Despite some baby teeth, Duke faces crunch time


GREENSBORO, N.C. - The Duke Blue Devils are 21-6, defending ACC champions for four years running, and two years removed from winning the national championship. They are also a young team with some obvious weaknesses.

Great defense and making the extra pass have been trademarks of the Mike Krzyzewski era, but they have been in short supply at Duke this year.

Duke concluded its regular season ranked seventh in the ACC in scoring defense (70.4), eighth in field-goal percentage defense (.434) and seventh in assists (13.85 per game).

"It's not discouraging. I think it's realistic. We're a developing team. My kids are unselfish, but they're also learning while there are higher expectations on them," Krzyzewski said.

"This team travels a more narrow road between winning and losing. Part of that is learning how to play good defense, how to talk out on the court, how to share the ball. They're not like some of my teams who are veterans at the end of the year. They're still developing."

Williams on scandals

In light of the academic fraud scandals that have rocked Georgia, Fresno State and St. Bonaventure, Maryland coach Gary Williams thinks the NCAA will be forced to address the problem with severe penalties and major institutional rule changes. He also pointed a finger at various factions of NCAA leadership, including his own profession.

"I think there's a lot of people involved, from the presidents on down. Maybe it takes something like this to stop and really take a look at what's important," Williams said. "We as coaches, I think, have always kind of winked at it a little bit. You mention a name, and everybody knows the guy probably cheats, but we don't do anything as coaches. Athletic directors and college presidents have done the same things in the past."

State bubble to burst?

Barring a championship run by any one of the bottom five seeds, the team with the most to gain - or lose - here is North Carolina State. The Wolfpack, seeded fourth, probably will have to win one game and might need to reach Sunday's final to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

N.C. State coach Herb Sendek has tried to put blinders on his players when it comes to the possibilities going into today's quarterfinal against fifth-seeded Georgia Tech.

"I think it's there for the players," said Sendek. "I think it would be impossible for our players not to be aware of all the talk and all the speculation. Those guys are aware that we're a team that is on the proverbial bubble, whether we're in right now or whether we need to win one more, nobody's knows for certain."

And what does Sendek think of a team ranked 64th in the RPI?

"We think we have a resume with some impressive credentials," said Sendek. "We also realize that there are other teams around the country that do as well. We root for any combination of events that will help us get into the NCAA tournament, but the only one that has any value for us is our own game, because that's the one thing we can control."

Going to other side

As coach at Georgia Tech for 19 years, Bobby Cremins led the Yellow Jackets to three ACC tournament championships. Three years after leaving coaching, Cremins has returned to the ACC tournament as a credentialed member of the media.

"It is a little weird," Cremins, who will work both television and radio assignments this weekend, said yesterday as he watched the teams practice.

Cremins and his wife, Carolyn, left Atlanta and now live in Hilton Head, S.C. His name has surfaced for a number of jobs over the past few years, but Cremins isn't sure he is ready to go back to coaching - now or ever.

"When I left Georgia Tech, I was ready to leave," said Cremins, 55. "Will I ever go back? Maybe if it's special. Our program was going downhill and it wasn't fun for me."

One of the benefits of Cremins taking early retirement has been found in his golf game. A 20-handicap while he was coaching, Cremins is now a 12. "I'm looking to get it into single digits," he said.

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