Duke enters the NCAA Tournament as a one seed that won the ACC regular season and conference tournament and includes two All-ACC First Team players in Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler and a Second Team player in Nolan Smith (three “S’s” – which one is Super, Scintillating and Sensational?). Those three players combine for well over two-thirds of the teams points and assists.
Despite the acclaim, the record, the seed and the superstars, Duke is not a popular pick to win it all. Coach K may have something to do with that. He is stoic, rarely showing any emotion or affirmation of his team’s performance on the court. He even tends to downplay his successes and moonlights with NBA players as Team USA’s head coach in the off-season. He also wins a lot and consistently brings good, but not great teams to the tournament.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff may not be a concern for the Blue Devils in the first round, but the reputation of the team and the coach – and many people’s brackets – will be on the line soon as Duke advances.
Mike Krzyzewski joined Steve Hartman and Pat O’Brien on Fox Sports Radio to discuss keeping players focused in the tournament, how he feels about this year’s team, why he doesn’t smile, and the NBA.
On keeping players focused:
“We give them brackets for this weekend. We play (Arkansas Pine-Bluff) and if we win we play the winner of Louisville and Cal. We don’t want any other brackets. We don’t care who is seeded where. We really don’t care what happens in other games. If you start thinking ahead or looking at other games, you’re going to get beat.”
On if he has a gut feeling about this team going into the tournament:
“I think you should know what horse you’re riding. Do you have a horse that can win? Do you have a team that has to do something amazing to get by. For the last few years, we have had a team that, to win the whole thing, you would have to get really, really lucky. With this year’s team, we need to be really, really good. We have some veterans. They are really old school like my teams from the ’80s. They are more of a half-court defensive team. Everybody in the starting five has a good ego about who they are as players. We are coming along. We are not a great team, but we are a very good team. We have a chance to beat anybody, but we could lose to more people than some of the teams I have had in the past.”
On coaching in the NBA:
“I love the pro game. I love the guys I have a chance to work with in the summer.We are getting ready for the World Championships this summer. We have a pool of about 30 players that we’ll choose from and those guys are great. If I was a younger guy and had some of the success I’ve had in the college game, there is a good chance I would go to the pros. The last time was with the Lakers – five or six years ago. I had created so much equity and it was too good to leave. But with the Lakers in LA, you know is a basketball town. And with Kobe and Mitch, they do a great job. I don’t go there and they get the best coach of all-time.”
And on why college basketball coaches don’t smile:
“In the tournament, you don’t want to be in the place you just finished at. You don’t want to be in that moment. You have passed it and you want to get ready – the coaches get ready for the next thing. Until you are in Indianapolis on Monday night, there is another game and you always want to make sure your team is ready for the next play. ”