PHILADELPHIA — Before Duke embarked on its expedition north for the NCAA tournament, the Blue Devils took a trip back through time.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski led the team through a tour of the Duke basketball museum and hall of fame, which takes up the second floor of the Schwartz-Butters Athletic Center. The team saw the 29 NCAA tournament appearances under Krzyzewski, the 11 Final Fours and the four national championships.
“Coach pointed out to us that we want to come back here with no regrets with kids of our own,” Quinn Cook said. “So when kids ask, ‘Dad, where’s your trophy?’ I can proudly say that you were part of something special.”
The Blue Devils beat No. 15-seed Albany 73-61 Friday. Next up in Duke’s challenge to add another trophy is No. 7-seed Creighton on Sunday.
Krzyzewski has talked this week about the importance of staying in the moment, but the Blue Devils can’t escape their history, for better or worse.
From the outside, it looks like there’s pressure to live up to the standard set by the likes of Johnny Dawkins, Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, and, more recently, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith.
The Great Danes pointed out that they don’t have any pressure, implying that Duke, the No. 2 seed in the Midwest, does.
Not quite, Mason Plumlee said. As a senior, what he feels is urgency.
“We know that what we have is an opportunity,” he said. “We have a senior class that’s strong, and we’ve had a team that, at (one) point in the season, has been the best team in the country.”
Seniors Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry are in the museum as members of the 2010 national championship team. Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon, who will return to the starting lineup, saw that along with all the other great Duke teams during the visit.
“The program is used to being here and being successful when they get here,” Sulaimon said of the NCAA tournament. “We remembered those guys and will just try to represent the guys from the past and our coaching staff now.”
If Duke is to make a run at a fifth national title, then Cook and Sulaimon have to play large roles. Every opponent will be keyed on containing Plumlee, Kelly and Curry, leaving opportunities for the younger guys.
Sulaimon has had an inconsistent season. He scored 14 and 17 points in Duke’s early wins against Louisville and Ohio State, but was held to single digits in four of Duke’s past five games.
As the point guard, it all starts on offense with Cook, who scored four points in the win over Albany.
After a surprisingly strong start to the season and MVP honors at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, Cook hasn’t been as sharp in recent weeks, Krzyzewski said earlier this week. Cook agreed.
“I lost my edge,” he said. “I just got ready for big games. If there was a big game, I would try to play, but I got a little content.”