCH easier to bubble basketball teams than football ones, I’d be surprised if we didn’t end up with college hoops before January.”
Q: We know that it is very likely fans won’t be in attendance for basketball games, but what about media? Have you been told anything in regards to that?
“So, no, sadly there likely won’t be fans. But media, to some extent, will be represented. In college football, for example, most teams have reduced media seating available, and different outlets will sort of have to rotate through. All interviews will be done on zoom, anyway, so we won’t be missing any in-person chances to talk to guys. That’s actually one of the things I’m most bummed about: no more open locker room stuff. That’s where you get the best stuff.”
Q: Fun hypothetical to end it: 2015 Duke vs 2017 UNC, one game take all, who do you have winning?
“Phew, that’s tough… I’d have to go down the roster. I think it’s pretty much a wash at PG; Tyus Jones and Joel Berry were both clutch as hell, and I’m not picking against any MOP. Same at center, although I’d give Jah a slight edge over Kennedy (but Meeks was a monster that final four). So then I come to this: Justise, QC, Amile and Grayson vs Justin Jackson, Isaiah Hicks, Theo Pinson, Kenny Williams…. thats brutal. Sheesh.
UNC has definitely got good size, but Duke was so flexible in how it won games. Oh man. OK, I’ll go UNC (barely), and here’s why. I saw firsthand how dedicated that team was to winning a title after losing the year before, and I don’t discount that motivation. I can’t say the same about Duke since I wasn’t there, so I gotta roll with what I know. But now I’m going to have to figure out a way to simulate this. I smell a story idea…”
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