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Nick Duncan flips bird heard ‘round the world

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NCAA Basketball: Southern Methodist at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos went into Utah State’s Smith Spectrum last night and came away with a hard-fought 83-80 win. It marked the third straight win for the Broncos at the Spectrum, a venue where historically they’ve struggled. One reason the Spectrum is a difficult place to play is the raucous student section that prides themselves on being loud, coordinated, and...uh...whatever this is

The USU student section is also not terribly friendly to opponents—and frankly, I wouldn’t want them to be. Fans are supposed to make their home venue a hostile environment and to their credit, Utah State does just that. Their fan base is also educated beforehand about “pressure points” that they can apply to visiting fans and players via chants and taunts and Nick Duncan has been a favorite target of “the HURD” during his tenure at Boise State—and it’s not because of his Aussie heritage. I’ll let CBS Sports Sam Vecenie spell it out for you:

"You heard one guy screaming 'Duncan Doughnuts,'" Duncan told CBS Sports after the game. "At Utah State, I had about 10,000 people screaming that."

It might be closer to 4,000, but you’re probably beginning to understand why Duncan is a favorite target of the student section at Smith Spectrum. Student sections aren’t nice, we can admit that. They dig at opposing players like you would dig at your buddies or your little brother. They want to get Duncan’s goat and after a tough win last night (a win that Duncan significantly contributed to), they got it. Duncan, perhaps fed up with the taunts, relieved with the narrow win, or sensing he’d never again have to hear them in that venue, responded in kind:

The bird is the word (and it’s not a very polite word). Twitter instantly jumped on the photo with everything from disappointment to glee. There were (index) fingers wagged at Duncan for losing his cool and some who thought the gesture granted Duncan folk hero status. Frankly, the truth is somewhere in the middle. I'm sure hundreds of players have wanted to flip the USU student section the bird over the years, but following through with such an impulse was probably a bit impertinent.

If your first impulse is to castigate Duncan, just remember for a moment that Utah State's president had to issue an apology letter to BYU a few years back after their students went after BYU star Brandon Davies for his (unfortunately) very public Honor Code violation. "Welcome back from your fornication probation" one sign read. Funny? Maybe. Embarrassing and infuriating for the target—absolutely. In 1990, the HURD set off a water bomb filled with blue-green dye behind the UNLV bench when Jerry Tarkanian's Rebels were visiting the Spectrum—soaking Tark and earning the Rebels some well-deserved technical free throws.

And don’t get me wrong...it's not just Utah State. UNLV students got in hot water a few years back for more than 'implying' that a star UNM player's sister (herself a player at Utah State) was of "ill-repute". Then there was the UNLV fan that repeatedly taunted UNM's Hugh Greenwood over the fact that, get this...his mother was battling breast cancer. Student sections are wonderful parts of NCAA basketball...and they also foster a mob mentality where people sometimes forget themselves a bit in the name of rivalry.

All this isn't to excuse Duncan's naughty gesture...but I think it shows it probably could've been worse. I suspect he'll have to sit for a bit with a punishment handed down by Leon Rice or the MWC. If he is punished by Rice, however, I imagine it will be with a bit of a chuckle.

Update: Duncan apologizes, will face no disciplinary action