March 15, 2002
By DAVID DROSCHAK
AP Sports Writer
GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) – Notre Dame has upset No. 1 teams a record-tying nine times in school history. But can Mike Brey do what Quin Snyder couldn’t last season in the NCAA tournament – beat his former mentor?
Duke won two national titles in 1991 and ’92 while Brey was an assistant under Mike Krzyzewski. On Saturday, Brey’s Fighting Irish will try to stop the top-seeded Blue Devils (30-3) from advancing to the South Regional semifinals.
Snyder, a starting guard for Krzyzewski and former assistant with Duke, couldn’t derail the eventual national champions in the second round of the NCAAs last year. Missouri was close with 10 minutes left, but lost 94-81.
Now it’s Brey’s turn to match Xs and Os with a coach whose record in the tournament is 57-14. Coach K is also 13-0 against former Duke assistants.
“So you’re saying that Mike adheres to the philosophy that he eats his young,” Brey said Friday when asked about Krzyzewski’s unblemished mark against his former assistants.
But like last March, Krzyzewski would just as soon pass on the matchup. He’s uncomfortable butting heads with a former pupil who he groomed to be a head coach, first at Delaware, and then at Notre Dame.
“It’s usually tougher for the older person because it’s more like a parent or an older brother,” Krzyzewski said. “If you choose what you have to go through, you wouldn’t do this. We will go through it because we’re here. We’re going to play and we’re going to compete.”
Brey knows all too well how competitive Krzyzewski can be.
“I hope he’s real uncomfortable over the next 24 hours, and is distracted and feeling guilty,” Brey said. “It is harder for him than it is for us. He wants to see all of us do well and I don’t think he wants to be the guy to stomp on any of us as we’re trying to make our way in this business.”
While eighth-seeded Notre Dame (22-10) has a similar style to Duke and runs some of the same sets, Krzyzewski believes Brey’s inside knowledge of the Duke program is negligible.
“We won’t lose because Mike knows my playbook, because I don’t have a playbook,” Krzyzewski said of his free-wheeling team. “We may lose because his kids outplay us.”
Brey does see one advantage he’ll try to use as he prepares Notre Dame for its biggest challenge of the season.
“What it does is take a little bit of the anxiety away from our guys, that I can talk a little bit about how Duke is behind the scenes,” Brey said. “Maybe I can make us a little less anxious.”
Some comments from Notre Dame’s players should catch the attention of the No. 1 seed, which blew past 16th-seeded Winthrop 84-37 Thursday night.
“Duke has gotten blown out too this year,” said David Graves, whose club beat Charlotte 82-63 to advance past the first round for the second straight season. “They’re vulnerable and they can be beaten, we understand that.
“I don’t even think we have to play our best game to beat them,” Graves added. “We’ve got to play a solid game and make them uncomfortable, not let them drive and pitch and shoot 3s.”
Some interesting words from a heavy underdog playing the defending national champions.
“If that’s what they feel that’s how they feel,” Duke’s All-American Jason Williams said. “We’ll see if we’re vulnerable or not.”
Krzyzewski didn’t take offense to the opinion of Graves.
“I heard one of Notre Dame’s kids saying we’re vulnerable – absolutely,” Krzyzewski said. “Anybody who doesn’t think they’re vulnerable at this time are filling out brackets and watching other games. You have to be a little bit afraid of the things that might happen against you, and as a result, you try to take steps to cure them.”
The last time Notre Dame advanced past the second round was in 1987.
The second game Saturday will pit 10th-seeded Kent State (28-5), riding a school-record 19-game winning streak, against second-seeded Alabama (27-7).
The Crimson Tide struggled in its opening-round win over Florida Atlantic, needing 33 points from freshman point guard Maurice Williams to pull out an 86-78 win.
“I think Ball State impressed the United States of America back in November and they just beat the snot out of Ball State, beat them like a drum, beat them like they weren’t even on the same floor with them,” Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said of Kent State. “That’s pretty impressive. When you go through your conference like they have that gets our attention.”