Duke's 'Crazy Towel Guy' will watch this one from home

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- There are not many big moments Herb Neubauer has missed since becoming a season-ticket holder for Duke basketball in 1980.

"Just being a Dukie is special," said Neubauer, who attended the school as an undergraduate, where he assisted then-coach Vic Bubas' staff and was a close friend of star Art Heyman.

Since 1984, Neubauer has missed just one Duke home game, when a snowstorm prevented him from attending a matchup against Georgia Tech in 1998. During that tenure, he's been to every Final Four, sharing one memory that stood out from Duke's first national championship run in 1991.

"I became good friends with (Coach Mike Krzyzewski's) brother Bill, a fireman from Chicago. And after they won the first (Final Four) game in 1991 and beat UNLV, (Bill) said come on up to the room and have a drink. I didn't know that it was the Krzyzewski family suite. Of course, we kept going, (and) Mike came in later in the day and said 'what are you doing?' 'Drinking and celebrating.' And so his brother said to him, 'What are you doing?' 'Tapes. We've got another game." He said, 'you do your thing, and we'll do ours.' And I always laughed at that.

"And then, of course, they beat Kansas for a championship, Bill said come on up to the room. And Mike came up and they were talking and said 'this is such a family affair.' And I didn't want to intrude and I thought like I was, and (Bill) grabbed me and said 'Herb, you're part of my family.' And boy, that made me really proud that he felt that way. (He was) just a great guy,' said Neubauer.

Neubauer's fandom is part of Duke lore, where he's affectionately known as "Crazy Towel Guy," where he helps pump up the crowd. Inside his home, Neubauer has a room full of pictures, news clippings, and memorabilia, though much of his collection was destroyed during a fire at his home in 1994. He said he began bringing the towel to the game when Cameron Indoor Stadium had no air conditioning and has continued the tradition.

"It adds so much more significance to the game. As if it needed any boost, it just got an additional boost. Both teams are playing at their best this year, and discovered new things, and matured. It will be a very interesting game," Neubauer said of the historic matchup.

However, Neubauer has turned down his chance to purchase tickets this year.

"I'm so happy to have given (up the chance). My wife said you made a good decision, a wise decision. And somebody else would not know they're going because of you. Go, Duke - you support them," said Neubauer.

Still, he'll be just as focused on the match-up.

"I'll be secluded all day. I don't want to talk to anybody. It's game time. Game on," Neubauer said.

While Neubauer opted to watch from home, Duke senior Hayden Lau will be driving down with a group of friends Friday for the game.

"I was ecstatic. I was waiting to get into one of my friend's apartment to hang out. I got the e-mail and I started screaming outside the door. I think that's when he realized I was standing outside of there. So that was a really special e-mail to get," said Lau, who shared he waited three hours to register for the ticket lottery.

Lau, who attended all but one home game this season, was in the crowd for Krzyzewski's final home game against UNC earlier this month, which the Tar Heels won.

"To have the first time that Duke plays UNC in the NCAA tournament in Coach K's last year is kind of shocking. It's hopefully going to be a revenge match for Duke," said Lau.

He waited three hours in line to register for the lottery, snagging one of 700 seats available.

"That's going to be really fun to be in the student section one last time," Lau said.

After two years affected by the pandemic, the chance to witness a historic event is even more meaningful for Lau.

"We missed out on a lot of games. I lost my entire junior year to COVID in terms of watching college basketball games. So it does really feel rewarding that after all that, we get to go see Coach K (and Duke) play his last games in the Final Four, and hopefully in the National Championship. I think that's really a lucky opportunity. I know Duke students dream of the opportunity to see Duke have a chance of winning a national championship. And to get that in my senior year is really special," Lau said.

Lau has never seen Duke beat UNC in person, noting his freshman season was the infamous Zion Williamson-sneaker incident, when the star forward hurt his knee early in the game. As for Saturday, Lau wants to end his time at Duke on a winning note.

"I think as it always is with Duke vs. UNC, anything can happen, so I'm just hoping for a good game, and I'm hoping for a Duke win. Outside of that, I don't think we can really expect anything else but a good effort from Duke," said Lau.
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