SAN FRANCISCO — Arkansas basketball is the latest team with a chance to end the legendary career of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. The No. 4 Razorbacks take on the No. 2 Blue Devils on Saturday (7:49 pm CT, TBS) in the NCAA Tournament Elite 8.
The game could be Krzyzewski’s last, as he will retire at the conclusion of this season after 41 years at Duke. Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks stand in the way of one more Final Four for Krzyzewski.
It’s also a rematch of the 1994 national championship, when Arkansas beat the Blue Devils. Krzyzewski said he remembers it well.
Here’s what Krzyzewski, along with Duke players Paolo Banchero, Jeremy Roach, Wendell Moore Jr. and Mark Williams, had to say about the matchup with Arkansas.
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On Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman
Krzyzewski: “Their family is one of the great names and one of the great families in the history of basketball in our country. His dad was just an amazing coach and defensive coach. I think the kids at Arkansas benefit from the fact of Eric’s experience in the pros, and you can see a lot of the pro influence, especially in some of the things they do offensively and some of the unique things they do defensively.
“I think it bears out number-wise in the last five, six weeks they’ve been probably the best defensive team in the country.”
On Arkansas’ 1994 national championship win over Duke
Krzyzewski: “We played against a great team and one of the great coaches in our sport in Nolan (Richardson). It was a heck of a game, and it came down to, really, a timeout. I felt we knew Scotty Thurman was going to get the ball, and we got a fingernail on it, which didn’t affect its trajectory, and he knocked it down.
“Those things are disappointing in that you don’t win, but I wasn’t disappointed with the effort. We really had a great year.
“An inside story on that: About a month and a half before that, we changed our offense a little bit. I told (Duke center Grant Hill) we’re going to put a new offense in. It’s going to be ‘going to Charlotte’ offends and put him up on top. It worked. We did go to Charlotte. I should have said I’m going to put a national championship. Then he might have won three.”
On Arkansas forward Jaylin Williams
Banchero: “He is a key player for them. Definitely seems like he keeps them together. He is able to pass, shoot, really do everything at the five spot for them. He is a great player. And then the charges, that’s not something that you see a lot, a big man taking that many charges. It’s really unique. So you have to be aware of him at all times, just where he is at on the floor.”
On form ACC players Au’Diese Toney and Chris Lykes
Moore Jr.: “Definitely I have some memories of Au’Diese. He gave us 27 and 22 (points). We faced him while he was at Pitt, so he is definitely capable. He is for sure a great player. Coming from North Carolina, I was able to see him a lot on the AAU scene.
“Chris, he is still a great player. I mean, at Miami he was their leading scorer and an All ACC player. He was ACC, so he is a really good guard. Both of those guys bring a lot of energy to the Arkansas team. They bring a lot of energy and athleticism, defense, scoring. Those two guys are two major parts of the team and two things that we’ve been looking out for in the scout.”
On Arkansas’ defense against Gonzaga
Roach: “It’s definitely good to see the tape and how they adjusted to Gonzaga. They took them out of transition. They were real physical with them all game. I think just coming into this game tomorrow, we’ve just got to match that intensity and even have more intensity than them coming out of the gates. You don’t want to give them a rhythm early because it can get scary.”
On Arkansas guards JD Notae and Au’Diese Toney
Moore Jr.: “He is definitely probably one of the best guards in the country. If he misses a shot, it doesn’t mean anything to him. He is going to take the next one like it’s his first shot.
“I think that’s what makes him really such a great player. It’s really just his short-term memory. Nothing seems to bother him. Even in big moments he has the supreme confidence, no matter how he is shooting, that he is going to hit the next shot.
“As far as Au’Diese, he does a little bit of everything for the team. He is really kind of like a glue that holds them together just because he is able to do so much. He is able to defend. He is able to score. He is able to rebound. He is probably one of the tougher kids they have on their team. When you have a guy like that, he really just boosts their whole team up when he is playing well.”
Krzyzewski: “(Toney) has great energy. That’s something you look for in every player. He has outstanding athletic ability and competitiveness, but he plays with energy, man. When you do that and you have the athletic ability that he has and the freedom that he has with Eric, you’re going to make a lot of good plays. He did that at Pitt for Jeff Capel, and he is doing it now on a team that really throughout the country they’re as hot as any team really in the last 20 games or so.
“I think they started the SEC 0-3, and what a turnaround, although their league is very difficult. I mean, they have beaten Kentucky, Auburn, Gonzaga, Tennessee. Come on. It’s one of the best teams in the country. “
Christina Long covers the Arkansas Razorbacks. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @christinalong00.