Friday, April 30, 2010

Hodge impressed with N.C. State's newest star

Since returning to the Triangle from Australia, Julius Hodge has been everywhere -- N.C. State games, the ACC tournament, sports talk radio, cable television, Twitter -- you name it.

The 2004 ACC Player of the Year has basically been the No. 1 Wolfpack basketball fan since he moved to Morrisville after finishing his third season in Australia and first with the Melbourne Tigers.

"It's good to be back around the program," Hodge said. "I love N.C. State and I feel like I have a connection with the fan base."

That was evident at the ACC tournament where Hodge received a standing ovation -- the biggest roar of the weekend -- during State's third-round loss to Georgia Tech.

It hasn't taken Hodge, who starred for the Wolfpack from 2002-2005, long to ingratiate himself with the team's current players. He has worked out at the Dail Basketball Complex on campus and got a unique look at some of the current players and future players, including McDonald's All-American C.J. Leslie.

"C.J.'s really good," Hodge said. "He's got long arms and to be able to dribble that well and shoot like a guy that's 6-1, he's going to make the Pack a real threat."

All the new options, with Leslie and guards Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown, are going to help forward Tracy Smith, Hodge said.

"I know Tracy's loving it, he finally gets a chance to play one-on-one," Hodge said.

Hodge's basketball journey after helping N.C. State to the NCAA tournament four straight years, started in the NBA with Denver in 2005-06 and then Milwaukee the next season. But his NBA career was derailed when he suffered gun-shot wounds in both legs after a drive-by shooting in April 2006.

The former first-round pick tried pro ball in Italy and France before settling in Australia. Confident as always, Hodge said he'll find a spot in the upcoming NBA summer league and a veterans camp, "if there isn't a lockout."

In the meantime, he has his young daughter Michaela to take care of -- and religiously tweet about their trips to Chuck E. Cheese -- and he'll hold his first basketball camp ( in Raleigh in early June.

-- J.P. Giglio

Thursday, April 29, 2010

N.C. State's Smith to test NBA draft waters

N.C. State center Tracy Smith has entered the NBA draft but has not hired an agent, the school announced this afternoon.

Smith, who completed his junior season last month, might not even be able to work out for NBA teams because of his academic schedule before the May 8 date by which underclassmen are allowed to pull out of the draft, according to a school news release. "I love playing basketball at NC State, but this would be a win-win situation for me if I am able to take advantage of it,” Smith said in a statement. “This would give me a great opportunity to see where I stack up against other NBA prospects.”

Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe said he supports Smith's decision.

“This is a great opportunity available to college players, and we support Tracy in taking advantage of it," Lowe said. "It provides a good experience for them to see what areas of their game need improvement.” Last season Smith was named to the All-ACC second-team. He led N.C. State in scoring and 16.5 points per game and rebounding at 7.3 points per game. He is field goal percentage of .654 led the ACC.

Smith had announced in late February that he would return to N.C. State as a senior. At that time, he said he wanted to graduate and then play professional basketball.

Underclassmen who have declared for the draft, but have not hired agents, can preserve their college eligibility if they withdraw their names from consideration for the draft by May 8.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, April 26, 2010

Junior center commits to Duke

Duke, which is losing 7-foot-1 banger Brian Zoubek off its 2010 NCAA championship team, has added to its low-post presence with a commitment from 6-9 junior Tyler Adams of Brandon High in Mississippi.

Adams, who was visited last week at his high school by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, weighs 245 pounds and plays exclusively in the lane.

Tyler is a very skilled young man, especially in the low post,” said Larry Stamps, who coaches Adams with the Jackson Panthers club team. “He definitely is a low-post center, which is unusual now because a lot of the big kids like to face up. He likes to play down low and has the body to do it.” ranks Adams as the No. 81 player in the Class of 2011. Adams is Duke’s second commitment in the class, joining 6-6 small forward Michael Gbinije of Richmond, Va.

Ken Tysiac

Duke's Scheyer giving back

Senior guard Jon Scheyer is capitalizing on the notoriety he achieved while leading Duke to the NCAA championship with an event designed to give back to the community.

On May 1, the Jon Scheyer Foundation will hold "May Madness: Gaming to Give" from noon to 5 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The event will feature Halo 3 and FIFA 2010 Xbox video game tournaments, as well as live music by Nautical Young, Speak of the Devil and Point Break. In addition, Scheyer and members of the 2010 NCAA championship team will sign autographs.

General admission for May Madness will be $10 at the door, and Duke students will be admitted for $5 with their student ID. Children under the age of 12 will be admitted free of charge.

Entry forms for the video game tournaments can be found on Proceeds from May Madness will benefit the Jimmy V Foundation and the Emily K Center in Durham.

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Capel new coach at Appalachian State

Jason Capel is being introduced as Appalachian State's new basketball coach at a news conference later this afternoon in Boone.
Capel, 30, will be the youngest coach in NCAA Division I (three months, six days younter than Wisconsin-Green Bay's Brian Wardle).
Capel, a former North Carolina player, has been in coaching one season. He was an assistant last season for Buzz Peterson, who resigned last week to take the job at UNC Wilmington.
Capel's brother Jeff is coach at Oklahoma and his father Jeff is an assistant with the Charlotte Bobcats.
Capel takes over a Mountaineers program that was 24-13 last season and played in the Southern Conference championship game. Among the players returning to Appalachian next season are guard Donald Sims, the league's player of the year. -- David Scott

Gardner-Webb announcement Thursday

Gardner-Webb has called a news conference for Thursday morning to introduce its new basketball coach. According to, it's expected to be Ohio assistant and former Bulldogs associate head coach Chris Holtmann.
Holtmann was with the Bulldogs for five seasons under former coach Rick Scruggs, who was fired.
Holtmann has been an assistant at Ohio for two seasons under coach John Groce, a former N.C. State assistant. He's also been an assistant at Taylor (Ind.) and Geneva (Pa.).
Holtmann is a defensive specialist. While he was at Gardner-Webb, the Bulldogs were among the Atlantic Sun's better defensive teams, leading the league in field-goal percentage in 2007-08.
Gardner-Webb is now in the Big South. -- David Scott

Joyner Jr. gets WSSU women's job

Steve Joyner Jr., an assistant coach at Florida A&M and son of Johnson C. Smith men's coach Steve Joyner, is Winston-Salem State's new women's basketball coach.
Joyner, 30, a former point guard at Smith, has been an assistant men's coach at Livingstone and an assistant women's coach at N.C. Central, UNC Asheville and Smith before working at Florida A&M the past two seasons. -- David Scott

Monday, April 19, 2010

Singler's return makes Duke a favorite

Forward Kyle Singler announced Monday night that he will return to Duke for his senior season, paving the way for the Blue Devils to be ranked in the national top 10 and possibly as high as No. 1 in the preseason polls.

As a junior last season, Singler was named the most outstanding player of the Final Four after scoring a game-high 19 points in Duke’s 61-59 win over Butler in the NCAA championship game on April 5 in Indianapolis.

"I love being here at Duke and am excited about next year,” Singler said in a statement released by the school. “I had two great options in front of me, but I did not want to miss out on all of the great things to come in a senior season.”

Singler averaged 17.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists last season while leading the Blue Devils to a 35-5 record and their fourth NCAA title. His return will make Duke an overwhelming favorite to win the ACC.

Duke is losing senior starters Jon Scheyer, Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas off the NCAA championship team.

"I have to think that it puts them pretty high in the pecking order,” veteran TV analyst Dan Bonner said of Singler’s return. “Definitely I would say a preseason top 10. Obviously they lost Jon Scheyer and they don’t have Zoubek [or Thomas]. . . .Those are three pretty important guys, and I don’t think you can automatically say that makes them a Final Four pick because those are significant losses and they’ll have to deal with that.”

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said Singler’s return will make the Blue Devils a top candidate for the No. 1 spot in the preseason polls along with Michigan State and possibly Purdue if all of the Boilermakers’ underclassmen return.

Guard Nolan Smith, who averaged 17.4 points per game last season, also returns as a senior to combine with Singler to give the Blue Devils plenty of experience. Duke also has two talented post players returning in Mason and Miles Plumlee.

Highly rated point guard recruit Kyrie Irving, who’s been compared to former Duke standout Jason Williams, will join the team next season. And shooting guard Seth Curry – who led the nation’s freshmen in scoring for Liberty in 2008-09 before transferring to Duke – will become eligible in what could be a loaded backcourt.

"That makes Duke the most formidable team,” Bilas said of Singler’s return. “Even thought they lost a lot, to have Singler and Nolan Smith and a guard like Kyrie Irving coming in, that puts them near the top rung in that conversation.”

Singler is expected to holding a news conference Tuesday morning to discuss his decision. Efforts to reach his father, Ed Singler, on Monday night were unsuccessful.

Ed Singler said last week that his son’s performance in the NCAA tournament had improved his standing with NBA scouts. Information Ed Singler was getting indicated that Singler made himself a likely first-round pick, with a forecasted draft position somewhere between the teens and the 30th and final selection of the first round

One question that remains is what role Singler, who’s 6-foot-8, will fill next season. He played power forward and even some center during his first two seasons, but played mostly on the wing as a junior on a team that lacked backcourt depth.

With Smith, Irving, Curry and Andre Dawkins on the roster next season, though, Duke will be strong on the perimeter. And the departures of Thomas and Zoubek in the post leave the Blue Devils a bit thin when it comes to big men.

In a statement Monday night, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said only that he is looking forward to coaching Singler in his senior season and seeing him develop more as a player and a leader. Bilas predicted that Krzyzewski will use Singler like a queen on a chess board, using him in a multitude of roles as necessary without the constraint of naming a position for him.

However Duke uses him, it’s clear that the Blue Devils will be a lot better with Singler in the lineup.

"To have a senior of his caliber is really unusual,” Bilas said. “That’s a nice thing for any coach to have a senior with his talent level back.”

Ken Tysiac

Singler to remain at Duke

Duke's Kyle Singler announced tonight that he would forego the chance to enter the NBA draft and would stay in school for his senior year.

"I love being here at Duke and am excited about next year," he said in a statement. "I had two great options in front of me, but I did not want to miss out on all the great things to come in a senior year."

Singler was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2010 Final Four as the Blue Devils won the national championship. He averaged 17.7 points and 7.0 rebounds as a junior.

"I am looking forward to coaching Kyle in his senior year and seeing him develop more as a player and as a leader," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement.

Chip Alexander

Friday, April 16, 2010

Report: Buzz to UNC Wilmington

UNC Wilmington has hired Buzz Peterson as its new men's basketball coach, is reporting.

Peterson will be introduced at a 4:30 news conference this afternoon.

Peterson has just completed one season at Appalachian State, where he led the Mountaineers to the Southern Conference tournament championship game and 23 victories. Peterson began his head coaching career at Appalachian from 1996-2000, and has since coached at Tulsa, Tennessee and Coastal Carolina, in addition to serving as director of player of personnel with the Charlotte Bobcats.

The Wilmington job had been open since Benny Moss was fired in January. The Seahawks were 9-22 last season. -- David Scott

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Singler's draft stock apparently up after Final Four

One thing seems clear to Kyle Singler’s father as Singler ponders whether to enter the NBA draft or return to Duke for his senior season.

By leading the Blue Devils to the NCAA championship and winning Final Four most outstanding player honors, Singler has improved his draft prospects.

Ed Singler, Kyle’s father, said Wednesday that Singler was considered a high second-round or low first-round pick before the NCAA tournament. Now he’s considered a solid first-round pick, Ed Singler said, with projections anywhere from the low teens to the last few picks of the first round.

The last month or so, how he played and how he performed. . . .that really did help him,” Ed Singler said by telephone from Medford, Ore. “We’ve heard that.”

On Tuesday, Singler discussed his options in the Duke basketball office with coach Mike Krzyzewski and assistants Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski on a conference call with his parents. Ed Singler is uncertain of his son’s timetable for a decision, but Duke team spokesman Matt Plizga said Tuesday that Singler told him that he wants to consider his options over the weekend.

Underclassmen have until April 25 to declare for the NBA draft and can withdraw by May 8 as long as they don’t sign with an agent.

Kyle Singler has told the Oregonian newspaper of Portland, Ore., that he wouldn’t “test the waters” by entering the draft with the possibility of withdrawing. But Ed Singler said he hadn’t discussed that issue with his son.

Ed Singler said Kyle has many qualities that NBA executives covet.

"No one is questioning his character, his skill level, his desire to win, his competitiveness his toughness,” Ed Singler said. “No one is questioning that. One of the things we keep kind of hearing is they are questioning his overall athleticism.”

The consistency of Singler’s outside shooting also has been questioned, Ed Singler said, but Kyle did lead Duke’s regulars with a .399 3-point field goal percentage as a 6-foot-8 forward.

A possible NBA labor stoppage after the current collective bargaining agreement ends at the end of the 2010-11 season doesn’t appear to be influencing Singler as much as North Carolina sophomore Ed Davis, whose father Terry cited the situation as one of the reasons his son is entering the draft now.

Ed Singler said a possible NBA lockout in 2011-12 is something the Singlers will throw into the mix and consider, but isn’t a crucial issue.

Kyle is trying to make a smart business decision, Ed Singler said. He is trying to figure out whether he would be better off leaving now, or if he could help himself move up even more in the draft if scouts get to see him play even more at Duke.

No matter what happens, Singler’s parents want him to understand that he has two great choices in front of him.

"It’s a great position he’s put himself in,” Ed Singler said. “. . .Whichever way he decides to go, it’s a wonderful way to go"

Ken Tysiac

Bzdelik makes pitch to wary Deacons fans

WINSTON-SALEM - The giant video board at BB&T Field on Wednesday morning welcomed a new basketball coach - Jeff Bzdelik - who was hardly a household name when Wake Forest fired Dino Gaudio last week.

Nonetheless, Bzdelik, 57, knows Wake Forest well, and he said if he could pick one school where he wanted to coach, this would be it. His daughter, Courtney, is a student at Wake Forest. He vacations nearby in Sunset Beach. He has coached at other schools, such as Air Force, Northwestern and Davidson, with high academic profiles similar to Wake Forest's.

"I believe in everything it stands for," he said Wednesday at his introductory news conference in Deacon Tower at the school's football stadium. "Great academics. Great integrity. Great people. It's in the ACC on top of that."

Although the sign was welcoming, Bzdelik and Wake Forest athletics director Ron Wellman both acknowledged that reaction to the hire has been mixed. Gaudio was 61-31 in three seasons and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament by defeating Texas last month.

Bzdelik's record at Colorado over the last three seasons was 36-58, without a postseason appearance. Wellman said fans criticizing the hire are merely expressing their passion for the program.

He said that despite concerns that he'd hired Bzdelik because of familiarity (Wellman coached baseball at Northwestern when Bzdelik was an assistant there in the 1980s), the two weren't friends and hadn't had any contact for years at one point.

Wellman said it's not right to compare the situations at Wake Forest and Colorado, where Bzdelik inherited a 7-20 team and improved it to 15-16 by this third season.

"You have to dig deeper than the numbers," Wellman said. "You have to look at where Colorado was three years ago. . . .He really had to start over. Their situation was very, very challenging."

Before he was hired at Colorado, Bzdelik was 50-16 in two seasons at Air Force. He also was 25-31 from 1986 to 1988 at Maryland-Baltimore County as the team made the transition from Division II to Division I.

He spent 15 seasons as a scout and a coach in the NBA, including two and a half seasons with the Denver Nuggets. He's worked under Pat Riley with the New York Knicks and Miami Heat, and under Wes Unseld with the old Washington Bullets.

"I've been around the greatest players in the game," Bzdelik said. "I can't say I've been at X amount of Final Fours, but there is nobody [in the ACC] that can say they've been to the NBA playoffs nine times as an assistant and as a head coach. I separate myself in a positive way from a lot of people in that regard."

Bzdelik revealed that he plans to keep former Gaudio staff members Jeff Battle, Rusty LaRue and Walt Corbean on the Wake Forest staff. He plans to play aggressively on defense, and rejected the identification of his offense is a "Princeton" system - whose combination of backdoors and 3-point shooting has been unpopular with fans at places as nearby as N.C. State.

He said he wants attack the rim quickly in transition, and mentioned margins of 30 points or more in defeats of Georgia, Stanford and even Wake Forest by his teams at Air Force.

"Princeton is in New Jersey," he said. "We're in North Carolina here, and I think if you investigate my background, my teams have always shot well and scored a lot of points."

Wellman said what stood out most about Bzdelik was his dedication to and relationship with his players. During the interview process, Bzdelik excused himself to take a call. He looked concerned afterward.

Bzdelik explained to Wellman that he'd just been speaking to a former Air Force player who was an hour away from being deployed to Afghanistan.

"He is a person of integrity, a person of values," Wellman said. "If you talk with his former players, they have a deep appreciation for what this man stands for and how he has treated them not only as a player, but as a person. He develops a relationship with his players that very few coaches have the ability to do."

Now Bzdelik will get a chance to build that kind of relationship with a new group of players - and the fans that he hopes will warm up after the lukewarm reaction to his hire.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bobby Hurley joins brother's staff at Wagner

Former Duke point guard Bobby Hurley, who led the Blue Devils to consecutive NCAA championships in 1991 and 1992, will try his hand at college coaching on his brother Dan's staff at Wagner College.

Hurley was the seventh pick in the 1993 NBA draft and played five seasons in the NBA in a career cut short by an automobile wreck. He went on to become a thoroughbred racehorse owner and breeder before being hired as a scout by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2003.

Dan Hurley, who played at Seton Hall and had been coaching St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, N.J., was named Wagner's coach April 7.

“I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get started,” Bobby Hurley said in a statement released by the school. “I am really looking forward to working with my brother and am proud that he has been afforded the opportunity to be the head coach at Wagner. This will be special for both of us and I know our parents are excited that we will be on the staff together."

Ken Tysiac

Singler getting input on NBA draft

Duke forward Kyle Singler planned to meet with the Blue Devils' coaches Tuesday to get input on whether he should enter the NBA draft, team spokesman Matt Plizga confirmed.

Plizga said Singler plans to take the weekend to think about his decision. Earlier this month, Singler was named the most outstanding player of the Final Four after Duke defeated Butler 61-59 to win the NCAA championship.

Singler has one season of eligibility remaining. He told the Oregonian newspaper in Portland, Ore., on Monday that he intends to make a firm decision rather than entering the draft without hiring an agent.

Underclassmen must declare for the draft by April 25, and have until May 8 to withdraw from the draft – if they don’t hire an agent. But Singler’s comments indicated that he’s not interested in that option.

"I'll probably declare or not," he said. "I don't want to test the waters. I don't see any value in that.”

Singler, who’s from Medford, Ore., played wing forward at 6-foot-8 for Duke in 2009-10, ranking second on the team in scoring (17.7 ppg) and rebounding (7.0 rpg). He scored a game-high 19 points in the NCAA championship game.

He is considered a likely mid- to late-first round pick, which is an important benchmark because first-round picks receive guaranteed contracts, while second-round picks do not. A sampling of mock drafts Tuesday afternoon had Singler at 19th (, 27th ( and 30th ( in the 30-pick first round.

Ken Tysiac

Clemson hires Brownell to replace Purnell

Clemson didn't get Butler's Brad Stevens, but found its new basketball coach at another Horizon League school instead.

The school will hold a news conference at 4 p.m. today to announce the hiring of Wright State's Brad Brownell as its new basketball coach, school sports information director Tim Bourret said this morning in a news release.

Brownell, 41, was 84-45 in four seasons at Wright State, and was 83-40 in four previous seasons at UNC Wilmington. In 2007, Brownell coached Wright State to an NCAA tournament appearance, its first league title ever, and a school Division I-record 23 wins.

He replaces Oliver Purnell, who left last week to coach DePaul.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, April 12, 2010

Heels' Davis entering NBA draft

North Carolina forward Ed Davis will forgo his final two years of eligibility to enter the NBA draft, the school announced Monday in a statement e-mailed to the media.

He was North Carolina's second-leading scorer and top rebounder and shot blocker as a sophomore. He missed the last 13 games because of a broken wrist.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Davis has not hired an agent but plans to hire one. Once that occurs, Davis will become ineligible to play college basketball according to NCAA rules.

“I’ve had two great years at North Carolina both as a player and a student and now I want to pursue my lifelong dream of playing in the NBA,” Davis said in a statement. “I love being a Tar Heel and am proud to know that I will always be part of this unique family. I want to thank Coach Williams for giving me the opportunity to play for Carolina. My coaches and teammates have helped me develop as a player and a person and I will miss helping them get the Tar Heel program back on top."

Davis said he plans to continue working toward his degree. He was leading the ACC in field goal percentage (.578) and blocked shots (2.8 per game) when he broke his wrist Feb. 10 against Duke.

His departure leaves junior Tyler Zeller and sophomore John Henson as North Carolina's top low-post options next season.

Ken Tysiac

Colorado's Bzdelik headed to Wake Forest?

Wake Forest has targeted Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik to replace Dino Gaudio.

Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman is en route to Colorado to meet with Bzdelik, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. Fox Sports is reporting that a deal is done, but that has been denied by both Wellman and Bzdelik.

If Bzdelik is the Demon Deacons' next coach, he doesn't have a winning track record in the postseason. In five seasons at Air Force and Colorado, Bzdelik went 4-7 in the postseason, including 1-5 in conference tournaments. In two seasons at Air Force, 2005 to 2007, Bzdelik went 0-1 in the NCAA tournament and 3-1 in the NIT.

Wellman fired Gaudio, who won 66 percent of his games in three seasons, on Wednesday for a 1-5 postseason record and the team's poor record in February and March.

Bzdelik's teams at Colorado, a rebuilding job in the Big 12, weren't good in any month. He went 36-58 in three seasons — compared to a 61-31 mark for Gaudio in the same time span — and 10-38 in the Big 12.

Bzdelik, a longtime NBA assistant, has had a losing record in five of
his seven college seasons, including all three at Colorado.

Bzdelik, 57, was an NBA head coach for three years in the early 2000s, leading the Nuggets to the playoffs in 2004 (a first-round loss) before getting fired 28 games into the 2005 season.

He was successful in a brief stint at Air Force, going 50-16 in two seasons but his second team had some of the same problems as Gaudio's teams at Wake. After a 23-4 start, Air Force finished the 2006-07 season with five losses in its final eight games, including a first-round exit in the Mountain West Conference tournament.

Bzdelik does have a connection to both the state of North Carolina and Wellman. Bzdelik's first coaching job was with Davidson in 1978 and he later was an assistant at Northwestern in the early 1980s, where Wellman was the baseball coach.

If Wellman wants to replace the basketball coach, that's certainly his prerogative, as is his right to hire someone he knows, but given the parameters of Gaudio's firing, this potential move doesn't make any sense.

-- J.P. Giglio

Friday, April 9, 2010

Drew confirms he'll return to Tar Heels

Guard Larry Drew, saying he's tired of hearing rumors that claim he's transferring from North Carolina, released a statement Friday afternoon saying that he will return to the Tar Heels for his junior season.

“Last week when we were in New York for the NIT, several reporters from North Carolina asked me about transferring after the season," Drew said in the statement, which was released by school sports information director Steve Kirschner. "I said that I would always be a Tar Heel. I thought my answer would end the speculation, but my teammates, family, coaches and I continue to be asked about me transferring. I want to again confirm that I am not transferring anywhere."

Drew averaged 6.0 assists per game last season, second in the ACC, but struggled at times to run North Carolina's fast-paced offense after taking over the starting job from Ty Lawson, who left for the NBA after the Tar Heels won the 2009 NCAA title.

North Carolina has recruited another point guard, McDonald's All-American Kendall Marshall, who will compete as a freshman for minutes with Drew next season.

Drew did demonstrate significant improvement in the postseason National Invitiation Tournament, driving for a winning basket against Mississippi State and sparking the Tar Heels in a comeback win over Rhode Islans in the semifinals.

"I’ve been asked about these rumors since the day we won at Wake Forest in February and I really want to put all this stuff to rest," he said. "I am a Tar Heel and will continue to learn from Coach [Roy] Williams and his staff to become a more effective player and leader and help us have a great season in 2011.”

Ken Tysiac

Duke, Butler discussing rematch

Duke and Butler, which met in a heart-stopping NCAA championship game won 61-59 by the Blue Devils on Monday, might play again next season.

About a month ago, Butler was one of many schools approached by event organizers at The Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., for a neutral-site game against the Blue Devils, according to Duke senior associate athletics director Mike Cragg.
Cragg said Butler is one of several schools still interested in the meeting, and event organizers approached them again about scheduling Duke this week.

Butler coach Brad Stevens told The Associated Press on Friday that the schools are talking about dates to see if they can work out a rematch. Butler, the underdog from the Horizon League, was edged by the Blue Devils in a thriller Monday.

Duke escaped with the win when Butler forward Gordon Hayward’s halfcourt shot at the buzzer hit the backboard and rim before falling out.

- Ken Tysiac

Sizing up coaching vacancies

Here's a quick update on college coaching vacancies in the Carolinas and ACC:

CHARLOTTE: The Observer's Jim Utter is reporting that Ohio State assistant Alan Majors has accepted the 49ers job.

CLEMSON: The Tigers were stunned when Oliver Purnell left earlier this week for DePaul. But there reports that Al Skinner -- recently fired at Boston College -- has already interviewed for the job. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one of Clemson's top recruits, Atlanta forward Marcus Thornton, has already requested his release from Clemson.

WAKE FOREST: Athletics director Ron Wellman is known for keeping coaching searches close to his vest. According to the Winston-Salem Journal, names to replace the fired Dino Gaudio have included Minnesota's Tubby Smith (who played in college at nearby High Point), Wright State's Brad Brownell (a former UNC Wilmington coach), Dayton's Brian Gregory, Richmond's Chris Mooney and Ohio's John Groce.

GARDNER-WEBB: Former Charlotte assistant Rob Moxley has reportedly interviewed for the job to replace the fired Rick Scruggs.

THE CITADEL: With Ed Conroy moving on to Tulane, the Bulldogs' job is now open.

UNC WILMINGTON: Conroy apparently was close to accepting the Seahawks job -- open for months after Benny Moss was fired -- before going to Tulane. So Wilmington is likely back to square one.

East Carolina (Jeff Lebo) and Boston College (Steve Donahue) have filled their jobs.

Will Appalachian State's job come open? Buzz Peterson's name continues to be linked to Marshall's vacancy. -- David Scott

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wall, 4 UK teammates entering draft

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Freshman All-Americans John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins are among five Kentucky players who have declared for the NBA draft.

Junior forward Patrick Patterson, freshman guard Eric Bledsoe and freshman center Daniel Orton are also entering the draft.

Wall and Cousin are expected to be among the first few players selected.

The five player comprised the core of a team that went 35-3 this season and won the Southeastern Conference regular season and conference tournament titles before falling to West Virginia in the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament.

Coach John Calipari said he met with each player individually and encouraged them to gauge their draft prospects.

Players have until May 8 to change their minds.

-- Associated Press

Wake Forest announces Gaudio firing

Wake Forest has announced that basketball coach Dino Gaudio has been fired after three seasons.

Gaudio was 61-31, 27-21 in the ACC, in three seasons. The school will immediately start a national search for a new coach.

"Dino has made contributions to this program over the last 10 seasons," Wake Forest athletics director Ron Wellman said in a statement. "He stepped into a difficult situation at a very trying time when Skip Prosser passed away and he steadied the program.

"But from a competitive standpoint, it has been disappointing that we have developed a pattern of not playing well late in the season and in the postseason. Wake Forest has a proud history of basketball success but we have not been as competitive in the postseason as we would like.”

Gaudio was named head coach on August 8, 2007 following Prosser's sudden death from a heart attack.

The Deacons were 17-13 in Gaudio’s first season and followed that with a 24-7 record in 2008-09. Wake Forest was ranked No. 1 in the nation in both polls in late January, 2009 but fell to Cleveland State in a first-round NCAA tournament shocker two months later. This past season, the Demon Deacons finished 20-11 and posted a first-round win over Texas in the NCAA Tournament before losing 90-60 to Kentucky in the second round.

Gaudio's teams had a habit of starting strong and fading down the stretch. Over the last three years, Wake Forest has lost its first round ACC tournament game to a lower-seeded opponent by 10 or more points. In all postseason games, the Deacons are 1-5 over the last three seasons.

Ken Tysiac

Report: Wake Forest fires Gaudio

According to a Winston-Salem Journal report quoting multiple unnamed sources, Wake Forest has fired basketball coach Dino Gaudio after three seasons.

The school has called a 4:30 p.m. news conference, but has not revealed what will be announced.
Gaudio is 61-31 over three seasons after taking over following the death of former coach Skip Prosser. But the Deacons have made a habit of fading late in the season under Gaudio.

Wake Forest was upset by Cleveland State in the first-round of the 2009 NCAA tournament. In the 2010 tournament the Deacons edged Texas in overtime in the first round before dropping a lopsided decision in the second round against Kentucky.

Ken Tysiac

Did Coach K make right call on missed free throw?

Ever since the end of Duke's 61-59 NCAA title-clinching win over Butler on Monday night, people have been asking one question.

What if Gordon Hayward's halfcourt heave had gone in at the buzzer for Butler?

There are a few ways to answer this question. First of all, it would have relegated knocked former N.C. State player Lorenzo Charles from his perch as the player who's made the most memorable shot ever in the NCAA tournament. Charles dunked home Dereck Whittenburg's miss at the end of the 1983 championship game to give the Wolfpack a stunning, 54-52 win over heavily favored Houston. Hayward's shot would have been even more remarkable than Charles'.

Second, Hayward would have created one of the biggest NCAA title game upsets of all time. You'd have to go back to Texas Western's 72-65 win over Kentucky in 1966, which was chronicled in the movie "Glory Road," to find a similar situation where a team with a small national pedigree defeated a perennial favorite in the championship game.

Finally, Hayward would have ignited a huge debate over whether Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski made the right decision when he had Brian Zoubek deliberately miss his second free throw with 3.6 seconds remaining and the Blue Devils ahead by two points.

The miss forced Butler to lose valuable time by chasing after the rebound. If Zoubek had made his second free throw, it would have been easier for the Bulldogs to set themselves up from out of bounds for a better final shot. But Duke would have been ahead by three points and assured at the very least of a chance to win in overtime. Instead, Duke could have lost at the buzzer on Hayward's shot.

Most people I've talked to have said they'd rather be up three points even if it meant the opponent might get a final shot. I've got to admit, I'd lean that way, too. I would have wanted Zoubek to make the free throw.

But although Hayward's shot came close - off the backboard, off the rim and out - Krzyzewski's strategy paid off. There's a reason he's won four NCAA titles and coached in 11 Final Fours.

None of the other people debating this topic have come close to doing that.

Ken Tysiac

Remembering Purnell's words

Clemson's long-time struggles for college basketball relevance appear to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Here's what former coach Oliver Purnell -- who abruptly left Clemson this week for DePaul -- said when he was hired by the Tigers in 2003.

"First and foremost, keep the coach," Purnell said, when asked how the school might raise its basketball profile. "There's this perception that Clemson hasn't won. Rick Barnes? He's not bad (three straight NCAA appearances from 1996 to 1998). Cliff Ellis won the ACC regular season with Elden Campbell and Dale Davis. Bill Foster took them to the final eight."

Purnell was right about those three of his predecessors. He then re-built the Tigers program to the point where it had played in three consecutive NCAA tournaments (albeit without a victory). Clemson hadn't been to tournament since 1998 prior to his arrival.

But Purnell's successor -- whomever that will be -- will be Clemson's ninth coach since the ACC was formed in 1953. Of the league's eight original schools, only Wake Forest has had as many since then.

For a program that still has never won an ACC tournament, it's time to start over. Again. -- David Scott

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Singler undecided about returning for senior season

INDIANAPOLIS -- Duke junior Nolan Smith said after his team's national championship victory over Butler on Monday night that he plans to return to Durham for his senior season.

Junior Kyle Singler -- the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four -- has not yet decided.

"No idea,'' Singler, who scored 19 points, said when asked about next year.

"I'll just talk to coach and get his opinion, talk to my family. ... I'm just going to let myself be open to what Coach has to say, because he has my best interest [at heart]."

Underclassmen have until April 25 to enter their names into the draft, and until May 8 to pull out -- as long as they don't hire an agent.

Smith, who scored 13 points in the title game, said, "I'm definitely not even considering going. Unless somebody said, 'Nolan, you're going to be the No. 1 pick,' and John Wall has that on lock.

"This squad, coming in next year ... it could be something special. Back-to-back champs could be our future."

Robbi Pickeral

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tudor's take: ACC in the title game

INDIANAPOLIS -- ACC teams have played for 21 NCAA basketball championship games entering tonight’s Duke vs. Butler game in Lucas Oil Stadium.

The league’s record is 11-10 in those games, an impressive record taking into account that two of the losses were against UCLA during its dynasty era.Duke is 3-6 in title games, but 3-4 under Mike Krzyzewski.

Percentage wise, N.C. State has the league lead, 2-for-2, with wins over Marquette (1974) and Houston (1983). UNC is 5-3.

The only other conference team to win a title was Maryland in 2002. Florida State fell to UCLA in the 1972 title game, but the Seminoles weren’t an ACC member at the time.

UNC lost to Oklahoma State in 1946, a few years before the ACC was formed.Here’s the rundown:

2009 _ UNC over Michigan State
2005 _ UNC over Illinois
2002 _ Maryland over Indiana
2001 _ Duke over Arizona
1993 _ UNC over Michigan
1992 _ Duke over Michigan
1991 _ Duke over Kansas
1983 _ NCSU over Houston
1982 _ UNC over Georgetown
1974 _ NCSU over Marquette
1957 _ UNC over Kansas

2004 _ Georgia Tech to Connecticut
1999 _ Duke to Connecticut
1994 _ Duke to Arkansas
1990 _ Duke to UNLV
1986 _ Duke Louisville
1981 _ UNC to Indiana
1978 _ Duke to Kentucky
1977 _ UNC to Marquette
1968 _ UNC to UCLA
1964 _ Duke to UCLA

Caulton Tudor

Butler's Howard reportedly cleared to play

INDIANAPOLIS -- Butler center Matt Howard has been cleared to play in tonight’s NCAA basketball title game against Duke, according to CBS Sports.

Butler spokesman Jim McGrath told the television network that Howard participated in the team's early afternoon drill at Lucas Oil Stadium. Butler's doctors then waited about 90 and gave Howard the OK to play.

The 6-foot-8 center suffered a head injury in Saturday’s 52-50 win over Michigan State and did play practice with the Bulldogs on Sunday.

Howard played 15 minutes, finishing with four points and two rebounds against the Spartans.

Caulton Tudor

Tudor's take: Stormy weather in Indy

INDIANAPOLIS -- Duke and Butler fans had to weave their way through rain, wind and storms en route to the NCAA title game Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

After a warm, sunny morning and early afternoon, thunderstorms moved into the Indianapolis downtown area at about 5 p.m., prompting officials to issue a tornado watch until midnight.

The game is slated for a 9:21 p.m. start on CBS television.

Interestingly, tornadoes hit Indianapolis during the 2006 Final Four weekend while John Mellencamp was playing an outdoor concert downtown, sending fans scrambling for cover. Florida won that championship game, defeating UCLA, 73-57.

- Caulton Tudor

Krzyzewski says he's not interested in Nets job

If you ever gave it a moment of serious consideration, forget about Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski going to the New Jersey Nets.

Through a school spokesman, Krzyzewski told The Associated press that he hasn't been contacted by the Nets and wouldn't have any interest in the job.

The Bergen Record, citing anonymous sources, reported that incoming Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov would offer Krzyzewski $12 million to $15 million per season.

Krzyzewski says in a statement Monday that "you would be flattered if someone would offer you a job, but I would not be interested."

At 9:21 tonight in Indianapolis, Krzyzewski will coach Duke against Butler in the NCAA title game.

Ken Tysiac

Coach K: 'I'll be at Duke'

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in February that it would be easy to say "Nyet' if the New Jersey Nets contacted him about coaching their team -- which they will reportedly do.

But he said it wasn't so easy to turn down the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004.

"I was more than tempted. I seriously considered it,'' he told a mass of media Sunday as his team prepared for tonight's national championship game against Butler. "One, because it was the Lakers. Mitch [Kupchak, the GM] is great. It would have been an opportunity to work with Kobe [Bryant]. He and I are very close.

"I guess because I did not accept it, it really speaks to, you know, how much I love Duke and college basketball, but especially Duke. When we were talking a little bit earlier, a few minutes ago, about commitment -- Duke has been committed to me when I wasn't with Knight and Rupp and those guys [as far as win totals]. They were committed to me when we were 38-47. Just from where I'm from, whatever, that will never leave my heart, that type of commitment.

"So I'll be at Duke even after I stop coaching. You know, that's where I'm gonna be."

Citing unnamed sources, reports that incoming Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov will offer Krzyzewski between $12 million and $15 million to be the team’s head coach and perhaps its general manager. Despite the paycheck, it could be a hard sell -- the Nets own the NBA's worst record, and are a far cry from contending for titles.

Last summer, Krzyzewski -- who is also the head Olympic coach -- said he will spend the remainder of his coaching career at Duke.

- Robbi Pickeral

Five things to watch in NCAA title game

INDIANAPOLIS -- A surging Duke team is set to play heavy underdog and hometown favorite Butler at 9:21 p.m. today in the NCAA title game.

The Blue Devils (34-5) have an overwhelming size advantage and a coach in Mike Krzyzewski who possesses a lot of experience in big games, as he's in his 11th Final Four and chasing his fourth NCAA title. Butler (33-4) has a pesky defense, good 3-point shooters and a young coach in 33-year-old Brad Stevens who appears to be a rising star.

Here are five things to watch in the NCAA title game:

1. Kyle Singler vs. Gordon Hayward: These two guys might not guard each other much, but their size and skill sets are extraordinarily similar.

Hayward is 6-foot-9 and Singler is 6-8, and both can score on the drive and from 3-point range.

"There's a lot of 6-8 guys that can shoot the three now, a lot of them," Stevens said. "The difference between most of those guys and Singler and Gordon are that they can floor it and go either direction. They can get by guys on the bounce, they can post, they can just play. They play like 6-1 guys. They have great, great ability."

2. Duke's ball security. Butler's 12 steals against Michigan State were one shy of the team's season high.

The Bulldogs create a lot of their offense off opponents' turnovers, and Duke had problems in the first half of a regional semifinal game against Purdue, a similarly gritty halfcourt defensive team.

In the last three games against Syracuse, Kansas State and Michigan State, Butler has 33 total steals. But Duke's ballhandlers, especially guard Jon Scheyer, are usually good at protecting the basketball.

3. Homecourt advantage: Indianapolis is abuzz with excitement over small-school Butler's remarkable run to the championship game to face traditional power Duke.

The crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium tonight will be overwhelmingly pulling for the underdog. The good thing for Duke is that it faces hostile crowds every time it travels.

The bad thing for Duke is that it never plays in front of a hostile crowd as large as the 71,000-plus who are expected to pack the arena tonight.

4. Coaching matchup. Krzyzewski has found ways to push the right buttons throughout the tournament for Duke, especially with halftime adjustments.

In the Purdue win, he challenged the Blue Devils to catch the ball strong so they would be ready to attack the scrappy Boilermakers' defense. Against Baylor, he told the players that they had become so preoccupied with attacking a zone defense that they'd forgotten to defend and rebound.

Butler, meanwhile, gets a lot of its energy and can-do spirit from the youthful Stevens, who's 30 years younger than Krzyzewski.

5. Big vs. small. Duke starts three players 6-foot-8 or taller, plus a 6-5 point guard in Jon Scheyer. Three Butler starters are smaller than 6-4.

The Blue Devils will try to park 7-foot-1 center Brian Zoubek on the low block on the weak side while his teammates fire up jumpers so that he can grab any shots they miss and create extra opportunities for Duke. And Butler's guys won't be strong enough to move him.

Butler will counter on offense by trying to make Zoubek guard a smaller player on the perimeter.

Ken Tysiac

Nets reportedly to make Krzyzewski rich offer

As coach Mike Krzyzewski prepares to go after his fourth NCAA title at Duke, a report out of New Jersey this morning says the New Jersey Nets are prepared to offer him a fortune to leave the Blue Devils.

Citing unnamed sources, reports that incoming Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov will offer Krzyzewski between $12 million and $15 million to be the team’s head coach and perhaps its general manager.

Krzyzewski said last summer that he will spend the remainder of his coaching career at Duke. When reports of the Nets’ interest in him surfaced earlier this season, Krzyzewski downplayed them and said he hadn’t been contacted by the team or its owner.

"The guy's Russian, right?" Krzyzewski said Feb. 13. "Do you think he'd hire a Polish guy? Really?"

He was asked if a Polish guy would go work for a Russian guy.

"No one's contacted me, and if they do, 'Nyet' would be easy for me to say," Krzyzewski said.
In 2004, Krzyzewski turned down an offer reported to be worth $40 million over five years to coach the Los Angeles Lakers.

Ken Tysiac

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Tudor's take: Counting chickens

INDIANAPOLIS -- As Duke went through Sunday’s Final Four ritual of media interviews, it was easy to draw some comparisons to 1983 and N.C. State.

Against Butler (33-4) on Monday in the NCAA title game at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Blue Devils (34-5) have been made a 7-point favorite.

There’s a feeling, even among some Butler faithful, that a minor miracle would be needed for Duke to lose.

It’s much the same talk that marked State’s ’83 bid against mighty Houston in Albuquerque, N.M. Almost no one gave Jim Valvano’s team a chance.

The Wolfpack won it 54-52, and it did take a minor miracle at the end when Lorenzo Charles turned a Dereck Whittenburg air ball into the winning basketball. That game still rates among the most shocking in NCAA history.

But no one has a better appreciation of basketball history than Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who was good friend of Valvano. You can bet Duke’s players will be reminded of that night in New Mexico at least a couple of times before they take on Butler.

Duke’s players made certain Sunday not claim the trophy early, something Houston’s players flirted with doing the day before they faced State.

“They play as hard as anyone and this is going to be a hard game, very hard,” Duke forward Lance Thomas said.

Kyle Singler: “We completely respect Butler. No one on our team is going to overlook them at all.”

The last huge championship game upset was Villanova over Georgetown in 1985 at Lexington, Ky. The Hoyas were favored by eight, but the situation was different from Butler-Duke and State-Houston.

Villanova and Georgetown, both Big East teams, were totally familiar with each other.

“We had the advantage of scouting them several times in regular season,” Villanova coach Rollie Massimino said shortly before Butler’s win over Michigan State in Saturday’s semifinal round.

State was able to surprise Houston in 1983 by using Thurl Bailey to attack the baseline early in the game. When Houston made defensive adjustments, the Pack turned to its dependable perimeter shooting.

Defensively, Valvano seldom gave the Cougars the same look on three straight possessions. Houston was uncomfortable throughout and never generated any offensive momentum.

Butler could beat Duke, but it will not be the result of surprise tactics. Krzyzewski will have his players prepared for everything Butler has done during and before the tournament.

-- Caulton Tudor, staff columnist

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Devils ride 3-pointers to halftime lead

INDIANAPOLIS - Outstanding 3-point shooting by Duke's three-man scoring tandem of Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer helped the Blue Devils build a 39-31 halftime lead over West Virginia on Saturday night in the NCAA semifinals at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Smith made three 3-pointers and Singler and Scheyer added two apiece as West Virginia virtually abandoned its 1-3-1 zone defense and played man-to-man. Overall, Duke shot 7-for-14 from 3-point range.

Singler, who shot 0-for-10 from the field in Duke's win over Baylor in the regional final, was 6-for-12 from the field with 14 points in the first half. Smith scored 11 in the first half but was called for his third foul late in the half.

Scheyer scored eight points, and Brian Zoubek contributed seven rebounds and three assists.

Devin Ebanks scored nine points to lead West Virginia.

-- Ken Tysiac

Bryant not in WVU starting lineup

INDIANAPOLIS -- Starting point guard Darryl "Truck" Bryant is not in West Virginia's starting lineup for tonight's NCAA semifinal game against Duke.

Bryant suffered a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot March 23 in practice, but was hoping to play with the help of a protective shoe he had made for him in Hillsborough, N.C.

Nonetheless, after he practiced Friday, both Bryant and West Virginia coach Bob Huggins were pessimistic about the chances that Bryant would play. He will be replaced by junior Joe Mazzulla in the starting lineup.

Mazzulla also started and scored 17 points in the Mountaineers' East Regional final win over Kentucky.

Ken Tysiac

Vitale picks Duke

INDIANAPOLIS -- A few hours before game time, ESPN's Dick Vitale said he thinks Duke will defeat West Virginia in tonight's Final Four semifinal nightcap at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"But," Vitale said, "it's probably going to be the best defensive team Duke has seen all season.

"If West Virginia has that 1-3-1 zone working the way it has been, Duke's going to have a lot of trouble finding shots. Those three shooters [Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith] are going to have work very hard to get looks.

"But Duke's tough. They've been a tough team all along, so I think they'll find a way to survive."
- Caulton Tudor

Indianapolis Star apologizes to Krzyzewski

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Star printed a front page apology to Duke University, coach Mike Krzyzewski, and to its readers for an inappropriate photo illustration of the coach that appeared in about 30,000 copies of the paper on Friday.

In a column on page A10 further explaining the situation, Star editor Dennis Ryerson said "I met with a very gracious Coach Krzyzewski and others from the university Friday afternoon, and, on behalf of The Star, apologized for the error. I also apologize to Duke, the team, Duke fans, and to our readers."

On a photo of coach Mike Krzyzewski, the illustrator drew in blue ink sketch that included a forehead target, horns, glasses, moles and a mustache. “LOSE!” is inked in seven time around his neck tie. The story's headline read “Despising Duke” and "Duke" was bracketed in ink with the words “It’s No Good.”

The Star, which was trying to poke fun at the dislike of the Duke program, pulled the illustration around midnight.

Before the apology, Krzyzewski clearly wasn't pleased.

“I did see that, and first thing, I thought ‘that can’t be.’ How could a newspaper do that?” Krzyzewski said Friday. “I thought somebody doodled – actually, I thought I looked better. But it was kind of juvenile – not kind of, it was juvenile. My seven grandkids didn’t enjoy looking at it – ‘that’s not Poppy.’ So it is what it is. It’s very juvenile.

“We’ve got great kids that go to school, they graduate. If we’re going to be despised or hated by anybody because we go to school and we want to win, you know what? That’s your problem. Because we’re going to go to school and keep trying to win. You don’t like it? Keep drawing pictures."

Robbi Pickeral

Friday, April 2, 2010

Tudor's take: Krzyzewski advocates for coaches

INDIANAPOLIS -- Back when, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski often used the Final Four platform to advance theories on how the NCAA might improve college basketball.

Of late, that’s not been the case. Throughout the ACC and NCAA tournaments this March and April, Krzyzewski has been asked questions about the rules, national policies and game organization.

He’s rarely made strong statements on any of those topics - an indication that he wants to be as focused on winning a championship as his players seem to be.But Friday, Krzyzewski did steer into philosophy while talking about how the 2010 Final Four teams are more team oriented than some of the past few fields.

“It can take time to become a real team,” Krzyzewski said. “That’s one thing we don’t pay enough attention to. Why is it that the rules don’t allow coaches to have time to work with players and teach them from April to September? To me, that makes no sense.

“Suppose my daughter’s a piano player who wants to get as good at it as she can. Would I go to her and say, ‘You’re doing fine, but from April until September, you can’t have a piano teacher.’ But in some other country, the kids would be allowed to practice with their teachers year-round.”

- Caulton Tudor, Staff columnist

Get-even time for Duke

INDIANAPOLIS -- Considering that there’s a strong institutional memory-bank within the Duke basketball program, the Blue Devils will be anxious today to show West Virginia’s players how much things have changed over a couple of years.

Late in the Mountaineers’ 73-67 second-round NCAA win over the Blue Devils in 2008 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., a few West Virginia players aggressively taunted Duke. The Blue Devils were called overrated and soft.

WVU guard Joe Mazzulla and forward Da’Sean Butler were among those who mocked Duke by slapping the floor. When the two teams play today in the Final Four at Lucas Oil Stadium, that '08 humiliation won’t be left in the Duke locker room.

“I definitely remember the game, and you remember parts of what people say,” said Duke guard Jon Scheyer, who scored 15 points in 29 minutes as a sub. “So we want to beat a team that knocked us out. Who wouldn’t? That’s our approach.”

Aside from Butler and Mazzulla, current WVU starter Wellington Smith played frequently in ‘08. All five Duke starters played in the loss.

Historically, Mike Krzyzewski’s teams have found a way to get even, including a 1991 Final Four win in Indianapolis over Nevada-Las Vegas. In the 1990 championship game at Denver, the Runnin’ Rebels gave Duke a merciless 103-73 beating that ended with several UNLV players ridiculing the ACC’s reputation and making fun of Duke freshman playmaker Bobby Hurley, who was slowed by a much publicized stomach ailment.

In ‘91, the same two teams met in the semifinals. UNLV, ranked No. 1 nationally almost all season and undefeated, was a heavy favorite. Many experts were rating Jerry Tarkanian’s team among the all-time best, better than Indiana’s 1976 undefeated team.

Duke won 79-77, Hurley played the full 40 minutes, finishing with 12 points, seven assists and two steals, and Christian Laettner, in 40 minutes, got 28 points against super-stopper Stacey Augmon.

Minutes after the Duke celebration ended, Hurley said, “Guess What? My stomach’s not hurting at all now.”

Just a couple of weeks ago, Hurley phoned Krzyzewski to remind the guys that California ended the guard’s career during the second round of the 1993 tournament. In a second-round game at Jacksonville, Duke sent home the Bears, 68-53.

The punch, counter-punch ploy long has been a staple of Duke’s series against North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland in ACC play. Although West Virginia has been tough enough to win big games _ including Kentucky _ with playmaker Darryl Bryant sidelined by an injury, the Mountaineers know Duke will use ‘08 as motivation.

Slapping the floor and making remarks to Duke’s players was a “spur of the moment thing,” according to Mazzulla.

“You get caught up in the emotions. They’re obviously a great team with great tradition.”Asked if he might do the same thing if WVU gets ahead today, Mazzulla smiled and said, “Depends on how the game is going.”

Caulton Tudor, staff columnist

Duke's Kelly savoring the moment

INDIANAPOLIS - Raleigh's Ryan Kelly didn't play at all in Duke's South Regional-clinching win over Baylor.

He played just one minute in the Blue Devils' win over Purdue in the regional semifinals. Nonetheless, as Duke prepares for Saturday's NCAA semifinal game against West Virginia at the Final Four, the freshman and Ravenscroft School graduate is pleased to be a part of this team.

"At this point I do whatever Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] asks of me, like I've done all season," Kelly said. "Everybody wants to be the guy that hits the game-winning shot in the national championship game. But that's not my role right now, and I accept that completely. That's what pushes me to get better every day in practice, to work hard, to push my teammates in any way I can and just be ready to get on the floor whenever that opportunity comes."

That opportunity could come next season. Kelly is the fifth man in a four-player rotation for two low-post positions on this team. But the departure of current seniors Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas will cut into Duke's depth in the post.

Miles and Mason Plumlee would appear likely to move into the starting lineup. Behind them, Duke would have only Kelly and incoming freshman Josh Hairston.

"That opens up some opportunities, but I'm not worried about that right now" Kelly said. "When the season is over we can talk about stuff like that. But right now I'm enjoying the ride. Not many people get the opportunity to be in the Final Four and that's certainly going to be a goal for years to come. But as we've seen, even at Duke, guys that are seniors now had never gotten to this point. So you never know what's going to happen. You've got to take advantage of the opportunity."

Kelly, who was a McDonald's All-American but is averaging just 1.2 points and 1.1 rebounds per game, hasn't had many personal highlights this season. But that doesn't seem to bother him.

"All I know is that I've become a much better player," he said. "I don't think back to specific moments in games. I know I've become a lot better player than I was a year ago. I know I have a bright future ahead of myself and I'm going to become an even better player. Right now I'm enjoying the moment being here in the Final Four and ready to do anything the coach asks."

Ken Tysiac

Paper apologizes after casting Duke as devils

INDIANAPOLIS – Once again, Duke is being cast as the devils of the Final Four. This time, literally.

The Indianapolis Star pulled some editions of its newspaper – and its sports editor apologized to a Blue Devils spokesman – after about 30,000 copies of the paper were delivered with a photo illustration that poked fun at the dislike of the Duke program.

On a photo of coach Mike Krzyzewski, the illustrator drew in blue ink sketch that included a bulls-eye on the forehead, horns, glasses, moles and a mustache. “LOSE!” is inked in seven times around his neck tie. The story's headline reads “Despising Duke” – and Duke is bracketed in ink with the words “It’s No Good.”

Jim Lefko, the Star’s senior editor for sports, said the illustration was replaced with a regular photo of Krzyzewski around midnight. “The designer had the story, and thought it was a clever way to illustrate it,’’ he said. “But it was a concept that didn’t meet our standards … and we wish it didn’t make the papers [that it did].”

The illustration made only the paper’s state edition, which is delivered in the city’s outlying areas. Papers delivered to the team and media hotels included a regular picture of Krzyzewski. The Star’s circulation is approximately 200,000.

“We wish we wouldn’t have done it,’’ Lefko said. “It didn’t meet our standards.”

Still, Krzyzewski wasn’t pleased.

“I did see that, and first thing, I thought ‘that can’t be.’ How could a newspaper do that?” Krzyzewski said. “I thought somebody doodled – actually, I thought I looked better. But it was kind of juvenile – not kind of, it was juvenile. My seven grandkids didn’t enjoy looking at it – ‘that’s not Poppy.’ So it is what it is. It’s very juvenile.

“We’ve got great kids that go to school, they graduate. If we’re going to be despised or hated by anybody because we go to school and we want to win, you know what? That’s your problem. Because we’re going to go to school and keep trying to win. You don’t like it? Keep drawing pictures.”

Robbi Pickeral

Final Four scene: WVU on the floor

INDIANAPOLIS -- Not far from where West Virginia coach Bob Huggins stood talking to a reporter, Duke associate head coach Steve Wojciechowski sat on press row Friday afternoon, watching West Virginia's open-to-the-public practice.

Although you don't learn much while watching an opponent's half-speed shoot-around, it's typical of Duke to leave no stone unturned in a game of the magnitude of Saturday's NCAA semifinal against the Mountaineers.

Meanwhile, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is on the interview podium. He's saying the Spartans' opponent Saturday, Butler, has a defense that reminds him of Purdue in some ways and Wisconsin in others.

The Final Four is a little over 24 hours away, and the players, coaches, and fans who streamed into Lucas Oil Stadium for the open practices can't wait.

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Duke's players talk WVU

Brian Zoubek is expecting West Virginia's offense to try to make him uncomfortable, Nolan Smith is ready for the Mountaineers' zone defense and Lance Thomas is waxing philosophical on what it's like to be the only No. 1 seed remaining in the NCAA tournament.

Here's what Duke's players had to say during Thursday's media session in Indianapolis as they prepare for Saturday's NCAA semifinal game against West Virginia:

Zoubek on West Virginia: "I would say they are a little bit like Baylor. They have a lot of athletic, interchangeable players. And obviously, I know they're going to try to spread it out, and try to take me outside of the lane, so I can't protect the basket as much."

Kyle Singler on the Mountaineers' size: "They're not a very big team, but overall they've got a lot of guys that are 6-8 or 6-7. So across the board they are a tall team. We have to be smart. We have to pass the ball and take good shots. That's been our motto all year. It doesn't matter what shot you take, just as long as it's a good shot. With their zone, they will try to use their length against us."

Nolan Smith on West Virginia's zone: "So far this year we haven't really played against a 1-3-1. The last time guys on this team have done it was against Michgian when they extended the 1-3-1 and attacked the ball. So we've done a good job of preparing [against] the 1-3-1 in practice and it's all about attacking it. Baylor played a really aggressive zone and I was able to get into the middle of it, so I'm going to look to do the same thing. As a team we just need to attack it."

Lance Thomas on the pressure of being a No. 1 seed: "We definitely had a target on our back. Not only in the NCAA tournametn but in the regular season and the ACC tournament, too. Because we have Duke in front of our jerseys, other teams wanted to take our heads off, and they got up to play us game after game. A lot of the games later in the season were really close games, teams we had beaten by a bigger margin earlier in the season. That mentally prepared us for the conference and the NCAA tournament, having the mental toughness down the stretch to pull out the close games."

Ken Tysiac

Duke has fond memories of Indy

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked earlier in the week if he'd reflected on how special it would be to play in Indianapolis.

In 1991, Krzyzewski won his first NCAA championship there. He said he's too busy focusing on West Virginia, Duke's NCAA semifinal opponent in Saturday's game, to get too wrapped up in nostalgia about Indianapolis.

He said his family talks about how special it was, but he's locked in on the present. Still, Krzyzewski is fond of Indianapolis.

"To me, Indianapolis has been a great place to have the Final Four," he said. "There's a spirit there."

Basketball holds a special place in the hearts of fans in the Hoosier State, and Duke forwards Mason and Miles Plumlee understand that spirit better than most. They are from Warsaw, Ind., about a two-hour drive from Indianapolis.

They have been deluged with requests for tickets.

"I've said no to probably 20 or 30 people," Mason Plumlee said.

Duke is in Indianapolis today for a 90-minute practice at Lucas Oil Stadium and a brief interview session with the media. The thing Krzyzewski likes about the Final Four Indianapolis is that the area around the arena always is buzzing with fans in the streets going to restaurants, checking into hotel room and talking basketball.

He's zeroing in on West Virginia, but he won't be oblivious to the atmosphere in the city that holds special memories he's too busy to savor.

Ken Tysiac

Duke, UNC recruits in trash-talking smackdown

At the McDonald's All-American Game, Duke recruit Kyrie Irving and UNC recruits Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall and Reggie Bullock engage in a trash-talking smackdown.

No other intro is necessary. You have to see the video, produced by Draft Express, to appreciate it.

Wake Forest's Aminu declares for NBA draft

WINSTON-SALEM – Wake Forest forward Al-Farouq Aminu declared for the NBA draft on Thursday and announced he will hire an agent, ensuring his departure with two years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-9 Aminu averaged 15.8 points this season and became the first Wake Forest player since Tim Duncan in 1997 to lead the ACC in rebounding at 10.7 per game.

“This was a difficult decision,” Aminu said in a statement. “But after talking it over with my family and my coaches, I believe now is the right time for me to pursue my dream of playing in the NBA.”

Coach Dino Gaudio said he did extensive research with NBA executives and believes Aminu is making the right choice. The Norcross, Ga., native is widely projected to be a first-round pick.

“I want to wish Al-Farouq all the best,” Gaudio said. “I'm looking forward to following his progress in what will undoubtedly be a successful pro career.”

Aminu is the fifth Wake Forest player to leave early for the NBA. Rodney Rogers left after his junior season in 1993, and Chris Paul left after his sophomore season in 2005. James Johnson and Jeff Teague both left after their sophomore seasons last year.

“I want to thank Wake Forest and the basketball program for all they have done for me the past two years,” Aminu said. “I have had some great experiences and will miss the friends that I have made here. I'm excited to take the next step and begin my professional career.”

- Associated Press