Category Archives: Duke Basketball

1

Final Four – Final Thoughts

1Back in 2010, I had one of the most wonderful experiences in my life.  At that time I witnessed Duke win its last National Title up close and personal.  Now, I return to the same Lucas Oil Stadium where I anxiously another golden opportunity for the Duke Blue Devils.

Magic seasons are few and far between.  It takes luck, it takes fortitude and in the Blue Devils case togetherness.  I've covered many a Mike Krzyzewski coached  team in the past, but this one is special.  Win or lose, they are special.

I have watched as a fabulous freshman class jelled into a cohesive unit.  I have been a witness to Krzyzewski using freshman better than any other coach in the country, always making adjustments.  I have seen these young men grow on the AAU trail into young men who have a chance to make golden memories.

Just as I did in 2010, I took time to go to the top of Lucas Oil Stadium where I could get a view of my surroundings.  I like to do so when the stadium is empty in that it allows me to reflect on the moment in solitude without interruption.  In those moments, I realize how lucky I have been to cover Duke Basketball and go along for the ride.

While the ride is always different with each team, Duke Basketball always has class kids, but this years group is special to me.  Having been up close and personal with them for so long, I have developed a bad case of homer media love for them.  This team just handles themselves in the very best way possible on and off the court.

Despite their youth, they stay grounded, focused and never get to high or too low.  They are business like and wise beyond their years.  But it also takes a leader and they have one on senior Quinn Cook.  I covered Cook when he was fifteen years old and playing for DeMatha and I have watched him grow.

Cook is currently in the midst of a fabulous, dream like senior season.  And he will be playing for his mom and deceased Dad who left the world too early this evening.  Somewhere in heaven, I get the impression he has a ring side seat and he will be proud of his son win or lost, just as his mom will be.

Everything is working out for Duke.  They are in the title game and that in itself is a herculean effort and what every team plays for.  But they want more and the team they face is seasoned, hungry and hell bent on revenge.

Wisconsin comes into this game red-hot, downing the highest seeds along the way, including the former monster known as Kentucky.  They are playing great basketball  and like Duke, they are a likable bunch.  Unlike Kentucky fans who were quick to berate opposing fans when walking around Indianapolis, Badger fans are glad to be here and more humble.  And they will outnumber Duke fans greatly if the red we all see in the streets makes it in the arena.

Duke on the other hand is winning with defense.  For Duke to shut down or slow the Badgers it will take an effort for the aforementioned are averaging over 70 points per game over their last ten outings.  There will be a bit of a sideshow, with National Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky will face runner up Jahlil Okafor.

But intangibles loom large in a game on this stage.  If Okafor tries to go one on one to prove himself that may or may not work out.  If Cook tried to take on too big of a role or force things, that too could be detrimental.  On the other hand, if Duke plays as they have been it will mean a trophy and the big one.

The line on this game is Wisconsin by a single point and they will start the game strong.  Duke needs to match that.  This is not a game where either team can afford to give up a large lead and it's a contest that will almost certainly go to the wire in nail-biting fashion.

In closing, I will say a loss will be devastating, and a win glorious.  But this team has achieved a lot and they are winners either way.

Here is to hoping Blue Devil Nation will be happy by nights end and that you will come here for some good old-fashioned homer coverage.

d12

Final Four – Duke Basketball Notebook

d12The Duke Blue Devils have rolled to a 34-4 record and a chance to win a National Championship .  They'll take to the court for a 9:18 tip off time tomorrow against a 36-3 Wisconsin team which upset previously undefeated Kentucky.  Let's take a look at how this Duke team got here and what it will take to win.

Late Season Defensive Pride

When Michigan State came out and hit four consecutive three-point shots to take an eight point lead, Duke used its defense to lock down on their shooters and advance to the title game.  The Spartans scored a mere 61 points after starting the game on fire and that's the most of any team in this tournament to date.   When asked of his team's defense of late, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski pointed to the team playing better man to man defense and grasping the concept better than early in the year.  Duke has always been an effective team on the offensive end, but it took this team a while to play the man to man defense their coach prefers.  Part of that is the youth factor for sure, but Krzyzewski has a team now that knows he can lead them to the promised land if they listen.  Listening and communication go hand in hand and it's the reason for the late season resurgence on the defensive end.

The X-Factor

Krzyzewski was questioned about who or what will be the X-Factor during Monday evenings title game.  Had the media member been watching Duke closely all season long, they would have realized that the X-Factor is simply playing together.  During today's interview sessions, all the Duke players mentioned that the team was unselfish and that they did not play for individual honors.  Togetherness has been the main component in the Blue Devils run through the tournament and the same goes for their opponent Wisconsin.  Both teams have benefitted differently in that the Badgers have played together for years while the Blue Devils meshed top-notch young talent together.  So, if you ask me what the X-Factor would be for the game, I'd say simply continuing to play as a unit and not as an individual.  And there in lies a significant challenge, for some players want to shine on the big stage or impress NBA scouts.  If this happens, it will not bode well.  Quite simply, Duke must play as a cohesive unit for Wisconsin most certainly will.

The Revenge Factor

It's hard to say whether Wisconsin will be pinning their ears back watching the first game where Duke defeated them earlier this season.  Since that time both teams have changed and both are better.  Michigan State had reason for revenge as well and it didn't work out well for them.  But the Badgers are a much better team and Duke broke a long home court winning streak of theirs.  I think they will be into the game with some revenge in mind.  I think they want to be the most stored team in Badger history and that they'll come into this game with the same confidence they had versus Kentucky.

How Can Duke Win

Most will point to Jahlil Okafor having a big game, but to me it's if he can hit the open man.  There is little reason to think the Badgers will guard him with a single man.  If double teamed, the Duke guards have knock down three's.  Duke also needs to rotate the ball a little better for their assists of late have been slightly down.  It will not work out well for Duke to go down eight early to a team like Wisconsin.  In fact, Duke really needs a quick start and then they have to weather the storms.  The latest line is Wisconsin by a point, so most feel this will be a close game.  The coaches get little sleep this time of year and they are working on their plans, but on the biggest stage, it's the team which executes that wins.

The bottom line if this will be a hard-fought game that likely goes down to the wire.  Even Krzyzewski seemed to realize that in today's press conference where spoke of Okafor hitting free throws.  Duke fans hope it doesn't come to that but the game may well come down to a single play.  We'll know soon enough how this one plays out and whether Duke brings home the trophy. Continue reading

d8

Duke vs Wisconsin Game Notes

d8Duke (34-4, 15-3 ACC) vs. [3/3] Wisconsin (36-3, 16-2 Big Ten)

Monday, April 6, 2015 • 9:18 p.m. • CBS

Indianapolis, Ind. • Lucas Oil Stadium • NCAA Championship Game

Opening Tip

• Duke (34-4, 15-3 ACC) faces Wisconsin (36-3, 16-2 Big Ten) Monday, April 6 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in the NCAA Championship game. Tipoff is set for 9:18 p.m. with Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill and Tracy Wolfson calling the action for CBS.

• The Blue Devils were tabbed the No. 1 seed in the South Region. Duke has received a No. 1 seed 13 times, second-most in NCAA Tournament history. The Blue Devils are 50-9 (.847) as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

• Duke is 104-34 (.754) all-time in NCAA Tournament play, including an 87-26 (.770) mark under head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

• Mike Krzyzewski has led Duke to nine NCAA Championship game appearances, second-most in NCAA history.

• The Blue Devils enter Monday’s game ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll and No. 5 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Duke is 80-15 (.842) overall when ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll.

• Duke is playing its 292nd consecutive game as a ranked team in the AP Poll. The Blue Devils are 242-49 (.832) in that span.

• Wisconsin is ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll and USA Today Coaches Poll. Duke is 13-22 (.371) all-time against the No. 3 team in the AP Poll.

• Duke is 10-2 (.833) on the year against ranked opponents, including a 5-1 (.833) mark against teams ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll.

• The Blue Devils are 9-2 (.818) in NCAA Tournament play in the state of Indiana. Duke is 8-2 (.800) in Indianapolis, including a 4-1 (.800) mark at Lucas Oil Stadium. Duke completed NCAA Tournament championship runs in Indianapolis in 1991 and 2010.

• Duke has limited its five NCAA Tournament opponents to 55.0 points per game on 37.4 percent (108-of-289) shooting from the field.

• The Blue Devils are shooting 50.4 percent (131-of-260) from the field, including 39.7 percent (29-of-73) from three-point range in NCAA Tournament play.

By the Numbers

• Jahlil Okafor has averaged 17.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game to earn consensus first team All-America status. He is the 18th Duke player overall and just the second freshman (Jabari Parker - 2014) to accomplish that feat.

• Quinn Cook, a Sporting News second team All-America selection, is averaging a career-high 15.6 points per game while also posting career bests in field goal percentage (.455), three-point percentage (.400), three-point field goals (2.68 3pg.) and free throw percentage (.891).

• Duke is the only team in the NCAA with three freshmen averaging double figures in scoring. Jahlil Okafor (17.5 ppg.), Justise Winslow (12.7 ppg.) and Tyus Jones (11.5 ppg.) combine for 41.7 points per game (52.4 percent of Duke scoring). The trio has combined for 40 or more points in a game 24 times this season. The Blue Devils are 22-2 when the trio combines to score 40 or more points in a game.

• Justise Winslow is averaging 15.0 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.6 steals in NCAA Tournament play. He is shooting 54.3 percent (25-of-46) from the field, including 58.3 percent (7-of-12) from three-point range.

• A freshman has led the Blue Devils in scoring in 28 of 38 games. Jahlil Okafor has paced the offensive attack 14 times, while Tyus Jones (7), Justise Winslow (6) and Grayson Allen (1) have also led Duke in scoring. The rookie class has also accounted for 25 of Duke’s 32 20-point games on the year (Okafor 14, Jones 6, Winslow 4, Allen 1).

• Duke’s starting backcourt of Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones has combined to shoot 88.7 percent (235-of-265) from the free throw line. The remaining six players in the Duke rotation are 333-of-548 (.608) from the charity stripe.

• Jahlil Okafor ranks second nationally with a .667 field goal percentage (274-of-411). He has shot 70 percent or better from the field 20 times on the year.

• Justise Winslow is averaging 14.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while shooting 54.8 percent (102-of-186) from the field, including 51.1 percent (23-of-45) from three-point range, over the past 19 games. He has scored in double figures in 18 of the 19 contests and has seven double-doubles in that span.

• Justise Winslow is averaging 6.4 rebounds per game. He is looking to become the second player 6-6 or under to average 6.0 rpg. under Coach K. Chris Carrawell averaged 6.1 rpg. in 1999-2000.

• Tyus Jones is averaging 15.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game against ranked opponents. He has scored in double figures in 11 of 12 games, including three 20+ point efforts.

• Jahlil Okafor has scored 648 points on the season to become the second Duke freshman and the seventh ACC rookie to top the 600-point mark. Jabari Parker holds the Duke freshmen scoring record with 670 points.

• Tyus Jones ranks in the top three in the Duke freshman record books in assist-to-turnover ratio (1st - 2.88:1), assists (3rd - 216), made free throws (2nd - 137), minutes played (1st - 1,285) and games started (T-1st - 38).

• Duke has held each of its five NCAA Tournament opponents under 65 points, marking the second time in program history it has accomplished that feat.

• Duke has won four of its five NCAA Tournament games by double figures and has a +17.6 scoring margin heading into Monday’s championship game.

6

Duke Final Four Notebook

6The Duke Blue Devils will take to the court at 6:09 today for a chance to advance to the coveted national championship game.

First things, first

The Blue Devils cannot afford to look ahead for Michigan State is not the same team they defeated on November the 18th.  The Spartans share the ball with the best of them.  In fact, they are fourth in the country in assists and the rebound well, coming in at 36th.   They're scrappy and much older than Duke.  Trust me, they are a solid team and I think Duke knows this.  It's almost insulting to see how many have penciled the Blue Devils in, as if to tempt fate or the Basketball God's.  Those who follow Duke should know better but some would love nothing more than to see this team stumble.  The Spartans have lost just one of their last nine games, that being an overtime loss to Wisconsin.  To come out of this game alive, Duke quite simply needs a huge effort from Jahlil Okafor.  They would also bode well if they can keep their nerves in check for as experience as the freshman may be, they are still 19 years old and younger.  When you get this far in the tournament, every game is a war, not only on the court, but mentally.  If Duke shows the focus, togetherness and toughness they have to date, they will advance.  If not, Myrtle Beach will be calling.

It'll be an away game

There are plenty of Duke faithful here, but they pale in comparison to Kentucky fans.  And Kentucky fans will pull against Duke.  No matter where you go in Indianapolis, Kentucky fans are many for they are just south of the event.  They are loud, boisterous and some are downright taunting and arrogant.  Duke will also likely face jeers tonight from Badger fans as well, so three quarters of the venue will be against them.

Indy is built for tournaments

When you walk around Indianapolis, it's like being in a village.  Everything is connected within a short distance from Lucas Oil Stadium.  Washington Street is hopping with it's many bars and restaurants there and on off streets.  The Fan Fest Music Festival is right across the street from the media motel.  I have a room with a view of the stage acts like Weezer, Imagine Dragons, Rihanna, Lady Antebellum and the Zac Brown Band are among 19 performing for free.  Folks are friendly with the exception of a few drunken fans and the atmosphere is as good as it gets.  This is my second Final Four here, the first being the 2010 National Championship and this place always provides memories.

7Bottom line stats

Duke is 8-2 in tournament play in the state of Indiana.  Coach K is 8-2 in semi final games.  Duke has limited it's four NCAA opponents to 53.5 ppg.  Duke is shooting 50% from the field in the tournament.   Duke is 49-9 as a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.

What happens if they win

More coverage, post game videos and photos to come at Blue Devil Nation.  This will include Sunday up close and personal chat with players and Coach Mike Krzyzewski.  We'll be in the Duke locker room after tonight's game, so check back often into the evening.

1

Coach K, Duke players Q & A

1Here is a transcript of the question and answer session for Mike Krzyzewski and Duke players from Indy.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, we're anxious to get to the shoot here in front of people. I think one of the great things that's been added to the event is our ability, all the teams, to practice yesterday and get a feel for the court. Then you do the thing today with the fans, and then you still have a shootaround tomorrow. I think that's great. We're in good health. We're ready to go. So, questions.

8Q. How has your relationship with Quinn evolved, especially in the last year? Did something happen before last season with the two of you or with the staff, et cetera, when it comes to Quinn?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: We've always had a good relationship. It's not just a certain player, but any leader of our past teams, when you have leaders, you get to be a little bit closer to them because it's not just about X's and O's, it's just how you're living as a group. Right at the end of last season, after the season, we sat down with all of our players. With Quinn, we talked about the fact that here is this class that's coming in. Tyus is one of the really good point guards. People think of you as a point guard. They just put you in there. But you have been a guard for us. You're our best shooter. You're going to be our oldest player. Where does that fit? How does that fit? I tried to explain what I thought. And he said, Yeah, that's how I would fit. I said, I'm going to depend on you. He's taken that to the highest level. So along through the season, yeah, you just become really close to somebody. It's like the frequency of contact and intimacy, intimate situations, tough situations, that a relationship grows. We have an unbelievable relationship.

Q. Coach Izzo, I asked him about how far back you two go. He talked about recruiting Chris Webber. What do you remember about the early times with Coach Izzo?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, we were both unsuccessful. I guess that's the first thing (laughter). Tom is a guy's guy. He's on a staff where I respected Jud Heathcote, always loved Jud. Respected Michigan State when Jud was the coach and obviously when Tom has been the coach. Basically, there were no errors about him. He's genuine, a genuine guy. He wasn't trying to manipulate or anything like that. Then he gives back, the coaching fraternity, whether it be on the board of the NABC. He's a team player. You get to know the guys who are team players better who are in your profession. I mean, I'm sure you do in your own profession. He's the ultimate guy for that. I don't think there's a guy out there who would say something even the slightest negative about Tom.

Q. You've been to so many Final Fours. Is there something you've done at every Final Four? I don't mean in a superstitious way, but something you found that helps your team when you get to a level like this? And how different is the Final Four now from what it was the first time you went to one?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I'll take the second question first. It's changed a lot. It keeps improving. One, the stature of it keeps growing because our game keeps growing. That's a really good thing. Then the organizers of the event. How the NCAA puts it on, it keeps getting better. I think the influence of Dan Gavitt and JoAn Scott on this Final Four has been remarkable. You can see a lot of new things that have been placed, where it's for the players. The locker rooms, just everything. It keeps getting better. How the teams are treated. I just talked about the ability to come into the gym, really get comfortable with the gym. I think earlier it was more like 'being used' is too harsh, but it wasn't player-sensitive, it wasn't team-sensitive as much as it is now. I think the players are well, well taken care of. They have an amazing experience. Again, this is a harsher word, they're not exploited. I wish I had a softer word. But even like last night, we went to the thing they do for the fans. I don't know what they call that. Fan Fest. Tough word (laughter). It was beautiful. It was just beautiful. It was for all the teams so they weren't inundated. We went to Salute presentation. Instead of it being long and drawn out, Jim Nantz, CBS, Turner, all those people made the kids feel good. As far as how we've changed, the first time you don't know what the heck you're going in to. I think the main thing that we've done is we refer to what was good for us when we left, how we traveled, when we practiced, that type of thing, what we did while we were in the Final Four. It's a combination of all those things. It's more of an evolution of what you do. The main thing is how good the NCAA, how good they've been. Again, I want to mention Dan Gavitt and JoAn Scott again. They've been great.

3Q. Mike, John has gotten some criticism for the number of one-and-done players.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: John Calipari?

Q. Yes. It's not a phenomenon unique to Kentucky. Do you think it's fair, the criticism he's got? How much of a reality does it have to be for coaches now, knowing that you're going to have some kids only there for a year?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think a lot of criticism we get as players and coaches is not right. Look, it's there. What, are you going to discriminate against one-and-done? Where are these kids going to go? How well can they be taken care of? When we recruit a kid, we don't say, You're one-and-done, but we recognize he could be. Basically you say, Look, when you're here at our school, you're going to have to go to class, you're going to have to move forward towards a degree at Duke. We don't have athletic dorms. You're going to be a student. If they qualify and adhere to all that, that's good. One thing, in college today, there are many kids who are not graduating from college, who find something in a profession before the end of four years, to do something. The other thing is I think our sport, I have a Sirius XM show that I've had for 10 years. This past week we had Mike Trout on. Like at 17, he was playing minor league baseball. He's 23, and he's the best player maybe in the Major Leagues. They have their things where you either go out of high school or you come for three years. He shouldn't be criticized for that. I say that, and we shouldn't be either, you know. Our kids are good, they become successful, we have no control over that. The next time there's a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Players' Association and the NBA owners, I'm sure that will come up. It seems like they're at two opposite ends of that. I think Adam and the NBA would like two, and from what initially has come out from counsel from the players union is they would like kids to come right out of high school. To me, that's a pretty big variance.

Q. When you look at Jahlil, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Frank, is this the best collection of big men in a Final Four? If not, what would you say rival it? Are the best big four men playing here in Indianapolis?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I'm not as good a basketball historian to remember who was in all these Final Fours. I will speak to this Final Four. You have a great collection of big men. I mean, Jah is just an amazing talent who is only going to get better. In Frank, I think it's one of those great collegiate stories where you come in, like that kid's not going to be that good. Well, he's pretty good. Well, he's great. What a neat story with that. Towns is a little bit more like Jah. He's an amazing talent, great kid. Willie Cauley-Stein is the gifted athlete at 7' that was playing a different sport, and John Calipari was able to see that. That's a lot of talent here. I'm sure all four of those guys are looked upon very highly by the NBA.

Q. On the subject you were just talking about, how you identify guys who could become one-and-dones. With this particular year, this particular class, was there any reservation at all on your part, these are great players, we may have to replace as many as three of them after one year or is that the reality of fielding a championship-type team at this time?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It wasn't one-and-done. There were maybe eight to 12 kids that we didn't recruit each year because we felt they would go right to the NBA. Most of them did, but some of them didn't. Then when one-and-done became in effect, we still didn't recruit those kids, and then we started to recruit because we said, Maybe some of them or one of them could fit the profile for Duke. When I say that, that doesn't mean they're not great kids and all that, but there's a certain profile we look for, for whether he's one-and-done or four years or whatever. So if we can find kids that fit our profile, we'll deal with the consequences of whether they're there for one, two, three or four years. I think to get the right kid is the most important. We need to respond accordingly. If we lose them earlier... You'd always like to have them stay for the entire time. In a lot of respects, I think the kids would like to stay that long, too. Financially, it's very difficult to make that decision.

Q. You have these four teams here with such a high pedigree. Three of the four coaches have won championships before. So much of what we've talked about has been this Kentucky team being still undefeated. No one has done that since the '70s. Talk about the respect you have for what Kentucky has been able to do even to this point and what it would mean historically if a team can go undefeated?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, the other three coaches don't want him to go undefeated. We don't want to be a part of that history. But I said yesterday, the Kentucky story has been a great story for college basketball because we've talked about a team. I think part of the marketing of our sport, because it's not coordinated like the NBA marketing, it started to shift towards what the NBA does, promoting individuals, especially the potential one-and-done players. I thought that was to the detriment of our sport. This year, with Kentucky's story, it's about a team. Hence, you've been talking more about other teams, too. So I think it's been all good for college basketball.

Q. I wanted to ask you about the concept of clutch performers or players. Do you think that's something that is innate, something a guy has, or is that something that can be developed? Laettner is probably the all-time --
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: That's why I love him.

Q. Can you discuss that maybe.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think some of it, it just happens for a youngster. They have it. They have a certain personality, a certain will. In order to be a clutch player, you have to be good. First of all, you won't be on the court. Secondly, you won't get a play called for you. In other words, you see that, you see that with talent. Then as a coach you try to put talent and attitude in a position that in a pressure situation you have a better chance of winning if that kid has the ball. There have been a number of clutch performances by all these guys, from all four teams. That's why I made mention of Trice. I think he's been a big-time performer. Quinn Cook and Tyus at the end of games free throw-wise for us. The whole Kentucky team against Notre Dame. You know, you talk about a lot of clutch plays. But Harrison, with his shooting... Dekker in their regional championship game. The constant is they're talented. They have something about them that wants to be -- they're willing to accept the consequences of that play. You know, they're strong enough to absorb if they don't do it. Thank goodness there are players like that.

Q. What have been the traits that have made Jeff Capel a successful recruiter?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: One, he understands a player because he was a terrific player. He's been a head coach already, and a very successful head coach. He is really the one who started the VCU program. When you look back, when he left to go to Oklahoma, he left some really good players there. Then he coached one of the best players in college basketball in Blake Griffin. Yeah, he grew up. His dad's a terrific coach. He just understands the game. Jeff is very current. You know, he knows how to communicate, music-wise, people-wise, sports-wise. I just think he's one of the really gifted coaches. And he knows ball. He was with me and was my main coordinator with the U.S. team when we won the World Cup in September in Madrid. Really, he's got everything. He and I have had an unbelievable relationship this year because of having lost WoJo and Chris Collins over the last two years.

Q. Elements of college sports are generating large sums of money. The NCAA makes money. The conferences make money. Yet it seems like the most important element of the athletic equation, which is the athlete, continues to go unpaid. Do you ever think there will be a set of circumstances where the athletes can get compensated for some of the things they do to make the sports what they are today?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think we've moved forward significantly in trying to do more for the student-athletes. This past year has been a landmark year for how we feed, how we take care of an athlete on our campuses. I mean, will there be more? I hope so. I don't know all the things like the taxes, what a school does. I'm not familiar enough to know if being able to get paid would eliminate you from getting funds and that. But taking care of them, even for this trip, a really cool thing, we're on the bus going to the airport in Houston. Our director of compliance, Todd Mesibov, goes in the back of our bus. He has forms. He talks to our guys. He said, I got to talk to you about your families are going to receive $3,000 for travel expenses and that for the Final Four. If we make it to Monday, they receive another $1,000. Our guys are like, Wow. Now should that have been done a long time ago? Yeah. But it's now being done. How we feed them, what they get from a scholarship is much more. Hopefully we can keep doing more and take care of them, to include health benefits afterwards to make sure that their education is there if they do leave early, that it's always paid for, things like that. I wish I was good enough to be able to explain. If they could get paid, if they can, if it can be worked out, obviously coaches would be all for it. If not, then let's keep moving in the direction that we're moving, because certainly the players deserve that.

Q. You spoke yesterday about your relationship with Quinn. What makes that so special?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, I want to say everything. I love Quinn. He's loveable. He and Nolan are real close. Nolan is like his big brother. He and Nolan both shared a very tragic experience in their lives in that they lost their fathers, I think Nolan when he was eight or nine, and Quinn when he was 14. So an older male relationship was voided. There's a missing part. I think every coach would say this: When we recruit kids who have one parent, especially if their father is not a part of it, they understand there's going to be a different relationship. They need to work on that. My middle daughter, Lindy, is a counselor for our team, she's a psychologist. We talk about how you develop a relationship with each kid. When you have that, that's going to happen. In Quinn's case, there's a damaged heart there. There's no question about it. But there's a beautiful heart there. So I think our relationship I believe has filled a little bit of that. We believe in one another. For a whole year, and it just started, he's the one who started it, every time we meet as a team and we get together and we join hands, his hand is in mine. I mean, there are hundreds of times. And he initiated that. And now I so look forward to it. So, you know, that's one of the beautiful things. A beautiful thing if we won the whole thing, but I'm not sure it would be any more beautiful than that.

THE MODERATOR: We're going to stop momentarily and welcome the Duke players. We'll continue with questions.

Q. Your opponent Saturday, what it may lack in talent it makes up for in toughness relative to the number one seeds. Can you talk about that aspect of who they are, plus the motivating factor of Tom's record against Duke and what that means for the challenge that you're going to face Saturday night.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, well, the record, I'm not a big guy on records on Mondays, Tuesdays, coaches, when you were 18. You know, stats are unbelievable, man. That doesn't make a difference at all. They're going to be ready. You know what, they don't lack talent. C'mon. I mean, Trice has been as good a player as there's been in this tournament. Branden Dawson is as good an athlete. Valentine is a versatile a player. I mean, Michigan State is a championship-level team. They probably should have beaten Wisconsin. They had it if they called an out of bounds. A guy out of bounds at the end of the game, they had the Big Ten championship won. It's a championship-level program and team. Are you trying to butter us up here or what? I just told these guys, we just watched them, they looked pretty good, didn't they, on tape? Anyway, that's mine.

QUINN COOK: They're very talented. You know, obviously Michigan State is an elite program, so they are there for a reason. Coach Izzo does a great job. They're here for a reason. They've had an underdog mentality all March. People counting them out because they had a couple losses. They had eight overtime games. They've had the underdog mentality. It's going to be a tough, tough game. They're here for a reason. They're a championship-level team. We have our hands full.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: They're six possessions away from having 30-something wins or being a number one or number two seed. That's how crazy our game is, because they've been in so many close games.

Q. Mike, concept of servant leadership. I'm sure there have been leaders who servanthood isn't number one in their priorities, but how important is that concept in your mind and can you give a couple of examples who have been the epitome of that in your career?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I have many examples. I went to a school that is about servant leadership. The United States military academy. Our relationship with the military, you might as well say everyone who's serving in a leadership role, whether it be Marty Dempsey, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, or a platoon sergeant in Afghanistan right now. To me, that's where I've learned the most. I can't think of any better example than that.

Q. Coach, you've coached many Final Four teams. What do you think makes the identity of this year's team unique?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: The fact that they play as one. They've shown up to play every time. When they've been a little bit nervous or weren't on top of the games, they were able usually, except for two games in early January, to turn it around and either win the game or put us in a position to win the game. They've been a really easy group to coach because they're believers. But playing as one, and we have talent. So talent coordinated as one usually produces some good results.

Q. You've been to many Final Fours. Obviously the last time you were here in Indy, the outcome was what you want most out of a season. How special is it coming back to a place where you've won a national title? What ring do you have on your right finger and does that have any significance?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: The ring I'm wearing, I actually have more than one right finger, so I'm not a one-finger guy (smiling). It's our 2010 national championship ring. I've worn it throughout the tournament just as a reminder to me and to our team of our ultimate goal, to win a national championship. Usually I don't wear a ring on my right fingers, but I did for the tournament. Not for luck or anything, just as a constant reminder of what it is. To come back here, again, I think this is the best place to have it. Nothing against any other place. Yeah, it starts with the state of Indiana. They just love the game of basketball. Indianapolis is where the NCAA is headquartered. Everything's within walking distance. It's terrific. Yesterday, I mean, for these guys, it's your first time in Lucas Oil, it was a huge thing. What did you guys think of the arena?

TYUS JONES: It's just special. It's just special. You can just feel it in the air, how important it is, what it means to us to be here. To have a practice in Lucas Oil, just look out and see how many seats are out there. On Saturday night, those seats are all going to be filled. It's a special feeling and we're honored to be here.

JUSTISE WINSLOW: I thought it was an amazing stadium, Lucas Oil. Just being in Houston last week, they had the stadium kind of cut off. This one was different. It's pretty much all open. Just to see how big it is, imagine all the fans in there filling it up seems like a special night and a special place to have the Final Four.

Q. Mike, when Tom was up here earlier and I asked him about shooting in domes, he said he feels like it's gotten better over the years because you have situations where it's not just a court being dropped someplace, it's built more for basketball. Has it gotten a little bit easier or better for shooters? Quinn, can you elaborate on the challenges for a shooter in a dome.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: We like that it's in a dome because that means more people are here. I think it's good for the game. It's up to players and coaches to adjust. That's why I think giving us an opportunity to practice yesterday for each team, to practice today and shoot tomorrow during the day, that should be enough really. If we don't shoot well, we're not going to be up here Saturday night saying it was the dome. It will be Michigan State, probably. I don't know how you feel, Quinn.

QUINN COOK: I agree 100%.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: That's what you were supposed to say (smiling).

QUINN COOK: We get enough shots up in practice and before the game, shootaround, I think we feel very comfortable with the gym. Playing at Syracuse this year was good for us. Playing last week at the Houston Texans stadium was good for us. It's all mental. If you come in the game doubting yourself, you're not going to shoot the ball well. We're a very confident team. Coach gives us the ultimate confidence to shoot our shots. It will be more Michigan State we're worried about than the dome.

4Q. Jahlil, everybody knows what a great offensive player you are with your footwork and everything. How much work do you feel you need on defense? Can you improve with that big body? Coach K, if you could comment, as well.
JAHLIL OKAFOR: I think I have improved as the season progressed, watching a lot of film with the coaches, talking to my teammates. They've been helping me out the entire season. I think I've improved as the season progressed and I'm still looking to improve.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think he needs to be with us for four years and he'll really improve (smiling). He's a good defensive player. He's a hell of a player. We're okay with Jah.

Q. Quinn and Mike, could you comment on the development of Tyus over the course of the season.
QUINN COOK: Well, he's grown up at a fast pace. Coming into the season with my expectations, him, Jah, Justise coming in, Grayson also coming in with high expectations, it's tough. These guys came in so humble. That's the first thing that stuck out to me, how humble these four guys were. Myself and Tyus, a lot of people try to make a big deal about us playing the same position, us not playing together. That's made us closer. He's grown up so much, always asking advice, always seeking advice from everybody on the team. He just improved so much, man. I'm happy that I share a backcourt with him because in my eyes, he's one of the better guards in the country. So I'm happy he's passing me the ball and I'm passing him the ball instead of me guarding him. I'm just proud of him and what a successful freshman year he's had.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI: He's had a good teacher, and it hasn't been his coach. It's been primarily Quinn.