DURHAM, N.C. -- Mike Krzyzewski saw more leadership from Duke's players last weekend, a sign his young club could be maturing at the right time.
In winning the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, the Blue Devils earned a No. 3 seed in the tough West Region of the NCAA tournament.
"The kids took ownership of their team," said Krzyzewski, who has won three national titles since 1990. "Leadership doesn't always happen, but when it happens it's a beautiful thing. That's what happened this weekend.
"Now we have to keep it going, but that doesn't mean we're like some amazing team. We're a better basketball team and that makes us play better."
Duke will have to be good to get through the West bracket.
Krzyzewski said Monday he wasn't surprised to be placed in such a difficult region with Arizona, Kansas and Illinois.
"I'm fine with it," Krzyzewski said. "We've been kind of East of the Mississippi all the time, so I felt we were going West."
The Blue Devils (24-6) have struggled on offense at times during the season as Krzyzewski used 11 different starting lineups in an attempt to get things clicking.
The Hall of Fame coach may have found something over the weekend when he inserted Daniel Ewing as a starter, giving Duke a smaller and quicker look.
Ewing averaged 20.7 points in the three tourney wins, and his presence helped free the team's top outside gun, J.J. Redick, who had 30 points in the final against North Carolina State.
"As the weekend went along we learned a little bit," said Krzyzewski, whose Blue Devils play Colorado State on Thursday at Salt Lake City. "They couldn't focus completely on J.J."
In 16 ACC regular-season games, the Blue Devils shot 43.2 percent. But they shot a combined 49.4 percent in tournament wins over Virginia, North Carolina and N.C. State, going 26-for-57 from 3-point range after slumping from beyond the arc most of the season.
Ewing's emergence could be key for a team that doesn't have many vocal leaders, as past Duke clubs did with Jason Williams or Shane Battier, who were stars in clutch times.
"In different teams and in different organizations sometimes there is a quiet person who is the strongest person, but doesn't even know it," Krzyzewski said. "Daniel has those qualities. Everyone respects him so much and they believe in him."
Krzyzewski believes Ewing, the team's sixth man most of the year, got a boost of confidence by becoming a postseason starter.
"Even though in our eyes he was at that level, the fact of making that change at this time showed him that, 'Yeah, I am as important as they've been saying all year long,"' the coach said.
Moving Ewing to an on-the-ball defender will allow Krzyzewski to free Chris Duhon to defend an opponent's No. 2 guard.
But there is a downside to the move. It leaves freshman Shelden Williams as Duke's only big man, and puts leading scorer Dahntay Jones up against taller defenders.
"The guy who has had to make the biggest adjustment has been Dahntay," Krzyzewski said. "He needs to still figure out where to score and how to play post defense and keep out of foul trouble."
© 2016. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us