Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is already recognized as one of the premier coaches in college basketball.
After tomorrow, his status among the all-time elite could be cemented.
With 799 career wins, Krzyzewski has a chance to join a prestigious group tomorrow at noon as No. 7 Duke (24-3, 11-2 in the ACC) takes on Tobacco Road rival N.C. State (15-13, 4-10) in Raleigh. Only five Division-I men's coaches--Bob Knight, Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp, Jim Phelan and Eddie Sutton-have reached the 800-win plateau.
"It really just shows that he's a winner," sophomore Gerald Henderson said. "To even coach 800 games is a heck of an accomplishment. It would be good to help him get that. He doesn't coach to get records, but it'll be big for his legacy."
Not that his track record isn't already well-established.
In his time at Duke, the Hall of Fame coach has led the team to a .780 winning percentage, 10 Final Four appearances and three national championships, including back-to-back titles in 1991 and 1992. The three-time National Coach of the Year is also the winningest active coach in NCAA Tournament play, holding a 68-20 record.
His 800th win would be another landmark in a coaching career full of them.
"I wasn't even aware of how many wins it was, but we're going to want it just as bad regardless of what win it was for him," sophomore Jon Scheyer said. "Obviously that gives us a little something extra, but we know going into N.C. State on Saturday it's a huge game no matter what."
To get their coach No. 800, the Blue Devils will have to reverse a two-game road losing streak. Duke fell to Miami and Wake Forest in its last two away games, and the team is not about to overlook the Wolfpack, even though they have lost six in a row.
"It doesn't matter how they've been playing prior to our game," senior captain DeMarcus Nelson said. "They're going to play their butts off. They're a great team, they're talented and we'll have to be ready for a great game."
In the teams' previous meeting Jan. 31 in Cameron Indoor Stadium, N.C. State jumped out to a nine-point halftime lead. The Blue Devils surged back in the second half, however, torching the Wolfpack with 65.6-percent shooting-including 7-for-11 from beyond the arc-to score 55 points in the period and win by 20.
In that contest, Gavin Grant led N.C. State with 26 points, and freshman center J.J. Hickson recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Junior Greg Paulus led Duke with 22 points with five 3-pointers.
"They're very talented," Krzyzewski said. "They're big inside. The first half, I thought they outplayed us. In the second half, we had a few good things go for us and we were able to win the game."
Duke looks to contain Grant and Hickson this time around while also trying to rediscover the 3-point stroke that it had in that 92-72 victory. The Blue Devils shot just 2-for-15 from long range in a 71-58 win over Georgia Tech Wednesday, and they are shooting 29.8 percent from 3-point territory in their last three ACC contests.
Duke, however, seems to have picked up its intensity after losses against Wake Forest and Miami that were characterized by bad passes, turnovers and weak defense. The Blue Devils have held their last two opponents, Georgia Tech and St. John's, to 57 points per game after surrendering 91 per game in their previous two.
With that kind of improved play and a struggling Wolfpack team on deck, Duke appears to be in good position to stay atop the ACC standings. Krzyzewski's squad is currently tied for first with North Carolina.
But after two consecutive conference losses, the Blue Devils know how dangerous ACC road games can be, and they are not about to look past N.C. State-especially with their coach's 800th win on the line.
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