Duke Pregame Quotes in Advance of the 2018 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

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Duke Pregame Quotes

Duke vs. Syracuse

2018 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

March 20, 2018 // Cameron Indoor Stadium // Durham, N.C.

Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski

Opening Statement:

“We’re obviously amazingly excited about moving on. I thought our team did a great job in Pittsburgh. I thought we played really well and handled, what sometimes for a young group, can be a really pressure situation. I thought they were pretty much at ease and it showed in how we played. I thought Grayson (Allen) did a great job of leading us in those two games. We’re playing our best basketball of the season right now. We’re a real team right now. Not that anything was wrong, but it takes times. Some groups play together the whole year and they’re compatible and good and whatever. But when you become a team, there’s something different. In business, in family or whatever, you feel it and you know it. I think our guys; they feel that way. We’re healthy. We’ll practice in about an hour and then leave tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully we adjust our practice to the way it should be so we don’t have a lot of contact in our preparation because obviously the worst thing that could happen is someone getting injured before you even play a game.”


On what clicked for the team’s performance:

“It’s just an evolution, what a season is about. We’re trying to condense about four years into eight months. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, you just kind of live it. The schedule we have, our conference is so good, that it puts you in positions where you can look really good and you can look really bad. The schedule of Saturday and Monday games or three games in a short period of time puts you in different positions that they learn from. They have been a group that has tried to do what we ask them to do. We’ve never had a problem with that. But it’s just a matter of getting to know one another. They’re in a good place, they’ve really done a good job and we hope to keep it going.”


On what makes a zone tough to score on:

“What makes it tough to score on any defense is if you’re playing as one. Five are playing as one. Virginia had one bad game, but Virginia’s tough to score against because their five guys play as one, they have each other’s back and they talk well. In our zone, we communicate better and if you communicate, you have a better chance of playing as one. In real time, as it’s going on, you can help one another and cover up for one another. We’ve gotten better in the zone. We’ve played really good defense. But it’s because we’re playing as one. When we rebound a missed shot, then it’s even better. That’s where our perimeter, in Pittsburgh, they did that. In the ACC tournament, we didn’t do that.”


On learning from Duke’s earlier win over Syracuse:

“You have to be careful not to point out too many things that happened a month ago. They’ve changed and we’ve changed. They’re better and so are we. We’re better in our zone than we were that day and they were good in their zone that day too, but their offense wasn’t that good. The two things for them where they’ve really gotten better is (Marek) Dolezaj has become a force. He’s a double figure scorer in the last three weeks. He was a good player, but he’s a very good player now. (Oshea) Brissett has been their best player the past few games, he’s averaging 18 (points) and 10 (rebounds). They can really protect the basket when they have those four guys who are all very big and mobile and accustomed to playing with one another. On offense and defense, they become a tough out, especially when they can keep the number of possessions lower than a fast paced game.”


On learning about zone defense from Jim Boeheim:

“A lot of learning from the zone comes from Jim and Mike Hopkins. I was with Jim for 11 years with USA Basketball, Mike helped for about two-thirds of that time. Mike’s done a great job at Washington. Then Jeff Capel was with me. We incorporated zone with the US Team, we only used it one time. But we talked about it a lot. Not just why you use it, but how you use it, drills and also the mentality that you have to have in using it. I learned so much during those 11 years, not only from Jim and Mike, but also from Tom (Thibodeau), Mike D’Antonio, Nate McMillan, Monty Williams and we had guys behind the scenes. We had international scouts. When we got together to watch tape, there were 16 to 18 people in the room. You’re analyzing tape and talking and once you get through with that, there’s only so much you’re going to do for certain opponents, because we were much better than certain opponents, not Spain or Argentina. So what are you going to do after that? You’re all basketball people and you ask, what do you guys do a midseason? What do you do when you have a certain amount of games in a row? Do you like having a walkthrough? You talk about the nuances of the game and then you ask the players that too. Their workouts, what they do to stay in shape. It was very good and we learned a lot ab out the zone. We feel very comfortable in teaching it and the zone will take on the physical attributes of the people playing it. That’s why it’s not an Xs-and-Os, just salt and pepper shakers and all that stuff.”


On getting team accustomed to playing zone defese:

“We don’t have as much time to teach everything. If you don’t have the older players, a lot of times they teach the younger players while you’re teaching them. It evolves like that. Virginia is a great example of that. Villanova is another. Very well-coached teams. Villanova with their zone press, containment 2-2-1 and some variations they have. In the last few years, we haven’t been able to do that. So you try to look at other things that you might be able to do. This is something we’ve done very well. Our kids are playing well, hopefully we can keep it going. But it wouldn’t take away from what we’ve already done. They’ve done a good job in it.”

 

Duke senior guard Grayson Allen

On how it feels having the team listen to him:

“I’ve fully come into the leadership role, like full 100%. This team, I think it’s clear to anyone who’s seen us play recently, that we’ve really come together. They’re not only listening to me, they’re listening to each other. There’s a lot of back and forth going on between guys. We’re embracing the talk, embracing suggestions from others. Really embracing the group together team mentality. It’s a really cool thing,”


On how the younger players performed in the NCAA Tournament:

“In our very first game, they were a little anxious going into it. But they’re playing with so much confidence. They don’t have any fear, no fear of the moment. I don’t think they’re feeling any extra pressure on them. It’s really cool because this is the time you could feel all of that, feel the pressure of expectations, the pressure of looking forward, feel a lot of different things. But they’re really focused in. I guess that’s part of them listening to me and the coaching staff and I have just been telling them to focus on our game and one game at a time. They’re doing that. I think it’s allowing them to go out there and play free. Shoot the ball not like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders or like the whole success of the team depends on this one shot. Just play.”


On how he focuses on each opponent:

“As a player in the tournament, you have to completely change how you look at the tournament. Outside, you look at the whole thing, you make a bracket and look at who’s beating who. Look at oh there’s an upset in this bracket or these teams could matchup in the final four. But when you’re a player, you really can’t do that. Coach has mentioned before, it’s kind of each location is a mini tournament with four teams in it and we’re just trying to get two wins here and make it out. This year we’re even looking at it as each game is a two team tournament and if we lose we’re going home, we’re not playing in the next one. It helps you change your focus from this huge broad tournament to focusing in on your next opponent.”


On playing Syracuse for a second time:

“It helps and hurts. It helps because we know their personnel, we’ve played them before. But they’re a different team, they’re a better team. They’re a much better team now than before. Their guys are playing with more confidence. Like (Marek) Dolezaj is a different player than when we played him earlier. He’s playing much better now, much more confident, scoring the ball more. So we can’t just think it’s going to be the same game from when we played them. We’re even a different team from when we played them that game. We can’t think it’s going to be like that game, we have to know that it’s different. Their guys are better now, they’re playing with more confidence. Obviously going up against their zone defense is always a challenging thing.”


On how the team can improve on its shooting performance against Syracuse:

“They have a lot of length and their zone kind of stands you up and tries to make you just make passes around the perimeter instead of penetrating. SO they can get out and really contest your shots. Then teams can have an off day also. Hopefully we can make them miss some threes too, but we’d like to make a few more in this game and get the ball moving against that zone so we can get some better looks.”


On beating teams by 20+ in the opening two rounds:

“We haven’t really done that much this year. We haven’t had many games where we came out, got a 10-point lead and expanded it and stayed on it. That’s something we were able to do in our first two tournament games. I think that helps us going forward, not saying we’re going to blow teams out, but if we get a five-point lead, keep that five-point lead and try to expand it. If you get a two-point lead, keep your foot on the gas and try to make it bigger. That’s going to help with our mentality and not to give up. We’ve been a great team in fighting to comeback and go on runs. We need to become a great team in getting a lead, keeping it and expanding it.”


Duke freshman forward Wendell Carter, Jr.

On seeing changes in the NCAA Tournament changes:

“The intensity picks up because it’s do-or-die now, there’s not any second chances for anybody. People are going to come out like it’s their last time playing potentially. They’re going to go out and put everything on the line. That’s the main difference.”


On what allowed the team to win by 20+ in first and second rounds:

“I think we are reaching our peak at the right time. I don’t think we were that type of team earlier in the year. We definitely have developed into a team that can crush our opponent, just continue to do it for the entire game. We’ve just started to learn how to do that at the right moment.”


On what helps calm his nerves before NCAA Tournament games:

“Our coaching staff does a great job of preparing us. What to expect. Grayson is always throwing little tidbits at us, letting us know what to expect also. We really go into games where we’re playing for each other. We don’t look at it as, it is a different game from during the regular season, but we just want to go into the game where we’re going to play our heart out no matter what.”


On focusing on each opponent:

“We all enjoy watching the tournament, other games that are going on. But the way we try to maintain our focus on our little tournaments we have in different cities is, nights before, just to visualize. Just to think about how you’re going to affect the game, what you’re going to do in the game. I’ve really taken it to heart, I’ve done that myself. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve done that night before games. I’ve sat there and just thought about what I’m going to do and how I’m going to affect the game and how I’m going to help my teammates.”

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