PHILADELPHIA — Before Duke embarked on its expedition North, the Blue Devils took a trip back through time.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski led the team through a tour of the Duke basketball museum and hall of fame, which takes up the second floor of the Schwartz-Butters Athletic Center. The team saw the 36 NCAA tournament appearances under Krzyzewski, the 11 Final Fours and the four national championships.
“Coach pointed out to us that we want to come back here with no regrets with kids of our own,” Quinn Cook said. “So when kids ask, ‘Dad, where’s your trophy?’ I can proudly say that you were part of something special.”
First up in Duke’s challenge to add another trophy is No. 15-seed Albany, and that game will tip at 12:15 p.m. Friday.
Krzyzewski has talked this week about the importance of staying in the moment, but the Blue Devils can’t escape their history, for better or worse. From the outside, it looks like there’s pressure to live up to the standard set by the likes of Johnny Dawkins, Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, and, more recently, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith. The Great Danes pointed out that they don’t have any pressure, implying that the Duke, the No. 2 seed in the Midwest, does.
Not quite, Mason Plumlee said. As a senior, what he feels is urgency.
“We know that what we have is an opportunity,” he said. “We have a senior class that’s strong, and we’ve had a team that, at (one) point in the season, has been the best team in the country.”
The senior trio of Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry are in the museum as members of the 2010 national championship team. Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon, who will return to the starting lineup, saw that along with all the other great Duke teams during the visit.
“The program is used to being here and being successful when they get here,” Sulaimon said of the NCAA tournament. “We remembered those guys and will just try to represent the guys from the past and our coaching staff now.”
If Duke is to make a run at a fifth national title, then Cook and Sulaimon have to play large roles. Every opponent will be keyed in on containing Plumlee, Kelly and Curry, leaving opportunities for the younger guys. Sulaimon has had an inconsistent season. He scored 14 and 17 points in Duke’s early wins over Louisville and Ohio State but was held to single digits in four of Duke’s past five games..
As the point guard, it all starts on offense with Cook.
After surprisingly strong start to the season and MVP honors at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, Cook hasn’t been as sharp in recent weeks, Krzyzewski said earlier this week. Cook agreed.
“I lost my edge,” he said. “I just got ready for big games. If there was a big game, I would try to play, but I got a little content.”
Collins focused on Duke
Ever since Northwestern dismissed longtime coach Bill Carmody March 16, Chris Collins has been linked to the opening. There is mutual interest – Collins grew up in Chicago and expressed interest in coaching in the Big 10 last year when the Illinois job was open – but he will not set up an interview until Duke’s season concludes. Krzyzewski was asked about the possibility of Collins becoming a head coach Friday.
“I could lose any of my guys at any time,” Krzyzewski said. “I feel I have the best staff in America, pro or college.
“He (Collins) will be great – all three of those guys would be great, and all those guys that work with them, all the pro (Olympic) guys, will tell you the same thing.”
Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley