Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Is Coach K using a Holtz strategy?

Could there be a little Lou Holtz in Mike Krzyzewski?

When Holtz was coaching football at Notre Dame, he was famous for making hopelessly overmatched opponents sound formidable.

“Rice scares me,” was one of his famous quotes.

Now Krzyzewski, Duke’s basketball coach, is the one handing out glowing assessments. The Blue Devils’ rival, North Carolina, is the team Krzyzewski is talking up.

After the Tar Heels won 101-87 at Duke on Feb. 11, Krzyzewski said North Carolina was the better team. Asked how Duke could raise itself to the Tar Heels’ level, Krzyzewski said that wasn’t even the goal at that point.

He just wanted Duke to get better. The Blue Devils have done that with five straight wins that put them in position to at least tie North Carolina atop the ACC standings if they can win Sunday at Chapel Hill.

Still, Krzyzewski was deferential to the Tar Heels, who have defeated Duke five of the last six times the teams have met.

“We have to beat the best team in America on their home court, and we’re beaten up,” Krzyzewski said Tuesday night after Duke stopped Florida State 84-81. “So if we get a little bit healthy, maybe we’ll do OK. But we have to get really healthy. Because they’re going to be loaded for bear, and they’re terrific. I think they’re as good as anybody.”

Duke probably will find out more today about forward Lance Thomas’ left ankle injury, the status of Nolan Smith’s concussion and Brian Zoubek’s possible broken nose. Without them, it might be difficult to defeat the Tar Heels, who have superior depth and talent, on Tyler Hansbrough’s senior day.

Krzyzewski genuinely respects North Carolina, and the same probably couldn’t have been said for Holtz with Rice. But Krzyzewski also is preparing his team to go to Chapel Hill and win.

Even without the injured players, winning is at least a remote possibility for Duke if North Carolina is too amped up over senior day and lapses into one of its defensive funks.

Gerald Henderson is capable of hurting the Tar Heels just as badly as Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez did a couple weeks ago. Still, Krzyzewski is playing his cards just about right by portraying this as a long shot for Duke.

That way, the pressure is on the Tar Heels, who already will feel pressure to win for Hansbrough on his senior night. – Ken Tysiac


Anonymous said...

Coach K is blowing smoke up the Tarheels rearend.Classic mind games!

Anonymous said...

Coach K had better be careful ... Tarheels might "air biscuit" that smoke back in his face! Whoa ... what a stink that would make! :)