Numbers Like Duke’s Don’t Lie
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ A team that has an advantage in almost every area doesn’t need any more.
Top-ranked Duke has one.
The Blue Devils have national bests of 93.6 points per game and a 26.3 average margin of victory, a 51.7 shooting percentage that ranks No. 2 in the country, a school-record 29-game winning streak and two NCAA tournament games they won by an average of 41 points. What other edge can they have as they head into tonight’s East Regional semifinal against Southwest Missouri State?
Duke is 13-1 in Continental Airlines Arena, and four of those wins have sent the Blue Devils on to the Final Four.
That means 12th-seeded Southwest Missouri State has to play Duke in a building where the Blue Devils have a better winning percentage than they do at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
``It’s about not being in awe,″ Bears coach Steve Alford said. ``What we’ve tried to do over the last four days is diminish the awe a little bit as each day passes. Because if we’re in awe at 7:35, by 7:45, like a lot of other teams this year, it’s going to be over with.″
Duke (34-1) has won its last 11 games by an average of 31 points, and since Feb. 11, only one team has been within 20 points at game’s end. That was North Carolina State, which lost by 15.
``Out of 35 games, there have been probably 30 games where a team has, I don’t want to say quit, but you know it’s over,″ Duke forward Chris Carrawell said. ``A couple of teams we played, they’d just start talking to us: `You guys are really good.′ It’s a conversation now. We’re buddies because the game is over.″
Southwest Missouri State (22-10), which has won its NCAA tournament games by a combined 41 points, has to make sure it doesn’t get started in this reverse trash-talking.
``We know they’re a great team, they’ve been a great team all year, the No. 1 team in the polls,″ Bears junior guard Kevin Ault said. ``We just have to put all that behind us. There are 16 teams left in the country and we’re one of them, and we have to play that way.″
Duke center Elton Brand, the only unanimous AP All-American, isn’t concerned he and his teammates could get caught up hearing about how great they are.
``Coach has instilled the will to win in us, to play our hardest every time out,″ Brand said of Mike Krzyzewski. ``We don’t look at the name of the team we’re playing. As long as Duke’s playing, we’re out there to play our best.″
Krzyzewski needs two wins to tie John Wooden for second place on the career NCAA tournament victory list at 47, 18 behind Dean Smith.
Alford has two wins in the NCAA tournament _ the ones over fifth-seeded Wisconsin and fourth-seeded Tennessee last week.
``This team doesn’t have the fortune of being led by a coach who’s been there and done that,″ Alford said.
Krzyzewski was asked which is tougher: bringing in a heavy favorite or leading the underdog with nothing to lose.
``I think the coach in each particular situation will tell you that situation is the hardest,″ he said. ``I’d rather be in the situation I’m in. I have a really good basketball team. I respect the team we’re playing. I’d rather get my team ready to play Southwest Missouri State than switch roles with Steve Alford. I don’t know which is harder, but I’ll take the one I’m in.″