Editor's Note: In the buildup to Midnight Madness, we are taking an in-depth look at Joe Lunardi's top-five seeds in a series called Countdown To Madness. In addition to the Insider pieces, Eamonn Brennan will offer Three Big Things about each team and we'll have Five Questions with a player or coach from each squad.
How do you erase an NCAA tournament-opening loss to Lehigh?
Go win gold.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had quite a summer again, winning his second gold medal in as many tries as the head coach of the U.S. Olympic team.
Since he returned from London, Krzyzewski has been on the go again. He has been on the road recruiting, stopped in Springfield for the Hall of Fame induction for contributor Phil Knight of Nike, and ensured he was present at workouts for an intriguing Duke team which isn’t the talk of the Triangle in North Carolina, yet certainly could be by season’s end.
Hovering over the program the past month has been the NCAA case centering on Lance Thomas, a starter on Duke's 2010 national champion squad. Thomas and a Manhattan jeweler settled a lawsuit stemming from Thomas owing a debt of $67,000 for a bill he incurred in 2009 after he plunked down an initial $30,000 (for the $97,000 bill).
Krzyzewski has declined to comment on the matter, referring questions to the school, which has made it clear it is working with the NCAA to investigate how Thomas was able to come up with the $30,000. But the case might be a dead end since neither Thomas nor the jeweler has to talk to the NCAA.
But that case has nada to do with this season's team. To find out more about the 2012-13 Blue Devils, we caught up with Krzyzewski on Wednesday for our Five Questions series.
MK: They have to be leaders on the court. They have to know everything that the team is doing. They have to be in incredible shape. They have to be able to knock down open shots and hit free throws and understand who is in the game and how to use them, and to defend the ball. They should be an extension of the coaching staff on the court. We believe that they can do it.
They could play together. Obviously, Tyler was the best perimeter defender last year and didn’t just defend the ball, but off the ball. It would be better if one would win the job, but the guy who is playing the best will play, and the other guy will be a fresh guy at the point position [off the bench].
MK: I think our seniors are our three best players. They’ve worked hard and prepared. They’re experienced and they’ve won. They’ve been in tough situations, and I think they’re ready to have terrific years. All three kids can score the ball. It gives you a diversified look on offense. Seth is an outstanding shooter and so is Ryan, and Mason has elevated his game and prepared himself.
Why do you think your Duke teams traditionally do well in the nonconference?
MK: We have an expectation year to year, and we believe that we will be successful and prepare that way. Our kids have worked hard and always have worked hard. Our teams are unselfish, and even though we play a very difficult schedule, our upper class sets the tone.
We play mostly man-to-man defense, so we’re not changing a lot of stuff from year-to-year defensively. We might from the point of pickup or some physical tendencies, but we’re not changing our offense around. We do try to personalize the offense for some key players, and we’ll do that again this year with these kids.
What was the most rewarding part of the journey toward the gold medal?
MK: Just the relationship that you build with all those guys. It was such a close group, and you could see it. We led the Olympics in assists, and our passing was beautiful. You could tell it by their celebrations and how they handled the victories, how close they were together. I love that. I love the type of relationships.
I think for 2016 I’m going to stay involved, but they’re probably ready for somebody else anyway.
What does it mean for North Carolina and the ACC to have all three schools in the Triangle -- Duke, UNC and NC State -- projected to compete for the ACC title? (I know Florida State would have something to say, too.)
MK: It’s great for basketball. There’s no region like ours that have three schools like this. North Carolina and us have won national championships in the last decade. There’s no other region in the country that has that. It’s the triangle, but it’s not just for business, but for basketball. It’s the most unique area in the country for basketball.