Rick Pitino, Mike Krzyzewski, Regional Final. We’ve seen this before. The two coaches had a chance to discuss the epic 1992 East Regional Final between Duke & Kentucky prior to Louisville & Duke’s match-up in the Bahamas’ Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament.
“We were in a moment in ’92 and he recognized that even though he was on the losing side. It was incredible, It’s really one of the more incredible things I’ve seen an opposing coach do. One of the things that I really respect about Rick is we both understand that the game is bigger than us.” Krzyzewski said in November, “Sometimes the basketball gods you realize they put you in moments as long as it’s not your moment, it’s the game’s moment, they might put you in another one.”
The 1992 game is a staple featured clip for March Madness and makes it’s way into the broadcast, commercials, and even inside the venues as a part of college basketball history. Louisville fans did not have to endure the sting of defeat, but Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino took the on the full burden. Elimination in the NCAA Tournament, regret of not guarding the in-bounds, Cawood Ledford’s final broadcast. Now Pitino gets his first chance at Duke and Krzyzewski in the NCAA Tournament since that game, and he has one of his best Louisville teams up to the challenge.
The Cards are on an impressive 13-game winning streak since their 5 Overtime loss to Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. Louisville won the final 7 games of their regular season, 3 games in the Big East Tournament Championship to win that title, and now has beaten North Carolina A&T, Colorado State, and Oregon to advance to the Elite 8. The Cards are 3-5 against the Blue Devils all-time.
Duke is an impressive 30-5 this season from the Atlantic Coast Conference and have been proven difficult to beat. 4 of Duke’s 5 losses have been single digit defeats and most were without the services of Ryan Kelly. The Blue Devils fell to Maryland in the ACC Tournament but have beaten Albany, Creighton, and Michigan State to the Elite 8.
But for this game we were blessed with a preview back in November’s Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. The Louisville/Duke match-up in the Bahamas was the 3rd game in 3 days for both teams. Duke had just taken down Minnesota & Virginia Commonwealth, while Louisville had just dispatched Northern Iowa & Missouri. However, November 24th was “Wristpocalypse” when both Louisville Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater broke his wrist vs. the Connecitcut Huskies AND when it was discovered that Louisville Starting Center Gorgui Dieng had broken his wrist against Missouri. As a result the Cards took the floor against Duke without their biggest defensive presence with less than 18 hours to prepare.
The game itself was played in front of 3511 lucky fans which will stand in stark contrast to the anticipated crowd Sunday of 35000+ fans. The Blue Devils emerged victorious in a 76-71 final score after Russ Smith gambled late in a crucial late possession that allowed Duke to score with 29 seconds on a Quinn Cook jumper. Also a run out on an in-bounds play with 1:15 remaining also made things much more difficult as Luke Hancock (who was on Mars defensively at the time) allowed Cook to get behind for an easy lay-up.
There were other plays as highlighted in the video below that allowed Duke to get the victory. In the end the Cards just did not execute late in the game. Card fans would like to think that having Gorgui Dieng would have made a huge difference, but Stephan Van Treese provided 8 points & 8 rebounds off the bench in 21 minutes of play. Zach Price started the game and is not part of Louisville’s current regular rotation, Price played 19 minutes. Also the Cards collected just 6 steals in the game (all from Peyton Siva) and got very little from Luke Hancock & Wayne Blackshear. Combined Luke & Wayne played 40 minutes and scored just 2 points, had 5 rebounds, 0 assists, & 0 steals.
Louisville was a good team in November. They are even better now. The same could be said for Duke. Ryan Kelly fouled out of the first ball game (late with 1:00 remaining) & Duke got almost nothing from their bench with just 3 Tyler Thornton points. Also it is important to note that the Cards shot 11 more times from the floor & hit a higher percentage than Duke, but the difference was made up from the foul line. Duke shot 27 free throws (made 23) while the Cards shot just 14 times from the charity stripe (made 9). The 13 free throw shot disparity is surprising because Duke actually had 3 more fouls than Louisville in the first meeting.
Rick Pitino vs. Mike Krzyzkewski is a classic coaching match-up that we really should see more often. Krzyzkewski is 957-296 (.764) as a head coach and is 82-24 in the NCAA Tournament with 4 NCAA Titles, 11 Final Fours, and will be making his 13 Appearance in the Elite 8. That’s right Krzykewski is 11-1 All-Time in Regional Finals, with the lone exception being 1998’s Tubby Smith led Kentucky Wildcats knocked off the Blue Devils 86-84 at St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field. Krzyzkewski was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 and also was the Head Coach for two Olympic Gold Medal teams.
Rick Pitino hasn’t been in one place as long as Mike Krzyzkewski and has also spent 8 years coaching in the NBA. Still Pitino has managed compile a record of 661-239 and is 45-16 in the NCAA Tournament with a National Title (1996) and 6 Final Fours. Pitino is still waiting on his call from the Hall of Fame, though he is nominated for induction this year.
|Strength of Schedule||6th||1st|
|Points Per Game||73.9 (30th)||77.8 (5th)|
|Avg Scoring Margin||+16.3 (3rd)||+12.9 (7th)|
|Field Goal %||45.2% (65th)||47.7% (15th)|
|Rebound Rate||52.8% (55th)||49.2% (193rd)|
|Blocks Per Game||4.1 (86th)||3.8 (121st)|
|Steals Per Game||11.0 (2nd)||6.6 (159th)|
|Assists Per Game||14.9 (27th)||14.6 (40th)|
|Turnovers Per Game||12.6 (111th)||10.6 (8th)|
|Team Fouls Per Game||17.8 (187th)||17.8 (187th)|
|2-point FG%||50.3 (56th)||51.3% (40th)|
|3-point FG%||33.2% (202nd)||40.3% (5th)|
|Free Throw %||71.1% (115th)||73.2% (56th)|
|Opponent Shooting %||39.1% (20th)||41.3% (94th)|
|Opponent 2-point FG%||42.9% (27th)||45.7% (98th)|
|Opponent 3-point FG%||31.5% (59th)||29.5% (12th)|
|Opponent Block Per Game||3.4 (161st)||2.9 (53rd)|
|Opponent Steals Per Game||5.7 (55th)||4.8 (6th)|
This game is going to be a real treat. Just looking at the stats it is clear that these two teams are two of the best in college basketball. With the teams remaining the argument can be made that this could have been the NCAA Championship game, but instead it’s the last roadblock to the Final Four. Trying to find tangible differences in the stats is difficult. Duke’s SOS advantage is negated by Louisville’s Scoring Margin difference. Field Goal % is cancelled by Rebound Rate. Louisville steals the ball quite a bit, Duke doesn’t turn the ball over. Both teams are very good passing teams, but the biggest difference I can see is Duke’s 3-point %.
Louisville has been famous in 2012-13 for holding their opponents to reduced shooting percentages all year. In November, without Gorgui Dieng the Blue Devils were able to win the game despite shooting below their normal rate. Duke DID, however, hit 85.2% of their free throw attempts (23-27) which is much higher than 73.2% on the season. Based on paper and what I’ve seen with my own eyes watching these two teams all season I think we are in for a whale of a game.
Player & Bench Match-Ups
Peyton Siva vs. Quinn Cook was an excellent battle last time out. Siva had 19 points on 8 of 15 shooting with 4 assists, 2 rebounds, 6 steals, 6 turnovers and 2 fouls. Cook, however, was clutch & really sealed the game scoring the game’s final 8 points (all under 1:16 to play) and finished with 15 points (4-8 FGS) with 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 4 turnovers and 4 fouls. Siva’s line was better, but Cook won the ball game for the Blue Devils.
For the tournament Cook has just 11 points on 4 of 21 shooting. Cook does have 19 assists through 3 games (11 against Albany) with just 6 turnovers. Siva has 20 points on 9 of 26 shooting with 8 rebounds, 16 assists, 7 steals and 10 turnovers.
|Peyton Siva||Quinn Cook|
|6-0, 185, Sr.||6-1, 175, Soph.|
|Field Goal %||41.00%||42.70%|
Russ Smith vs. Seth Curry BUCKETS? Seth Curry has scored 72 points in the Blue Devils first three NCAA games on 23-46 shooting. Russ Smith has 81 points on 26-47 shooting. Both are red hot and coming off huge performances in the Sweet 16. Russ beats opponents with his lightning quickness, Curry has a killer jump shot and shoots 42.6% from 3-point range. Curry is more careful with the ball, but this could end up as a back and forth battle of two high-scoring guards.
In the last meeting in November Curry struggled from the field hitting 3 of 11 but did manage 14 points, while Russ scored 17 and was 7 of 19 from the floor. Russ gambled a lot on defense trying to turn the Blue Devils over and really forced things on the offensive end. I’m going to be interested to watch how many open looks either of these guys get on Sunday.
|Russ Smith||Seth Curry|
|6-1, 165, Jr.||6-2, 185, Sr.|
|Field Goal %||41.60%||46.70%|
Wayne Blackshear vs. Rasheed Sulaimon was lopsided in the Blue Devils favor last time out. Even with Hancock off the bench Sulaimon took on the Louisville wings and easily came out on top. Sulaimon finished that game with 14 points on 6 of 13 shooting with 4 rebounds and two steals. Blackshear on the other hand had 2 points in 21 minutes with 4 rebounds.
Wayne has been playing better of late. He’s not shooting a high volume, but he’s been taking and hitting the limited looks that he has had. Wayne is also much better defensively now than he was in November. Meanwhile Sulaimon has been consistent thanks to his ability to get to the Free Throw line. Sulaimon has 30 free throw attempts in the first 3 games of the NCAA Tournament hitting 24. The Cards will be smart to not get beat off the dribble by Sulaimon and keep him off the charity stripe. Sulaimon is 8 of 17 from the floor in the NCAAs.
|Wayne Blackshear||Rasheed Sulaimon|
|6-5, 230, Soph||6-4, 185, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||42.30%||43.60%|
Chane Behanan vs. Ryan Kelly is a really strange match-up as juxtaposition on the basketball court. Kelly is a big body who is known for his outside shooting while Behanan is an undersized power forward who does most of his work inside. Kelly missed some time down the stretch for Duke with a foot injury and the Blue Devils lost a few games while he was out. Kelly has been COLD from 3-point range during the NCAA Tournament and is 0-8 with just 18 points during the 1st 3 games. Meanwhile Behanan’s struggles have been on the backboard as Chane has just 8 rebounds in 3 games from the Power Forward position. Behanan isn’t off his scoring average very much but does have just 20 points so far in the NCAA Tournament.
Kelly had 14 points , 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, a steal and fouled out in the first game while Behanan finished with 7 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist on 2 of 11 shooting.
|Chane Behanan||Ryan Kelly|
|6-6, 250, Soph||6-11, 230, Sr.|
|Field Goal %||50.60%||46.40%|
Gorgui Dieng vs. Mason Plumlee is probably the 2nd best marquee match-up of the evening. Many were anticipating a high-profile contest between Dieng & Plumlee in the Bahamas but were robbed of that when Gorgui broke his wrist a game earlier vs. Missouri. Without Dieng Plumlee had 16 points on 6 of 10 shooting with 7 rebounds a steal and a block working primarily against Zach Price & Stephan Van Treese.
For the tournament Plumlee has 47 points, 20 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and 5 steals. Dieng has 30 points, 19 rebounds, 3 assists, 6 blocks, and 5 steals in the 1st 3 games.
|Gorgui Dieng||Mason Plumlee|
|6-11, 245, Jr.||6-10, 235, Sr.|
|Field Goal %||51.90%||59.80%|
Louisville’s Bench & Duke’s Bench really aren’t comparable. Against Michigan State only guard Tyler Thornton played more than 10 minutes (26) and forward Josh Hairston played just 6 while buying time. The Blue Devils will play Amile Jefferson at times, but he did not play against Michigan State and has logged just 15 minutes during the NCAA Tournament.
Meanwhile the Cards’ bench has been a catalyst and a major reason for several various runs. The amount of pressure that the Cards are able to apply to teams is greatly enhanced when they can bring in a long and athletic Montrezl Harrell & Kevin Ware. When an evolved Luke Hancock can come in and make athletic plays and hit big-time jumpers, along with a never-ending motor of a Stephan Van Treese. Louisville’s bench allows the Cards to keep the pressure up on any opponent whereas Duke reluctantly has used theirs in 2012-13.
|Montrezl Harrell||Josh Hairston|
|6-8, 235, Fr.||6-7, 240, Jr.|
|Field Goal %||57.00%||44.30%|
|Luke Hancock||Amile Jefferson|
|6-6, 200, Jr.||6-8, 195, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||40.60%||54.30%|
|Stephan Van Treese|
|6-9, 245, Jr.|
|Field Goal %||66.70%|
|Kevin Ware||Tyler Thornton|
|6-2, 175, Soph||6-1, 190, Jr.|
|Field Goal %||43.10%||39.20%|
I predict that this game is going to be a major….MAJOR ball game. The starting match-ups are really close to even while the Cards have an obvious advantage in their bench. In the Bahamas the Cards really had some breakdowns defensively and also had a lot of untimely fouls. Duke is deft at getting to the free throw line. Bottom line, whoever executes wins. We could sit here and split hairs over the disadvantages & advantages and go back & forth. Louisville is going to want to pressure. Duke is going to want to play in the half court. Louisville rebounds better. Duke doesn’t turn the ball over & shoots the 3. Louisville is deeper.
I see this game very close. It’s hard to sit here and predict overtime, but it could very well happen. I don’t see this game outside of 5 points. I think the foul situation will be one to monitor as the Cards will have more available fouls but will not want to send the Blue Devils to the line for easy scores. Curry, Plumlee, & Kelly’s health could come into play, and so could Louisville’s overall team health. Someone has to check Curry and keep him from getting open looks, Gorgui & Plumlee probably neutralize one another. Russ is going to get into the lane & to the line. Will Chane keep Kelly 0-for from 3? Can Luke & Wayne stay in front of Sulaimon? How big is the rebounding advantage for the Cards?
I think if you add it up the Cards go to Atlanta.
Louisville 72-Duke 68
1959, 1972, 1975, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1997, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013
1959-Beat Michigan State 88-81
1972-Beat Kansas State 72-65
1975-Beat Maryland 96-82
1980-Beat LSU 86-66
1982-Beat UAB 75-68
1983-Beat Kentucky 80-68
1986-Beat Auburn 84-76
1997-Lost to North Carolina 97-74
2005-Beat West Virginia 93-85
2008-Lost to North Carolina 83-73
2009-Lost to Michigan State 64-52
2012-Beat Florida 72-68
Louisville Transcript 3-30-2012
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by the University of Louisville, and we will have an opening statement from Coach Pitino, and then we’ll go to questions for anybody up here for the first 20 minutes.
COACH PITINO: Well, we’re very excited to be in the Elite Eight. We did not play one of our better games out of the last 15 or so yesterday, but I think that was due to Oregon. We played very good offensively. It was just our weakest defensive game. And the guys basically defensively had a night off, so they’re going to be very, very fresh against Duke.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Gorgui, can you say a little bit about how and when you began playing basketball and how you came to the U.S.?
GORGUI DIENG: I was just like ‑‑ my brothers was playing basketball in the beginning and I went and watched them play, and I fell in love with the game. And I waited for it to play. And I start playing when I was like 7, 8 and I think serious play when I was 16, 17.
Q. How did you come to the U.S.?
GORGUI DIENG: I went to SEEDS Academy, and they had a basketball in South Africa, and after that camp, I think one of the high school coaches was there, and he just asked me if I wanted to come and play here, and I came to high school and came to college. Coach came and recruited me and I just play for Louisville.
Q. I guess for any of you, as it happens, how is the team’s health and how are you guys feeling health‑wise?
RUSS SMITH: I think we’re getting better. We’re all getting better. We’ve been getting treatment and stuff, and this day off is going to give us a lot of time for our bodies to recuperate. So I think we’ll be good heading into Duke.
PEYTON SIVA: I think the game last night helped us out a lot by Oregon running so much ran it out of us all. Our trainer, Fred, has done a great job of taking care of us and seeing us. We’ve been taking antibiotics and I think everybody is getting their energy back and everybody’s become more upbeat. And Russ stopped coughing on everybody, so I think we’re doing better.
Q. Wayne, you’re the only guy from Chicago in this game. What does that mean to you?
WAYNE BLACKSHEAR: It’s no different from nothing else. I got a lot of family coming in tomorrow. So it’s no difference from playing with nobody else on the team.
Q. For any of the players, a lot of the national media are making a big deal about Duke and Coach Pitino and Christian Laettner. Does that name mean anything to you? And if so, what?
CHANE BEHANAN: I wasn’t even thought of when that game was going on. But I have saw the same highlight over and over on ESPN every morning ‑‑ I mean, since this morning. And it’s a new era. Coach, he’s much older now, more wiser. So we know we’re going to do a little things differently now.
PEYTON SIVA: It was a great shot. I just saw it, one of those shots that you just love if you’re a coach and hate if you’re another one.
It’s a great game, probably one of the greatest games in history for Coach P and Coach K to coach in. And we didn’t watch the film on that game, so we don’t really know that one, surprisingly. But it’s a great game back then. We’re in the future now.
RUSS SMITH: Well, obviously, it was probably one of the greatest games ever, and it was a tremendous shot. And like Chane said, I wasn’t even thought of so I couldn’t even really comment on the game. I just seen highlights.
But it’s a new game and hopefully, history don’t repeat itself.
Q. Coach Pitino, how has your relationship with Coach K grown and changed since that shot? Because you two now are forever linked by that.
COACH PITINO: Well, we’ve been friends from that point on. Both of us looked at the game a lot different than the Kentucky fans or, for that matter, the Duke fans. Both of us just sat back and coached and watched an incredible offensive display. Even when we played the overtime without Mash, it was a great game. Anytime you write a whole book about one game, it’s kind of special.
We came on the losing side, but I’ve had the Kentucky fans always say it’s one of the worst losses. To me, it’s one of the best losses I’ve ever had. A bad loss was Providence last year by 31 points. A bad loss is something where you guys play terrible, you don’t play. It was a great loss because my guys played almost a perfect game and just had the wrong ending for us.
But it was one of the greatest basketball games ever played because it was so high‑powered with great play. One great play after another. That was fun to be part of, and I’ve always loved Coach K from before that moment to today. I think he’s everything our game stands for in a good way.
Q. I just want to ask the players to talk about when you met Duke back in November, Gorgui wasn’t there. How much difference does that make, and is there something else that’s changed from the first meeting?
WAYNE BLACKSHEAR: Yeah, like you said, we were not with Gorgui. And it was a tough game, and we still competed and we came up short. But we came out aggressive and played them very well.
CHANE BEHANAN: Like Wayne said, without Gorgui, it was real tough for us. Limited us from offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding and also blocking shots. That’s it.
PEYTON SIVA: I think it was a great game. Both of us have improved a lot more since that Bahamas tournament, and it was a great opportunity to play against them at that time.
Who would have known we’d be playing right now for a chancing to the Final Four. Nobody would know that. With Gorgui back in the lineup, it definitely gives us another dimension to the game. V.T. and Zach and Montrezl has helped us out a lot replacing Gorgui in the game. But you can never really replace Gorgui. He’s playing good right now and is definitely going to help us out a lot.
Q. Rick, when you guys first started ‑‑ announced to be going to the ACC, how quickly do you immediately think about a chance to play Duke every year, multiple times, possibly?
COACH PITINO: It was on the top of my list. Now, you know, I’ll tell you the truth, I don’t even really think about it at all, because we’ve got another year to play. One thing I can tell you I don’t do is I really never live in the future. I really don’t. I just live for today, coach for today. I don’t take anything for granted.
My wife’s got a great expression: Make a plan for the future and you’ll make God laugh. And that’s pretty much ‑‑ I believe in that. So I don’t really think about it. That’s a long way off for me.
Q. Rick, in what ways do you feel like Duke has ‑‑ if there was any big area of improvement, that they’ve made since that November game?
COACH PITINO: Well, I think Curry’s gotten healthier, obviously. He had a stress fracture. That’s the biggest thing. He’s gotten healthier. They learned to play without Kelly and we learned to play without Gorgui. It made us play better without him. It made them more efficient in other areas. Now he comes back and they’re better. Gorgui comes back and we’re better.
We played a very good game that night, had a chance of winning. They were just a little bit better down the stretch.
Q. Rick, what type of challenges does Plumlee present not only as an offensive player, but a defensive factor around the basket?
COACH PITINO: Well, he’s very long. He’s very skilled. He jumps ‑‑ the whole family jumps extremely well. So he’s someone that understands the game real well. He hits his cutters the right way. He’s a very good rebounder, very good outlet person. He runs the floor well.
He’s a very good athlete as well as being a very good basketball player. So he poses a lot of problems for us with one day of prep.
Q. Coach Pitino, tomorrow will be the fifth anniversary of Bill Keightley’s death. I know you two were really close. How tough did he take that first loss to Duke and how much would he really enjoy seeing you beat them, especially on this stage?
COACH PITINO: Well, he enjoyed beating Louisville. He enjoyed beating Tennessee. He enjoyed ‑‑ that game hit him really, really hard. And it did hit all of us hard for about 24 hours until I watched the tape. Then I just sat back and I said, darn, that was some helluva basketball game. I got the guys together and I said, man, that was a great game. Really was a great game, especially playing without Mash.
So I always remember it in a positive light. Bill wouldn’t remember it in a positive light.
Q. Coach, Seth Curry hasn’t fared well this year in games where he’s got one‑day rest. Is that something you incorporate into a game plan is really trying to effectively defend him out of the game?
COACH PITINO: I don’t know what his health status is. I don’t know why that would be. I know he’s playing good basketball. We battled, we’re getting healthier. We battled, about five or six of us, a bad cold for the week. And it showed on our defense last night. But I think it was more Oregon than it was having colds, and we are getting better.
Our guys, I think we’re well rested, because ‑‑ I really mean that. We didn’t play a stitch of defense last night, so we’re well rested. Especially Russ.
Q. I want to ask Chane about what it’s like to match up against Ryan Kelly. Have you faced another guy who can play kind of the European Stretch 4 the way he can with his size and ability to move the ball?
CHANE BEHANAN: Well, it’s going to be real tough. But I got four other guys behind me that’s going to contribute and help. Russ digging, Peyton digging, Gorgui trying to block shots.
Just go out there, give it your all. Playing for the Final Four. That’s basically all I can say. Coming to bring it.
Q. Rick, the first time you guys played Duke, you didn’t have Gorgui. How is he playing right now and what kind of luxury is that to have him this game?
COACH PITINO: Gorgui has really ‑‑ the good thing about Gorgui, Russ, is as the season’s gone on, they’ve been like a great stock. They just keep adding to their games.
Russ, as a freshman, it’s been well documented that he thought about transferring. I thought about shipping him to a different planet. And he stayed and really studied his game and said, okay, I took 18 shots last night and 17 were bad ones.
Now he’s evolved into a basketball player that maybe takes one difficult shot per game, plays good defense, makes good passes, makes good decisions.
And the two of these guys, probably out of ten guys I’ve coached, have improved dramatically as much as any two basketball players I’ve coached.
I said, Gorgui, we’ll work on your mid‑range jump shot. He takes it from not having a good mid‑range jump shot to being flat to being great, not being good. Everything he does, he doesn’t believe in being good; if he’s going to master something, he wants to be great at it.
So both of these guys have improved tremendously. And Gorgui has become an outstanding passer, he’s become an outstanding shooter. We all do shot blocking, become a better rebounder. He’s always been very smart. He’s a highly, highly intelligent person.
But he struggled a little bit in the beginning, because, as you may know, he goes from being able to say hello and good‑bye to me in late November to seeing him again late February and being semi fluent in English. That’s pretty incredible.
I know when I was named the Puerto Rican National coach, I bought Rosetta Stone and was working on it two hours a day. And all I look back on it now, because I had such great difficulty, is how did he do it? He’s highly intelligent and picks up things quickly and knows what you mean.
Q. Rick, what did you think of Duke in the preseason? Did you feel like they were one of the teams that could be right up with you guys competing for a national title? And what’s it like to have to play them in an Elite Eight when they were number two in the country the last week of the season?
COACH PITINO: I think when you looked at our bracket with us, we looked at Colorado State and said five seniors and two of the seniors ‑‑ two fifth‑year seniors? It’s going to be a heck of a basketball game. And then obviously, last night, Oregon. Oregon made us not look as good as we are.
And then now you’re playing a team like Duke or Michigan State. So we knew our bracket was going to be a highly, highly difficult. It was a bracket that you weren’t going to see a whole lot of upsets in, because the teams were so good.
Our respect level for Duke is as high as it gets. Not only for their players, for their coach, for the way they represent ‑‑ their program is run. We know that. We played them a great game there. We know we’re going to have to play a great game to come away with a victory.
But we feel after last night’s game, I think our guys are disappointed in their defense and I think tomorrow they’ll play it much better.
Q. For Peyton, Coach Krzyzewski was in here a little while ago and said this is like a national championship game tomorrow. Do you have that sense? Do you feel as if you beat Duke, you’re likely to cut down the nets?
PEYTON SIVA: Right now, every game is a national championship. You got to win to survive. And that’s how you have to play it, because if you lose, you go home.
So right now, there’s potentially three games left, and each one you have to play like a championship. That’s how we look at it, and that’s how we’ll go out and play. We have to leave it all on the line. We’re trying to play for a potential spot in the Final Four.
Duke’s a great team. They’re playing really well. Like you said earlier, number two when the season ended and he was really hot. They had a couple mishap games, but they’ve been playing great.
We’ve got to come out and play our hardest and play like it’s a national championship game.
THE MODERATOR: We’re going to dismiss the student‑athletes to the meeting rooms.
Q. Rick, as much as you value this game, how meaningful is it to be attached to one of its great moments of all time, speaking about 1992? And everyone else revisits that game often. Do you ever allow yourself to think back when you have a few moments offseason?
COACH PITINO: I do, and I’ve watched the game about five times. The fascinating thing about that game, we lost and it cost us the Final Four. When we got back, four of those guys had their names retired to the rafters the day after that game, which was incredible when you think about it, because Kentucky always puts All‑Americans up there in Farmer, Feldhaus, Woodson and Pelphrey. Were put up there because of the ‑‑ that they all stayed, they didn’t leave, scandal hit Kentucky and they stayed, and they went from a scandal‑ridden group that didn’t play to having their jerseys retired in a loss. So it’s pretty darn special moment for those guys and me.
And it was just a great, great basketball game that I think most of the Kentucky fans just don’t realize when you play in such a great game against a group of guys that didn’t boast, didn’t go out there and make you look bad, all they did was praise their opponent, so they were gentlemen, and I just have such great memories of that game.
But I do think about it often. Not in a revenge standpoint, but just in a great game that I was happy to be part of.
Q. Coach, this has been talked about as a national championship game, but really is a prelude to what the ACC is going to look like in the future. Coach K said when all the teams get in the league, it will be the most powerful basketball conference ever. Can you talk about joining something like that and how this is going to kind of be the norm, playing in that league?
COACH PITINO: Well, I really don’t think about it. I have to be honest with you. I’m sure everything he’s saying is 100 percent correct. But I don’t allow myself ‑‑ it’s just a rule of mine ‑‑ to think about the future. I just don’t do it, because I don’t know what the future holds for me. So I never think, except for the next game. My players know that.
I don’t think ‑‑ I think Peyton gave a great answer. We said it last night. You’re going to play four national championship games, starting with last night. That’s basically it, or you’re out.
And every team left in this tournament is capable of winning a national championship, including Wichita State. I mean, you flip a coin between Wichita State and Ohio State, I’ve watched them play. They’re really, really good. Duke’s tremendous. Florida’s tremendous. Michigan’s great.
Anybody can win this thing. So we’re looking at it starting with last night as four chances. Peyton really said it the way we believe.
Q. Coach, have you thought much about sort of the accidental nature of this team, how many guys that you’re using who committed elsewhere, even signed elsewhere in some instances, and they all wound up in your roster? Is that sort of a reflection of where college basketball is now, how many different guys came from so many different angles?
COACH PITINO: I guess you’re alluding to Luke and Montrezl?
Q. Yeah, Luke and Montrezl, Kevin as well.
COACH PITINO: Yeah. Well, it’s a little bit different, the circumstances were kind of incredible, because most of it was because of Kevin Keatts. Kevin Keatts placed Montrezl at Hargrave’s. So obviously, when Seth got fired, he knew Kevin, and we were lucky enough to get him.
Luke, Kevin coached at Hargrave’s and his brother lived in Louisville. So we got lucky there as well.
With Kevin, he just ‑‑ Central Florida got in a little trouble. He had to go somewhere and that was the only time we really recruited him. We didn’t really recruit Montrezl or Luke. We’re lucky that Kevin Keatts knew them.
Q. Rick, you mentioned the other day that you consider Coach Wooden the greatest there ever was. If Mike’s team should win tomorrow, he would match Coach Wooden with 12 Final Fours. Given how much the nature of basketball has changed over the last half century, is it possible to look at Mike and say, you know, for his era, he’s done as much as Wooden did?
COACH PITINO: I’ve said it about 50 times. I’ll make this 51. Coach Wooden, I felt, was the greatest teacher of any sport of any game. And Coach K is the modern‑day John Wooden. I’ve made that statement over 50 times, and I believe that.
Just in the way he carries himself, in the way he teaches values, in the way he coaches basketball. He’s a fierce competitor like Coach Wooden. You’ll both see their intensity on the sidelines, and it will be saved for a lot of timeouts.
They’re just great coaches, great people, great teachers. They would both be great teachers of biology in the classroom. Obviously, Mike being a West Point grad, has tremendous discipline in his life. Mike is the modern‑day Coach Wooden. There’s no question about it because of the character that they both possess.
There’s more to coaching than just teaching basketball Xs and Os. It’s what they stand for as people. And both of them, I couldn’t put anybody on any higher point than those two gentlemen.
Q. Rick, for those of us that were there in Philadelphia, I think you could realize how good that game was. Over time, it has held up as maybe the best game ever played. Does it surprise you at all to look at the film and say that was really as good as we thought?
COACH PITINO: I think it was such a high‑scoring game with so much perfection in the way the players passed and shot the ball, that’s what made it stand the test of time. It wasn’t a slowdown game. It was a game where two coaches could sit back and watch great players perform at the highest level.
It was like being in Carnegie Hall and just seeing the best musician or the best singer, and just sitting there in amazement of what they were doing out on the basketball court.
Q. Rick, you don’t want to talk about the future. I wonder if you’ll indulge me and talk about the past. If you had never gone to the NBA, you’d probably be 800‑plus victories at this point. You’re six years younger than Mike. Do you ever wonder about what your legacy might have been if you’d done what ‑‑ taken the path he did?
COACH PITINO: Well, I’ve heard that many times from ‑‑ Dick Vitale tells me all the time, every time something happens when we lose: If you’d never left Kentucky, you would have had so many wins. He has it down to the win.
But I’ll say this. I don’t think I could have enjoyed four years more of my life in coaching than New York Knicks. As an assistant coach, I learned more in two years than I have in my lifetime working under Hubie Brown. Then I had a blast as the head coach of the Knicks. I grew up six streets from the Garden. I enjoyed that.
The Boston experience wasn’t great for me, because, like Pat Riley says, it’s winning in misery. But I learned something more valuable from the Boston experience than even working for Hubie wrong. That was humility. It took me goddamn long enough to get it.
To me, humility is the key to achieving any sense of accomplishment, because you really know why you win. And it’s the guys that are to my right, and you really appreciate when you lose ‑‑ like I thought that Dana Altman and watching the film and everything ‑‑ I didn’t know him real well. I came away with the sense of he’s a helluva basketball coach. He’s a great one. Maybe because Creighton wasn’t as high profile, he’s a great basketball coach.
I get a great appreciation when I watch film of other people out there. I’m not sure I would have done that if it wasn’t for the Boston experience.
Q. If you’re watching a game on TV and as it seems to happen a thousand times, the Laettner shot is in a commercial or a promo, do you even look at it? Do you change the channel? How long did it take before you could watch that shot without having some sort of emotion about it?
COACH PITINO: You know, a lot of people thought in that game you should have had a guy on the ball, but you can throw the ball out of bounds. Bob Knight always said he never puts a guy on the ball. I made a mistake in that game, and that’s what I think about.
The mistake I made is I said we’re going to sandwich him, it’s going to him. But watch out, they may shoot a guy on the sideline. He may pass as they’re running down the floor.
But then I grabbed Pelphrey and Feldhaus. I said: Whatever you do, don’t foul him. He hasn’t missed a shot.
I shouldn’t have done that. That was the mistake I made. I should have said: Whatever you do, bat down the ball. I don’t care what the contact is. But go for basketball. And you saw my guys freeze a little bit. So that was ‑‑ it wasn’t on the ball because you remember all the ‑‑ what’s the guy doing the commercial with the astronaut on the sideline? Bryce Drew. And then you remember Tate George when they had the guy all over him on the ball.
So I shouldn’t have said that. Looking back, if I could have one thing over, I would have said to those guys: Bat the ball down, whatever it may be. That’s the one thing I look back on the game, I wish I could have done differently in that game as a basketball coach.
But I did a Vitamin Water commercial with Christian Laettner. A lot of Kentucky fans don’t like him. I got to know him and still don’t like him. I’m only kidding. I’m only kidding. He’s a good guy. I’m joking.
Q. I apologize if you’ve answered this question already a little earlier. How much does the addition of Dieng into this game change the dynamic of things from the first matchup of these guys back in November?
COACH PITINO: I’m not sure, because ‑‑ I’ll tell you why. I know he’s obviously better than Zach Price and Stephan Van Treese. But both those guys played terrific in that game. If one of those guys would have played poorly, you’d say it’s going to be a big difference. But both those guys played very well in the basketball game, especially in the defensive end, the way they screened.
There’s so much at stake at this game because it means the Final Four, that really past performances don’t mean a whole lot. So it’s going to be a hard, hard fought basketball game, and we know that.
The thing about Duke is you got to keep them off the foul line, because they make every free throw. And that’s ‑‑ any team like Duke that plays defense like they play and rebounds and if you put them to the foul line, you’re probably not going to win the game.
Like last night, what was it, 26 times, made 24 out of 26. Michigan State’s not going to beat them letting them shoot 26 and making 24.
Q. Coach, one more about Gorgui. From a personal standpoint, how has it been these years you’ve had with him? What about him is so disarming and appealing to people?
COACH PITINO: His culture is far different. We were talking the other day to Eric Crawford, who was with us, one of the writers. He said that he goes home to his country, and if there’s a 25‑year‑old that doesn’t have a seat and he’s sitting there at 23, he’s got to give the seat up for the 25‑year‑old. And he says his culture is you listen to anybody who’s older than you. Anybody.
And that’s why he’s able to grow so much, because there’s nobody else in his ear. Like I said to him after the season, Gorgui, I want you to put your name in. We’ll see if you’re a first‑round draft choice and we’ll go forward. We’ll decide from this.
He said, I will listen to everything you and Amadou say. Amadou is a young man who works in the NBA from Africa. He says, Whatever you guys tell me to do, I will do exactly. I said, Gorgui, some agents or runners may try to talk to you. He said, I don’t listen to runners. I don’t listen to agents. I’ll listen to Amadou and you. That’s what I’m taught to do. He’s far different than the young kids today.
I took this other guy named Mangok from the Sudan through Australia just because of Gorgui. And then I recruited a young man from Kansas City who has African descent. Anybody from Africa, I go after. I didn’t even see Mangok play. I take them because of their culture to learn. It’s unbelievable how humble they are, how much they’re willing to learn. They soak everything in. And the way they look at adults, they revere adults and the wisdom that they may have to make them better.
Q. Rick, because Russ has played so well in this tournament, and even last night you were saying he basically carried us, do you worry at all that the team becomes overly dependent on him and that if his performance, which has been exceptional, goes down even a little bit, other guys are going to need to do a little bit more?
COACH PITINO: I told Russ this morning, I said, Russ, Duke trapped you every time on a pick and roll, and Duke is going to try to take you out of the game early on. I said, You’ve got to get the other guys the ball. Our guys know that. There’s no jealousy. They know Russ has bailed us out of a lot of tough situations.
We’ve got a lot ‑‑ Russ knows that. We have a lot in our favor. The guys texted me and said, What’s wrong with this Undertaker? He keeps picking the other team. I said, He’s been doing that since I’ve been at Kentucky. Don’t worry about it. They said, Why? I said, Because if he picks the other team, he picked Oregon, we have a great chance of winning. I said, It’s our key to our game and you must understand that Digger, I’ve known him a long, long time. He picked every single game until Vitale told him to pick the Washington Generals over the Globetrotters. It took him a year and a half to realize that they weren’t supposed to win and he still kept picking them.
For us, the Undertaker is going to pick Duke. We have major, major advantage in this game.
Q. Rick, you were talking about the kind of the beauty and the level of play in that ’92 game. And at the time, obviously, you had upperclassmen and older players. Can we see that again because players leaving? Can you match that sort of intensity?
COACH PITINO: Well, you saw what Colorado State ‑‑ they had five seniors. I think the game is better today because of the one and done. Much better. Because you have so much diversity. Here, you have Kentucky who they didn’t win because of the one and done. They won because they had Miller, Lamb, Jones, and then two of the best one‑and‑done guys to ever play the game.
So that’s fine. They’ve proven success doing it that way. But then you have a Colorado State that has five seniors. You have an Oregon who has upperclassmen mixing in with young. You have Butler who always gets seniors. So there’s so many different ways of doing it that you really can’t pick the winner.
Would I be surprised right now if Wichita State won the championship? Absolutely not. I would not be surprised. I would have been surprised if Florida Gulf Coast won it. That would have been a big surprise. But I would not ‑‑ what’s left? And I think that’s what makes it so exciting right now, because nobody really knows. We’re the No. 1 of No. 1 seeds. But I know if we played the remaining seven teams ten times, one team would win six, the other would win four.
That kind of parity is great, because it makes fun games.
Q. Coach, Quinn Cook was terrific against you guys in the Bahamas earlier this season, but his play has tailed off a little bit down the stretch. How do you game plan for him, seeing what he’s capable of, versus what you saw from him last night?
COACH PITINO: I always tell the guys, in March, anybody referring ‑‑ let’s say you’ve taken a ‑‑ 90 3s on the year and you’re shooting 28 percent. The fact that you’ve taken 90 and your coach lets you take 90, we consider everybody a big‑time 3‑point threat. That’s the way we look at everybody.
We don’t look at the fact they’re not playing well or playing well. If they have played well and they’ve taken a volume of shots, we consider them a big threat. One of the reasons we won last night is Oregon was winning with a 3‑point shot. They were 8 for 11 against St. Louis. They won by 20.
We held them to four made 3s in the game. That’s why we got beat off the bounce a lot, because we were pushing up. We were going to take away the 3.
So we consider, although he may not be playing well right now, and the fact that somebody said that he hasn’t played well with one day’s rest, we don’t pay any attention to those things.
We consider Cook a valuable, valuable asset. We’re going to try to stop him as well as Curry.
Q. Rick, I know ’92 was a while ago, but when you look at ‑‑ when you break down the film and prepare for Mike’s team now, compared to the way he was in ’92, are there any differences?
COACH PITINO: There’s lot of differences on offense. There’s not too many differences on defense.
I think Duke has been pretty consistent. You’re not going to see a whole lot of full‑court pressure. You’re not going to see a whole lot of zones. I think you may see subtle changes in the way they defend the pick and roll. I think Duke is pretty much the same type of defensive team ever since Mike started coaching.
Q. Rick, as many upsets as there have been during the season and as unpredictable as things have seemed, seven of the eight teams that are left have won an NCAA championship, everyone but Wichita State. What do you think the state of parity is in the men’s game at this point? And do you think that there really are that many teams that can compete for the title?
COACH PITINO: Like I said, I think the game is much better today. And it’s much better for a lot of reasons. Because we have young coaches in the game ‑‑ like Shaka Smart, like Brad Stevens ‑‑ who now say that money really don’t mean a whole lot to me, my program, my players do.
So the coaches are really staying and building something special and staying part of the organization. During my era, everybody was leaving. When I started out, including myself. Now, today, all these coaches, they really don’t care. They make more than enough money. It’s the program that counts.
I really admire that in them. I think the game is much better today because of the way it has evolved with the young coaches. The young coaches are so good, so talented. I think the game has become much better, the consistency of Colorado State being able to have all those really good players.
Going into next year, you’ll probably rank everybody on how many great players they have coming in. I’ve always ranked it how many great players they have coming back. That’s the way I’ve always ranked it.
And when the rankings started this year, I think Indiana was 1, probably, right? And they more than deserved their ranking because of the players coming back. And then the fascinating thing about this game is I’ve seen Syracuse now have almost three different lives.
Going into the Big East Tournament, they’re losing. Their self‑esteem is really low, not playing well. Then they go the finals and are playing great. They get it back. Then they go into the tournament. They lose to us and they had a big lead and they’re not playing well. Looks like they’re going down again. Now they come back again.
It’s fascinating to witness for me. But I think all these programs with great tradition have an unbelievable chance of winning this thing. I think it’s going to be a matter of, for us, if we put Duke to the line as many times as they went last night, we’ll have a difficult time winning.
Q. Rick, you mentioned Hubie a couple of times this weekend. After all these years, are there a couple of things that have really stuck with you from your time under Hubie that really translate into today’s basketball?
COACH PITINO: He taught me not only so much about how data can help you in a basketball game, what’s important and what’s not important, but he really taught me ‑‑ it doesn’t help me too much today ‑‑ about the pro mentality.
He got me to ‑‑ he understood the pros. He understood how to break down the statistician. He understood how to put the game together, and he taught me about the professional athlete and what’s important to him and how to handle the professional athlete.
Now, from that point on, what the professional athlete was like during the Hubie days and I was his assistant, that’s pretty much how the college athlete is today, that mentality.
So he taught me so much. Really, I don’t think ‑‑ it was the best two years of my life as a basketball coach. I wouldn’t say the ‑‑ maybe the two years at Providence because it was a Cinderella story. Outside of that, it was the two best years of my life because I learned the most about basketball, handling players, all the statistical data that went into things being significant on the offensive and defensive end. The man just taught me so much.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach. See you tomorrow.
COACH PITINO: Thank you.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
DUKE Transcript 3-30-2013
THE MODERATOR: We will go to Coach Krzyzewski for an opening statement and then we’ll take questions for anyone who’s up here.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: We’re trying to adjust to a kick turnaround. We left here about 1:00 in the morning, and we’re back. So I’m glad we’re back. We would have been up all night, no matter what. It’s better to be up all night this way.
One good thing about last night, besides winning and playing well, is we didn’t get anybody injured, and we’re trying to get to know Louisville in a very piecemeal fashion. So we’ve watched a little bit of Louisville up to now, and we’re going to do more this afternoon and more tonight and more tomorrow.
When it’s turned around this quickly, you have to kind of do it in stages, because they’re a great team. I think they’re the best team and playing the best right now.
So our guys have done a good job, and we’re going to have to play a great game in order to beat them.
Q. Coach K, you guys played in November, and I know teams change over the months, but what is the benefit of having played Louisville this year?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think the fact just that you were at the same party together. This is a bigger party, so you know how big they are. Even though Dieng was not with them, you have great respect for them. Their guards lived in our paint and they’ve lived in a lot of people’s paints over the years.
They’re better and we’re better. They were interrupted early, and they haven’t been interrupted since then with injury. We’ve been interrupted since then.
But the fact that we played, the fact that we won I don’t think is significant. The fact that we have some familiarity with them helps.
Q. Mason, what does Dieng bring and what kind of things do you need to do to combat him?
MASON PLUMLEE: Well, I think he does the best job in their team of protecting the rim. Obviously blocking shots, but also altering shots. And then offensively he gets buckets around the rim, and then he has a nice little face‑up jump shot.
So I think he gives them a different dimension, but he’s not one of those guys that are 260, 270, where they can just move you on the block.
Q. Coach, same question. Where is Dieng on the list of priorities? How will he change this game?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, he’s one of the best players in the country. I think it helps their defense to have a great rim protector, because they hit you with different types of defenses, and you can be even more aggressive knowing that your basket is protected. I think any team in the country would love to have him.
But then offensively, he’s improved. He’s a legitimate threat to get ‑‑ he’s the second leading scorer and can hit free throws, can make buckets inside and can hit from 15 feet.
His game has really expanded. He’s a terrific player.
Q. Quinn, in the Bahamas, you kind of carried the team down the stretch. You won the MVP award. Is there any carryover, anything you take from that leading into the rematch, how well you played against them the first time?
QUINN COOK: I’m coming to the game with confidence, just playing against two great guys in Russ Smith and Peyton Siva. Our guys know we have to be at the best of our game.
In the Bahamas, it was a battle. All 40 minutes. Guys stepped up at the end of the game, and I was fortunate enough to hit a shot down the stretch and hit some free throws. But my teammates carried us the whole game.
So we know it’s going to be a battle all 40 minutes, so we just want to fight all 40.
Q. For Quinn and Rasheed, what makes their guards so good at getting to the paint? What can you maybe try to do a little differently to prevent that quite as much?
RASHEED SULAIMON: Their guards are tenacious on defense to start off, and their defense leads to easy buckets on the offensive side. And both of those guys, Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, are great at getting into the lane and creating opportunities for themselves and for the rest of their team.
And when you have two guards like that, that can create so much havoc, puts a lot of pressure on your defense, and they really are the bulk of their team, and they’re two important pieces that we have to contain.
QUINN COOK: Just like Rasheed said, it starts on defense. Those two guys pressure the ball better than anyone in the country. It starts with defense, and their defense leads to their offense. And they’re tenacious getting to the rim creating for others. So they’re two of the best.
Q. Mike, this is actually the first time since the 1992 East Regional where you and Rick have teams that are going against each other in the tournament. Two parts to the question. One, can you just talk about your relationship with Rick, if there is one. And, second of all, what memories do you have from that game? I guess, obviously, Christian’s shot seems to be the paramount one. Is there something you think of primarily when you harken back to 1992?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, Rick and I are real close friends. I think he’s one of the best. One of the best ever. And our relationship was good before that game.
After the game, it’s grown exponentially. I think when the basketball gods deem you worthy enough to put you in a great moment, sometimes you’re placed in that moment as a winner, and sometimes you lose. But sometimes the loser shines more than the winner. I thought his ‑‑ how he reacted and has reacted since made him shine. And I respect that. I think he ‑‑ if I’m placed in that situation, I would hope that I would be able to do it at the level that he did it.
Rick’s the kind of guy that he knows he’s good and it’s okay for someone else to be good. And then if the other guy who’s good wins, you shake his hand and you know you’ll be good and you’ll get another chance to be good.
I like that about him. Tom’s like that. Tom Izzo’s like that. And they’re two of the guys that I really respect a great deal in our profession.
Q. Mike, what were your thoughts when you saw that Louisville would be joining the ACC and what does that mean for your league?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, for all these schools that have joined, it makes us the most powerful basketball conference, I think, ever. And I hope our league is able to understand the assets that we’ve accumulated and what it does to the assets we already have.
I think if positioned properly, it sets us apart from anybody. And we shouldn’t look at where football is or whatever. We have the best asset as a result of Louisville, Syracuse, Pitt, Notre Dame, and the assets we have, we’re joining together. I mean, we better know how to make use of it.
Q. Seth, how much, if any, has the condition with your legs improved over the course of the season until now? And does it concern you that in quick turnarounds, where you play in a day or two, that your performance or your production in the second game has dropped off?
SETH CURRY: It’s felt a little bit better as the season’s gone along. The biggest thing is to be able to get used to when I’m at practice and just getting able ‑‑ being able to get in a routine of preparing for games and things like that. That’s the things that’s benefitted me most down the stretch of the season.
I don’t think this next game off short rest is going to be any different. I feel ready to go.
Q. For Rasheed, Quinn, and Seth, as players, how much does it help that you have played against Louisville and you kind of have physically seen them and gone up against that pressure before?
RASHEED SULAIMON: It helps a lot. Like Coach said, they’re a great team and they’re different now. But to have the familiarity that we had playing them earlier in the season is a great help. We know how they are defensively, and we know one of the big keys of the game is to handle that pressure.
And it’s very hard to prepare for a team like Louisville. But knowing that we played them earlier in the season does help a lot.
QUINN COOK: Like Rasheed said, we’ve experienced their defensive pressure and the guards’ pressure. I think they’re a better team now and they’re playing the best basketball in the country, especially with Dieng there. We didn’t see how they played with Dieng. So I know our coaches are doing a great job preparing for those guys, and I think we’ll be ready.
SETH CURRY: You just get the up‑close look at how they attack for 40 minutes. It’s not only playing them, but playing other teams that pressure like them, like, say, VCU or other teams like that, just give us a better idea of what we’re going to see tomorrow.
Q. Coach, are Smith and Siva any ‑‑ are there any similarities that they have with the Durand Scott and Shane Larkin that you faced of Miami?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, you’ve got four really good players. Scott and Larkin are two of the best also. Now, the styles of play are different. The Louisville team really attacks you well in transition. And they play with such a verve and heart when they push the ball up the court.
There’s not a better transition guard in the country ‑‑ I’m trying to think of one in recent memory ‑‑ as Smith. He is courageous, plays with great heart. I’m getting old. If I need a transplant, I hope he would give me his. He could give me part of it and I’d have more courage than I have right now.
But they’re exciting guards. And Miami doesn’t play that way. They’re more in the half court. But these two guys put incredible pressure on you. The whole court, both offensively and defensively. They used the whole court in putting that pressure on you, on both sides of the ball.
Q. Coach K, Rick has said that in the tournament teams don’t get tired because of the number of television timeouts. Do you feel, though, that fatigue could be a factor against their press?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: We’re concerned about our turnaround from last night more so than their press. I think if you have ‑‑ just because your normal clock has been screwed up. In other words, you don’t get to bed ’til 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning from the late game. And then we had drug testing afterwards ‑‑ which is a question to ask for another time, I guess, why you would do that to a team that plays the late game. But I guess I shouldn’t ask that question right now.
That’s what I’m concerned about, is ‑‑ there is enough time in the game to rest. It’s just how do you enter the game. And so we have to make sure our guys enter the game with fresh legs, whatever we can do.
Like we can’t do too much on the court today, and get them off their feet and there won’t be much practice time, as much walk‑through time today.
Q. Ryan, the rest of your teammates kind of spoke of their role. What do you see your role being in tomorrow’s game?
RYAN KELLY: I think it’s going to be huge for me to help handle that pressure. I intend to be the guy that takes the ball out of bounds, and that’s an important position to be in for ball reversal and to help bring the ball up the court.
I think both Mason and I did a pretty good job last time we played them, and throughout the season, handling that type of pressure. But that will be a big part of the game, having poise from that position.
And then rebounding the basketball is going to be huge. Their four‑man, all their four men, they throw multiple guys at you who really attack the boards and are athletic guys. So those will be two huge parts of the game.
Q. Coach K, I was wondering in what ways has Rasheed improved from that November matchup to now?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, he’s had a great freshman year. Playing games like that in Atlantis helped him become better. When you’re playing Minnesota, VCU, and Louisville three consecutive days. He’s a veteran player now. And in the last two games, has really played a complete game, both offensively and defensively. His defensive rebounding the last two games has been a huge factor for us advancing.
He’s our best driver. So last night he was able to take the ball to the basket. And he gives us another ball handler, really good ball handler. So when you’re trying break the press, we feel we have five ball handlers, because all five of these guys can handle the ball.
But Rasheed is an attacker when he has the ball and he can finish, whether it be with a score or with a foul. So he’s become an outstanding player.
Q. For Ryan or Mason, can you describe how it’s different, kind of the role you play against the pressure against VCU against the pressure that Louisville has defensively?
MASON PLUMLEE: I think VCU is quicker to run guys to the ball. Louisville brings it to you more. When you take it to them, they’re going to be aggressive and try to get their hands on the ball. So you just have to be smart. I think you have to be aware of what area of the court you’re in. You don’t want to be thrown into corners, crossing half court in the corners.
You really have to think before you get the ball, where you want to get it.
RYAN KELLY: I think another thing, you have to be very strong with the ball, have great hands, love reaching for the ball, getting steals. And at any point some guy can come running at you. That’s part of the game.
Like I said, I think we’ve done a pretty good job, and we’ll certainly have to play at a high level and do that at a high level tomorrow.
Q. For any of you guys, Ryan said last night that this team realized that after last year maybe you weren’t good enough defensively, maybe not tough enough. How do you make that transformation to be better defensively, to be tougher? And how important is that in a game against a team that wants to treat you that way?
MASON PLUMLEE: I think the first thing is we’re getting better late in the season with our defense. This is a new team. Guys have gotten better individually defensively. But we didn’t have Rasheed last year. Quinn didn’t start for us last year. So I just think our defense as a team has improved greatly, and a lot of that has to do with communicating, knowing where the help’s coming from, and then these guys do a good job of putting pressure on the ball.
SETH CURRY: I think our mindset is better now than it has been middle of the season, beginning of the season.
Defensively, we’re tough coming into games. We’ve been setting tones early in this tournament of getting off to good starts. And that’s just what we have to do going forward.
Q. Mike, would you go back to your comments on the ACC for a second? Obviously, you and Carolina are the only ACC teams to make it this far in the tournament since ’04. Curious, when you say about making the most of those assets, is that as a league or is that sort of getting some of these other teams in the league to keep up with these new teams that are coming in?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think how you use your assets, how we position them TV‑wise. Does our conference develop its own TV network? Where we play the tournament. When do we play the tournament? How do we position our regular season? How do we make ‑‑ how do we have the teams that are playing play schedules that are worthy of being considered for NCAA consideration.
In other words, to take a real close look at our league with the new members and say: Why are we different, why are we better, and how can we be the top league?
And if we don’t do that, then we’re negligent, to be quite frank with you. We’d be negligent. We’d miss out on a great opportunity. These schools shouldn’t be coming in just because we want to do football. Our league was founded on basketball, and that doesn’t mean football isn’t important. It is important. I like it. I want it to be great. But I want ACC basketball to be the best. And we have a chance to do that again.
Q. Mike, I’m curious what your thoughts are on the transfer rules as they’re currently constituted and then the proposal that would allow players to move on without sitting out if they get a 2.6 GPA.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I’m not a big proponent of that one. If there was a players’ union, these kids would go at any time, anywhere. Just like coaches. And they’d get benefits. You couldn’t use their images. I mean, it’s a complex issue. So I don’t have a stand right now.
I think it has to be equal, and right now it’s not equal. We have a kid sitting out who transferred for all the right reasons. They lost their college coach. And he’s not eligible to play. You have a lot of free agents right now. The fifth‑year guys are free agents. That doesn’t mean they’re bad kids, but they’re free agents.
And then there’s not a set rule where every transfer has to do the same thing. And so whatever we decide, every transfer should be treated the same. Not because they’re going home or because of sickness or because their father was fired or anything like that. It should be you’re a transfer, this is what’s allowed to do.
And we as a ‑‑ who do you think talks about those things? Who’s in charge? Well, who, though? No, President Emmert is in charge of the entire NCAA. He’s got a huge job. There should be somebody in charge of college basketball who does this on a day‑to‑day basis and understands everything about it.
And, again, I’m beating ‑‑ just so you know, when they put the dirt on me, inside, underneath the dirt, I’m still going to be yelling for somebody to run college basketball. And for reasons like this. It’s a complex issue. But it’s one that needs really to be studied and be treated in a very equitable manner for all kids, and we should take a look at everything that we’re doing for kids and try to make it as good as possible.
I mean, these guys give a lot. Not just these guys, the Louisville guys. They give a lot, and they’re taken advantage of. They really ‑‑ they are.
THE MODERATOR: We’re going to let the student‑athletes go to the meeting rooms.
Q. Mike, going back to ’92 for a second, as a basketball guy, have you always been able to appreciate just how important that moment was to this sport? Also, when you and Rick have gotten together, have you ever just sat down and talked about that game, your thoughts, your emotions?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, I have thought about how important it is. It’s one of those moments in time that helped define our sport. When I’ve talked to Rick about it, we realize we were the lucky guys. We had different roles at that time, but we were both lucky to be there.
And, to me, even though his team lost in a very heartbreaking fashion, the most heartbreaking fashion there could be, it really ‑‑ that group that had gotten them there was elevated even more.
Like they had started in dirt, you know, and all of a sudden they were in the highest moment and they were knocked back. And Kentucky honored them forever, forever.
Just some amazing things have happened as a result of that game. Again, I feel privileged to have been a part of it.
And he and I have ‑‑ it’s like one of those things where you have this ‑‑ you shared something that no one else could share. So we’ll always be real close as a result of that.
I really like that about our relationship, that we both realize that.
Q. Coach, since the topic of transfers came up, what does it mean for Rodney to be here with the team even though he had to travel on his own.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It’s great. That’s one of the things about the transfer rule, that you’re not allowed to travel with the team. Even though it wouldn’t cost you anything more. And he practices every day with the guys. He’s part of the scout team and whatever.
It’s cruel. It’s cruel. That aspect of it, no matter what they do, as far as keeping everything else equitable ‑‑ if you’re one of the scholarship players, you should be allowed to travel, suit up. You should be on the bench. You’re part of the team.
The other thing that happens over the year, when we have traveled, he wasn’t able to travel with us during the year, so when we leave, where does he go? Who’s responsible for him? I am, supposedly, but I’m at Virginia or Maryland. He’s back in Durham.
Something happened to him or whatever, people would say, Well, what were you doing? I’ll say, Well, I was following a rule. No, you’re responsible for him.
It’s not right. I mean, that aspect of it is ‑‑ even if we don’t change a whole bunch of things, that aspect of it should change. No question.
Q. Mike, what is it about Rick ‑‑ you’ve talked about the ’92 game. What is it about Rick as a coach that made you respect?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I really respect everything about him as a coach. One, he’s brilliant. He’s got charisma. His players play hard all the time, and he’s evolved. He keeps evolving his system. He’s not the same guy that he was, and two years from now, he’ll be a little bit different. He’s always looking to get better.
Rick and passion go hand in hand. He’s just a passionate teacher and he’s passionate on the sidelines. I really admire what he does.
Q. Mike, Quinn did not play particularly well yesterday. As a coaching staff, is there anything you guys can do to kind of help him turn it around when he has less than 48 hours to do so?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Players don’t play well sometimes. He didn’t have a good game last night, but Tyler had a great game. So that’s having each other’s back.
A really important thing for any competitor is to be able to forget. Not just forget when you play bad, but forget when you played well. In other words, get on to the next thing.
He’s played really well this season, and I would expect him to play really well tomorrow afternoon.
Q. Personnel changes from year to year, but ‑‑
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: A lot.
Q. Well, with any coach.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Some more than others, believe me.
Q. Are there fundamental differences in your philosophy than Rick’s? Anything that you would point at that he does a little bit differently than you do?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I don’t study it that way. That’s for you all to figure out. I don’t look at it like what am I doing different than Rick. I’m just trying to ‑‑ my philosophy is always to adjust to the personnel that I have. I’m not a system coach. We play a different way every year based on the people that we have, even if it’s the same people, because they change.
And the things that stay the same is we usually play man to man, but we do it in different ways. And how we run our offense, we change our offense every year to get our best players shots.
To me, that’s what I’ve tried to do my entire career. I do what that with the Olympic team. Each of those teams was different. China, Beijing, Istanbul, and London, they’re different. They’re different.
Q. Mike, in the moment in ’92, do you realize the significance of the moment, or how long does it take to hit you?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: No, I don’t think you can realize the significance at that time. Although you saw the ‑‑ to me, I will always remember the stark ‑‑ the difference in emotion, the result of the game. Because really right in front of me Richie Farmer collapsed. And I see our guys jump and I see him fall. And really I was more taken by Richie. And I understood by looking at him ‑‑ I could never understand completely, because it didn’t happen to me, but just how tough that was.
And so the fact that it was that tough and that happy, you knew you’re in this crazy ‑‑ it was kind of crazy. And then it became bigger because we also won the national championship that year. So it led to the top prize. We would not have won two in a row.
I mean, it could stand on its own, but adding that made it that much better.
Q. For as good as your teams have been and for as good as Rick’s team has been, this is only the third time you’ve played each other and the first time in the tournament since ’92. Is that surprising to you and have you guys tried to schedule ‑‑
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: That’s why we got them in the conference. Got to start doing this a little bit more. Those things don’t surprise me as much, because there’s only so many non‑conference games you play. I guess when you say it, you say, wow, that should have happened more. But you don’t sit around thinking why you haven’t played Louisville. I can’t remember ‑‑ well, we played UCLA. Like the top programs.
I do think it’s cool, the thing that we do at the start of the season with the four teams, Kansas, us, Kentucky and Michigan State, so, you know, they probably should expand that if you’re looking to ‑‑ if you’re looking to see what would promote basketball even more.
Q. Mike, should your team win tomorrow, you will match Coach Wooden for numbers of Final Fours. For those of us of a certain age who grew up thinking nobody would ever come close to a lot of what Coach Wooden’s done, what would that mean to you?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I don’t really think of history while I’m coaching. If you do, I think you’re looking in the rearview mirror, and I got to be in the moment of my guys. So for Quinn and Rasheed, Seth because he wasn’t a player, he was a transfer on the team in ’10, it’s important just to be in their moment.
So I don’t want to count championships or games or Final Fours or anything like that, Elite Eights. That would be a mistake, and I’m not going to do that.
Q. Mike, I know by seeding you’re the underdog in this game, maybe by other means, I don’t know. It’s for the first time in a long time you guys have been in that situation. Anything helpful or liberating about that?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Liberating? No. No, we know going into every game that we’re a target, and we’ll be a target tomorrow. And Louisville has been. So you’ve got two programs that are accustomed to people playing their best against you all the time. Now we’ve got a chance to play our best against one another.
So it’s ‑‑ for an Elite Eight game ‑‑ Elite Eight games are huge anyway. But this one, I think it’s like a national championship game.
Both teams have had great years, and the two years ‑‑ the two seasons of the two teams could match anybody’s in the country. And to have ‑‑ just to have it work out that we’re playing right now against one another, I think it’s great for college basketball.
I hope we both live up to the game.
Q. You were talking about the quick turnaround. In ’86, when you were in the Final Four, you talked at that time about you weren’t experienced enough to help your team make that recovery after a tough game with Kansas. Can you talk about what you’ve learned and how you are better suited now to handle this?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, that’s a good question. Again, you don’t know if it will work, but we’ve just been in a lot of these situations. And what I’ve been doing for the last seven years with the National Team helps you too. Quick turnarounds and learning from different people what they do, the players like at that level, what they do. The mistakes and the good things that you’ve done over the years, and you come up with a plan.
So you never know if the plan is the right thing, but it will be better than the one we had in ’86.
THE MODERATOR: Coach K, thank you.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Thank you very much.
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