Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Coach K unable to pace his young team

By David Droschak
The Associated Press

DURHAM, N.C. - As Duke prepares to make its second trip West in this NCAA tournament, coach Mike Krzyzewski has one worry. Is his team too worn out to advance to a 14th Final Four?

The Blue Devils (26-6) have been going hard since a mid-October trip to Europe as Krzyzewski has tried to get his young team ready for a deep run into the NCAA tournament.

"We really haven't been able to pace this team as I would a more veteran squad," Krzyzewski said Monday. "We've taken it week-after-week and at times that's why there have been some dips. We've always been going at a hard speed.

"It wears your team out some, but we don't have an alternative because if you relax they're not going to pick up the habits that they need to."

The Blue Devils also will be making two trips from the East Coast out West.

After winning two games in the West Regional in Salt Lake City to advance, Duke returned to North Carolina for classes before heading back on a plane late Tuesday for a trip to California and a game against Kansas in Anaheim on Thursday.

"We just can't miss that much school," Krzyzewski said when asked why the team didn't stay on the West Coast. "And for us, we love being here. It rejuvenated us getting back into Raleigh-Durham Airport and coming back to our campus."

Krzyzewski, who has won a remarkable 60 of 75 NCAA tourney games, will watch his club closely for any signs of fatigue before Thursday's game.

"The biggest loss would be the loss of our enthusiasm to play," the Hall of Fame coach said. "If someone beats you, you hope it's because somebody just beats you, not because you weren't excited to play."

Duke's thin bench may also come into play against the Jayhawks (27-7). The Blue Devils received a combined nine points from reserves in wins over Colorado State and Central Michigan.

"This has been a very fragile and young team," Krzyzewski said. "We've had amazingly versatile teams here in the past. This is not a deep team. A deep team has reference points that have been proven. You have a deep team when you call on somebody and you know what they're going to do. That's the kind of depth you want."

Krzyzewski knows Kansas will try to run his team ragged and bang the boards, where the Blue Devils also have been vulnerable this season.

"We still have some young guys we're depending on for defensive habits and they break down a lot easier than a veteran team," he said. "But in Salt Lake City we played well.

"We'll be tested with an entirely different challenge with Kansas. They are the best fast-breaking team in the country. You have a tendency to have your defense always falling back instead of attacking. That's why their secondary break is so successful. They run off the bus and they keep running."

One difficult matchup for the Blue Devils will be Nick Collison, a player Krzyzewski tried to recruit to Duke.

While Duke was able to limit the two 7-footers it saw last week, the 6-foot-9 Collison not only can post up inside, but he's also a top outside shooter.

"I love that kid," Krzyzewski said. "He's capable of scoring 30 and getting 20 rebounds. I think he's the best player in the country. I felt that way when the year started. And he's such a good teammate."

"They're awfully difficult to recruit against, I can tell you that," Kansas coach Roy Williams said of the Blue Devils. "Nick Collison's the only player we've ever gotten that they wanted. They've gotten a lot of other ones we wanted."

Some didn't expect Duke, which has won three national titles under Coach K, to win two games in the NCAAs this season.

And Krzyzewski believes his team will still be an underdog this week. That's fine with him after being one of the favorites for the last few seasons.

"We haven't drawn much attention this year so we were kind of in our own little world out there," Krzyzewski said of the trip to Utah.

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