After second-seeded Duke basketball had an early 12:15 p.m. start time against Albany in the NCAA Tournament Round of 64 on Friday, here’s something that was difficult to understand: why did the Blue Devils tip-off at 9:40 p.m. on Sunday against Creighton?
Duke’s 66-50 win against the Bluejays ended at around midnight and was followed by 30 minutes of media availability required by the NCAA, though it ended up being closer to 45. As a result, the team did not leave Philadelphia until around 1:30 a.m. to arrive at Raleigh-Durham International Airport at about 4 a.m.
The team didn’t get back to campus until around 4:20 a.m. The lucky players were probably getting in bed at around 5 a.m.
One person who noted the late timing was former Blue Devil Brian Zoubek, who tweeted about the timing of the game out of concern for the players as student-athletes.
The #NCAA really looking out for student athletes with a 9:40 Sunday night game. It’s not about the money at all right? What a joke.
— Brian Zoubek (@Zoubeard) March 24, 2013
Zoubek, who graduated in 2010 with a major in history, expanded on his thoughts to us.
“It’s not exactly conducive to being a student-athlete,” Zoubek said. “People say, ‘Oh, they’re not going to go to class on Monday.’ But no, they are going to go to class because Monday and Tuesday are the only days they’re going to be able to make class that week so they have to go.”
And it’s not as if the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia was too jam-packed with games on Sunday—there were only two games there, with the Florida Gulf Coast-San Diego State game tipping off at 7:10 p.m.
Neither Creighton nor Duke is a West Coast school, either, making the late start time even rougher on the student-athletes.
“There’s a big difference between having a 9:40 game during the season, during the week, when you can’t help but have games at that time,” Zoubek said. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Making it even more difficult on the student-athletes, Zoubek noted, is that it’s extremely difficult to get work done while at the Tournament because of the excitement, adrenaline, media times and so forth.
Even after the games it’s difficult to work because of fatigue.
“When you play a game like that, it takes you hours and hours to wind down from the excitement and adrenaline, and it’s not like it’s that easy to sleep on a plane,” Zoubek said. “It’s really hard to study before a game because there’s so much anticipation and you can’t really concentrate. So a lot of the time the homework and the reading and all that stuff gets pushed off until after game, not only because it’s hard to concentrate but because you have walkthroughs, film. So the only time you have to do it is getting back on the plane at 2 a.m. and you crack open the books.”
Moreover, it’s not an easy time of year to be a student because final exams and final papers are creeping up in classes, Zoubek added. And in the end, you can see the weariness on the players’ faces, which is why having such a late start time on a Sunday didn’t make sense to the former Duke center and 2010 national champion.
“I remember a lot of times between the ACC Tournament, NCAA Tournament writing papers between meetings, waiting to get on the plane. Not only are you exhausted from the game physically, but mentally exhausted as well,” he said. “That’s why at the end of the year you see athletes who have lost so much weight, their faces are gone…. It’s what you’re supposed to do, but they could help it out by being a little bit smarter.”