Irving's Next Test Comes In Sweet 16
Kyrie Irving (DBP)
Kyrie Irving (DBP)
Special to TheDevilsDen.com
Posted Mar 22, 2011


The Blue Devils have advanced to the second weekend and continue to integrate the point guard back into the offensive scheme.

The Blue Devils are in another segment of adjusting to their personnel, and this is a rare situation for this time of the season. But the return of freshman guard Kyrie Irving to game action has caused this.

"We're in a period of adjusting to Kyrie coming back, so we got better as the week went along," Krzyzewski said after Irving's first two games back came in NCAA Tournament victories. "We now know that Kyrie will play and he can play extended minutes, which we didn't know coming in."

The Blue Devils defeated Michigan 73-71 on Sunday to advance to the West Regional semifinals, where they'll take on Arizona in Anaheim, Calif. So adjusting to the time-zone change will be another issue for the coaching staff to assess at the beginning of the week.

But the most noticeable difference in the Blue Devils is working Irving back into the mix.

"Played pretty well and he kept getting better," Krzyzewski said. "We know that he wants to be there with pressure. That's a big thing going forward."

Meanwhile, Krzyzewski notched his 900th career coaching victory when the Blue Devils defeated Michigan. But he didn't make a big deal of that, though he's two wins away from tying Bob Knight, who's his former Army coach.

Most of the Duke players are used to the hoopla of Krzyzewski's coaching milestones because they come relatively often. So that's one topic that shouldn't be a distraction of note, no matter how far the Blue Devils advance in the tournament.

NOTES, QUOTES
--A recent ESPN documentary on Michigan's "Fab Five" and comments made by some of those former players in reference to Duke provided a backdrop for the NCAA Tournament meeting that decided a Sweet 16 berth. But Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski deflected attention from the issue. "To me you've got to be in this moment, not in somebody else's moment," Krzyzewski said. "... That has nothing to do with what we're doing here."

--Duke has had the ACC Player of the Year in 14 different seasons, including 10 times under coach Mike Krzyzewski after senior G Nolan Smith's selection this year. It's that kind of star power that continues to make Duke players perhaps the most recognizable to many fans and opponents when the NCAA Tournament begins.

COACH: Mike Krzyzewski, 31st year at Duke, 27th year in NCAA Tournament, four national championships.

KEYS TO VICTORY: Duke continues to add freshman G Kyrie Irving into more situations, meaning he could become more relevant if the Blue Devils advance deeper into the tournament. It's important that his presence doesn't interfere with development of other areas that have made the Blue Devils strong this season. The Blue Devils generally like what their post players have offered the past couple of weeks and they'll want that to be a bonus to go with the normal clutch play of G Nolan Smith and F Kyle Singler.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I was definitely worried about trying to fit in with everybody, not trying to be too aggressive or anything." -- Freshman G Kyrie Irving on returning to playing status after sitting out more than three months with a toe injury.


STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
GAME PREVIEW:
vs. Arizona, March 24, NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

KEY MATCHUPS: Duke will have more variety in its backcourt with the addition of freshman G Kyrie Irving after he missed more than three months with a toe injury. This makes defending the Blue Devils trickier because senior G Nolan Smith has been their most productive player this season. Duke also likes what sophomore G Andre Dawkins has provided in recent games so its backcourt remains a fluid group. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils should be able to bring waves of post players at Arizona standout Derrick Williams, who can be a major nuisance in the lane.

SCOUTING REPORT: Duke continues to count on senior G Nolan Smith for clutch performances, and his 24-point outing against Michigan was evidence of that. He has more help in the backcourt with the return of freshman G Kyrie Irving, but this means Smith might have more time on offense without the ball in his hands. There are still few signs of senior F Kyle Singler breaking out of a shooting slump after he hit only 1 of 5 shots from 3-point range and 2 of 5 free throws against Michigan. And sophomore G Seth Curry had another rough outing by going 0-for-3 from the field (all 3-point attempts), but with more guards available that means it's easier to replace him quicker if he seems out of sync. Since sophomore F Ryan Kelly went back to coming off the bench he has been giving the Blue Devils a big lift in a reserve role. The Blue Devils will have to tighten up some transition defense after Michigan used several breakouts to avoid having to execute against Duke's halfcourt defense.

PLAYER NOTES
--Senior F Kyle Singler collected eight rebounds against Michigan and that made him the fourth player in Duke history to reach the 2,000-point and 1,000-rebound marks for a career. A total of 103 players in NCAA history have achieved that.

--Junior F Miles Plumlee grabbed 13 rebounds against Hampton as part of his postseason emergence. But he didn't have a good defensive matchup against Michigan, so he was limited to 15 minutes of playing time in that game. So even though he was a starter, he was eighth in time played for the Blue Devils in the game.

--Freshman G Tyler Thornton had a key secondary role for the Blue Devils during a stretch of the conference regular season, but that faded even before the return of freshman G Kyrie Irving. Thornton has been praised for his defense in what is sometimes limited playing time. At times, the Blue Devils aimed for a change of momentum that might be sparked by defense. For instance, his 24 minutes of playing time in February vs. Georgia Tech was his second-highest total of the season. But he played a total of 10 minutes in the four games prior to the NCAA Tournament and he didn't play at all against Michigan.


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