Coach K gets first shot at record in New York
It seems fitting that Mike Krzyzewski’s first shot at his 903rd career head coaching victory will come in the first game of a doubleheader, a throwback to earlier days of college basketball.
No. 6 Duke will take on Michigan State at Madison Square Garden in the opening game of the inaugural Champions Classic, which will showcase the Blue Devils, Spartans, Kansas and Kentucky. The game will tip off at 7 p.m., followed by the Jayhawks against the Wildcats two hours later.
“I can remember as a kid, going to... Chicago Stadium and watching doubleheaders,” Krzyzewski said. “There weren’t teams on TV, so you got a chance to see guys.... It’s a cool concept.”
Forty-six years after the Duke head coach once saw the Blue Devils play Notre Dame in one of those doubleheaders, he is on the cusp of becoming the winningest coach in NCAA Division I men’s basketball history. But, to get there, he will have to get through an experienced head coach who has 383 wins and a national title on his own resume.
“You never want to be the guy that threw to Hank Aaron,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. “It’s an incredible feat he’s trying to get to. I hope he gets there. I just hope it’s not on our night.”
The two programs met last season at Cameron Indoor Stadium, a 84-79 win for Krzyzewski. Seven of the 10 players who started in that game are no longer with their respective programs, though, leaving both teams reliant on their youth. Five of the 10 Michigan State players to see at least 10 minutes of playing time in the team’s opener were freshman or sophomores. The biggest early issue has been at the point guard position, where converted shooting guard Keith Appling started last Friday. Freshman Travis Trice is the team’s only true point guard, but whether he is ready to start at the collegiate level remains to be seen.
The Duke backcourt, which Izzo said has “not as much depth” as it has in recent years, is still trying to single out an effective primary ballhandler. The duties have so far been split between Seth Curry, Tyler Thornton and Quinn Cook, but the team is still looking for the best way to utilize its guards in orchestrating an efficient offense.
“We are not a selfish team, but at times we dont see other people because we get immersed in what we’re doing individually,” Krzyzewski said after his team’s Saturday win over Presbyterian. “That’s part of what a young team does.”
Krzyzewski said his biggest matchup concern, though, was with Draymond Green. The 6-foot-7, 230-lb forward racked up 19 boards against North Carolina’s John Henson and Tyler Zeller last week.
“Chris Collins [advance scouts] Michigan State, and he just said, ‘Coach, they really rebound,’” Krzyzewski said. “We don’t have Henson [who had nine blocks against the Spartans] so we better block out before they get that first rebound.”
Green, along with teammate Adreian Payne, will provide tougher matchups for Mason and Miles Plumlee, along with Ryan Kelly. who have been dominant during the early season. The trio has tallied 74 points and 48 rebounds in the team’s first two games.
“Duke has a better inside attack than they’ve had [in recent years],” Izzo said. “It’ll be a different kind of game.”