Duke ends ‘dry’ spell with Final Four bid
DURHAM, N.C. ? Shelden Williams couldn’t help but smile Monday when asked about Duke’s three-year absence from the Final Four.
“Three years is pretty dry,” the sophomore said with a laugh.
Jokes aside, that is the attitude at a program that has reached the national semifinals 10 times in 19 seasons. Under Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski, getting this far in the NCAA Tournament is not just a goal. It’s expected.
Now the Blue Devils are two wins away from a fourth national title.
“That’s the reason I came to Duke, and I’m sure it’s the reason most of the guys came to Duke,” sophomore guard J.J. Redick said. “To be in situations like this.”
The Blue Devils (31-5) face Connecticut in Saturday’s second semifinal in San Antonio. It’s the Blue Devils’ first trip to the Final Four since winning the national title in 2001.
The Blue Devils had reached the Round of 16 in each of the last two years. That performance would qualify as a successful postseason for most schools, but at Duke it’s as close to a drought as it gets.
“This program has had so much success and tradition,” guard Daniel Ewing said. “I think it’s a real disappointment when a Duke team doesn’t make it to the Final Four.”
Krzyzewski, in his 24th year at Duke, is second in NCAA Tournament victories with 64, one behind North Carolina’s Dean Smith. He also ranks third in Final Four appearances with 10, two back of UCLA’s John Wooden and one behind Smith.
Before Sunday’s regional win against Xavier, Krzyzewski showed his team tape from past victories that catapulted Duke into the Final Four.
“It showed the excitement and who they played against,” Krzyzewski said. “All of a sudden, they see (Christian) Laettner and Alonzo Mourning go up for a jump ball.
He said he did “those things to let them know about the moment and don’t assume that they’re going to know about the moment. We’ll do a little of that before we play Saturday.”