Duke plays tonight in New York
NEW YORK ó Mike Krzyzewski played at Madison Square Garden as a cadet at Army in the 1960s. He has brought his Duke teams to the New York City arena enough that the Blue Devils have a history there with three NIT Season Tip-Off titles and they are within two wins of a fourth.
The seventh-ranked Blue Devils (4-0) face Arizona State (4-0) in the second game of tonight’s semifinal doubleheader after No. 13 Connecticut (3-0) goes against LSU (3-0).
There are plenty of reasons for Krzyzewski to be a big fan of the preseason NIT as the Blue Devils enter the game with a 20-2 mark in the tournament and they are on a 10-game winning streak in it.
“The NIT, I feel, is the best of the early season tournaments because you have a day off in between, which simulates the NCAA tournament. It really is about taking two weekends and playing two little tournaments and you have to win to advance,” he said Tuesday. “Once you come to New York it does have a Final Four atmosphere and obviously that includes playing the Garden.”
Krzyzewski said the Garden provides some special moments for the players.
“What they don’t realize is that when they are here for the shootaround that first time there’s just something about coming from that locker room and walking to court,” he said. “And then to hear your name announced in the Garden, that’s an unbelievable thing.”
Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said current players all know how special the Garden can be.
“Coming to New York City and playing in the Garden gives everybody goose bumps,” he said. “Every generation learns about it from the previous generation. The guys on our team have heard the coaches talk about it, they listen to commentators on TV, so even though this may be, for many of the players, their first experience, they know about it through others’ eyes of how special it is.”
Many people have already penciled in a Duke-Connecticut final, a game that would bring together two Hall of Fame coaches with more than 800 wins each and two programs among the best in the sport.
The teams did meet in the 1999 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, but it was in the third-place game after both were upset in the semifinals.
“This will give us a look at Big East-type basketball, NCAA-type basketball,” Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said before recounting a big matchup gone wrong 10 years ago. “That game was set up and we both got beat and we played in the 2 o’clock game. I want to play in the 5 o’clock game on Friday.”