JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Kansas, as it turns out, is a cautionary tale for the rest of the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. When a No. 1 gets knocked out before the Sweet 16 for the first time in seven years, everyone pays attention.
"Our team hasn't overlooked anybody all year because we're not a great team," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski Sunday, after the Blue Devils won a pretty comfortable game over California, 68-53, and advanced to a South Regional semifinal game against Purdue.
"We've got to really prepare for every game, and every team in the NCAA Tournament prepares that way. Kansas didn't lose because they looked ahead. Kansas lost because Northern Iowa played a great game. Kansas didn't play badly against them.
"We didn't talk much about it, but we had our team meeting last night and it just occurred at 8 o'clock, right after the game. So, obviously, they knew it right away. And what we pointed out was that the reason Kansas lost was two of Northern Iowa's kids took charges in the last few minutes — so any one of you guys could take a charge and it might win a game. The other thing is, I think the kid (Adam) Koch got that offensive rebound and then dunked it (with about a minute to play). It was one of the great plays of this basketball season and it wasn't a called play.
"So that was our theme to our team," he said, "that those are the kind of plays that the winning teams will make going forward. The other team didn't make losing plays. You have to make winning plays in this tournament. So that's what we talked about after the Kansas game."
Viewed as the top seed of a weak region going into the tournament, Sunday's game will do little to change that perception. Duke played good defense against Cal and cruised, even with guard Jon Scheyer, the team's leading scorer this season, shooting 1-for-11 (and 1-for-8 from beyond the three-point line).
Cal's only lead of the night was at 9-8. The Bears cut their second-half deficit to seven points with 13 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the second half, but that was as close as they got. Duke just rolled after that.
"It was a really tough game inside, a lot of elbows thrown, a lot of contact," Zoubek said. "We knew that the rebounding was going to be an essential part of the game, so both teams were fighting for it."
Questions about shooting in general — Duke was 3-for-17 from beyond the arc — and Scheyer in particular were predictable enough. Krzyzewski said, "Jon wants it so badly that I think he's making every shot bigger than they are."
Which is sometimes what happens at this time of year. This time, because of its defense, and maybe because of its bracket, Duke was able to survive it.