LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – In case you missed it, Mike Krzyzewski has stalled at 997 college basketball victories. Rick Pitino has won 710.
If I had time, I could give you 710 or 997 reasons to paint your face about the game that Coach K's Duke team will play against Pitino and Louisville at noon Saturday in the KFC Yum! Center.
But I'll stop at 10 because every list is supposed to be 10 items – and I want to get directly to what Pitino said about Kentucky. (At least I believe it was Kentucky. You decide.)
A week ago I asked if Duke deserved to steal some of the 65 Number One votes that were tied to Kentucky (I told you I'd work the Wildcats into the story) in the Associated Press college basketball poll.
Then the Blue Devils lost to North Carolina State by a dozen and Miami by 16.
Now Ken Pomeroy's computer model projects that Duke will lose five more games in Atlantic Coast Conference play, finishing 11-7 and tied for fifth in the ACC with Syracuse, two games behind the Cards.
His projection for Saturday is Cards, 74-69. Jeff Sagarin likes Louisville by 2.32 points. U of L opened as a 3-½ point favorite in Las Vegas.
My only prediction is that it will be the best atmosphere of the last 4-plus seasons at the KFC Yum! Center. Pitino agrees. I didn't have a chance to ask Coach K – yet.
“I think it will be the best crowd in the history of the Yum Center,” Pitino said “I thought Ohio State would be. It was, contrary to some of your opinions.
“There won't be 4,000 Duke Blue Devil shirts in the arena surrounding the court taking pictures of their players during warm-ups. There'll be about 100, and that's more than enough.”
Any idea which program Pitino is talking about? Please advise.
The Blue Devils are allowing 64.4 points per game this season, but the average has been 88.5 the last two games.
What's going on?
“What Miami ran the whole second half was just high pick-and-rolls,” Pitino said. “They just spaced the court, ran pick-and-rolls, and they have a premier point guard who beat them off the bounce. And then when Miami tried to switch, whoever Okafor was guarding, he tried to take them off the bounce. And they got away with it for that given game.
“But when it comes down to it, both teams made I think 10 threes, North Carolina State as well as Miami. To beat a great team, you've got to make nine or 10 threes. … So that was a big factor in the game.”
He's right. N.C. State made 10 of 16 threes and Miami made half of the 20 the Hurricanes attempted.
Duke had not allowed more than five threes for six straight games before playing Miami.
Louisville has made 10 shots from distance three times this season – Ohio State, Cal State Northridge and Virginia Tech. But for the season, the Cards only make 30.4 percent of their threes.
Somebody asked Pitino to evaluate his team's ability to shoot and pass.
“Very average,” he said. “(They would need to) be reincarnated to become great shooters because nobody works at it more than we do in terms of volume of shots. I think we have good scorers, but we don't have the knockdown shooter.
“Chris Jones is probably our best open shooter, but it's tough getting him to take open shots, he likes people on him.
“That's the number one thing we're looking for in recruiting. I went to a Final Four with a very average-size team in 2005, but they could shoot. Larry O'Bannon, Taquan Dean and Francisco Garcia could shoot the basketball.
Remember when Louisville was credited with one assist in the Cards' loss against Kentucky (with 4,000 fans taking picture)?
Guess which player leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in assists in league play?
Chris Jones. He's averaging 7 per game in the ACC.
4. How long has it been since the Blue Devils played Louisville in Louisville?
Well, Krzyzewski was a 15-year-old in Chicago. Coach K is primed to celebrate his 68th birthday on Feb. 13.
Duke won that game, 76-75, on Dec. 15, 1962 in Freedom Hall.
5. Over the last 10 games, U of L guard Terry Rozier has added nearly 4.5 points to his scoring average, surging to a team-leading 17.4 points per game.
Rozier scored 26 at Indiana, one of four times he has scored 23 or more over the Cards' last 10 games.
“Our two guys have had terrific years,” Pitino said. “Every backcourt has a bad game, but I think these guys have been as consistent, at both ends of the floor, as any backcourt in the nation.
“Chris Jones is not only playing great basketball right now, but so much goes unnoticed about his defense because he's a great on-ball defender.
“Terry is a great rebounding guard. You don't find too many 6-1 guards that can rebound like that. And he does it in traffic, going over big people.
“So they're having an outstanding year. I never say they're one of the 1, 2 or 3 best backcourts in the nation because that's a subjective thing. But I do think they're one of premier backcourts.”
6. The two Duke players that Louisville must keep off the glass are center Jahlil Okafor and forward Amile Jefferson. That pair has 116 of Duke's 201 offensive rebounds.
Here's a scarier number – Okafor has made better than 70 percent of his shots in Duke's last 11 games. Okafor, for the record, turned down the chance to play at Kentucky.
7. Montrezl Harrell needs a dozen points to become the 66th player to join the 1,000-point club at Louisville.
8. Okafor has scored in double figures in 16 consecutive games. The only Duke freshmen with longer streaks are Austin Rivers (17 games), Jabari Parker (18) and Johnny Dawkins (23). Not a bad group – although I'm not an Austin Rivers fan.
9. The Blue Devils have nine McDonald's all-Americans. That is tied with Kentucky (I did it again) for the most McDonald's all-Americans on any current college basketball team as well as the most acclaimed group of players that Coach K has ever assembled.
10. Although Coach K has the NCAA record for most Division I victories, he does not have the record for most wins at one school. That belongs to Jim Boeheim, who has won 962 games at Syracuse.
Coach K won his first 73 games at West Point. In fact, maybe you haven't heard the story: Duke hired him off a 9-17 season – and zero NCAA Tournament appearance in five years at Army.
Odds of that happening today?
Even Ken Pomeroy -- or 4,000 UK fans -- couldn't calculate that number.
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