The Chronicle's Meredith Shiner interviewed ESPN analyst and former Duke starter Jay Bilas the day after the brackets were released to get his thoughts on the Blue Devils, their draw and their chances to win it all.
Meredith Shiner: If Duke makes it to the regional final, can it beat UCLA?
Jay Bilas: They'd certainly have to contend with one of the best big guys in the country in Kevin Love. He's a freshman and he's the player of the year in the Pac-10. He is a great low-post player that can pass it, he can step away and shoot it, and he's a superior rebounder. I'm not sure that as good as Tyler Hansbrough is, I think that Love, though he's perhaps not as valuable a player as Hansbrough, he's a better player. Certainly more efficient.
MS: One of the Blue Devils' perceived weaknesses is their interior game. How can they compensate for that in the Tournament, and who do you see as a threat to them advancing?
JB: If UConn were to make it that far, and it were a Duke-UConn matchup, that would be a problem. Duke-Arizona in the second round, if Arizona were to win, Arizona's got a kid named Jordan Hill who's 6-foot-11 and a really good player. The only way to really combat it, unless there's some sort of growth spurt between now and the start of the Tournament is to really get out and pressure the ball and force offenses further out on the court, take away their vision of passes inside, turn 'em over and really score off your defense.
MS: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski made a point of really going to his bench in the ACC Tournament. How could that sort of gameplan be beneficial in the NCAAs?
JB: When you're playing against a team that presses and gets up and down, you can substitute a little more liberally. I think in the NCAA Tournament, you're not going to face many pressing teams. Clemson is a little bit unique in that regard. It's hard to press really good teams and do that for 40 minutes without giving up a lot of 3-on-2s and 2-on-1s. In the NCAAs, the games tend to be more halfcourt in nature because teams are pretty proficient in breaking pressure. You're dealing with the best teams in the country.
MS: Duke has had a newer-look offense, and at times, defense, this year. Has Coach K become more flexible in the 20-plus years you have known him?
JB: He's always been flexible. He's always changed and adapted based on the personnel he's got. He's never really had a quote-en-quote system. Sometimes he pressures more when he's got the team to do it, other times he's not able to bring as much pressure defensively. He's always played mostly man. But, you know, we played zone in the '80s. It's not like that's some new concept for him. He's played it a little more in certain games than perhaps in the past. I think against Virginia, he played it for at least 20 minutes. That was a little bit unusual, but when he put it on, they started jacking up shots and missing them all.
I don't think that necessarily exhibits some major change in his thinking, but the makeup of this team this year is a bit different. So he's changed their style a little bit and continued to adapt to that 3-point line. The 3-point line is 21 years old now. These kids have grown up with it, and they've learned how to play with it. The game has changed. It's more of a drive and kick and 3-point game than it used to be.
MS: How did you get set up with that band-surfing gig in Cameron for the UNC game?
JB: Somebody asked me to do it; I guess the guy that does it normally got hurt doing it last time, and I really didn't know that, otherwise I might not have done it myself. I wouldn't want to tear an ACL doing it. But someone had asked me and I said, 'Yeah, I'll do it, as long as my producer says it's OK.' And I figured my producer would say no and I'd be off the hook, but they said yes and I went ahead and did it.
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