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The Morning Dish – Monday, January 26, 2015

January 26, 2015 Columns No Comments

What can you say about Mike Krzyzewski that hasn’t already been said? Well, there can’t be much by now. Leading up to the possibility of a big milestone, there was a lot that we learned about him that we might not already know. As of Sunday, we can say one thing about him with certainty: he is the first Division I men’s basketball coach to win 1,000 career games.

This one didn’t come easily at all, and when you’ve won 1,000 games, surely a few have been very difficult. St. John’s led at halftime, aided by the officials allowing a three-pointer that appeared not to beat the shot clock just before the half, and then they led by as many as ten in the second half. It took an 18-2 run by the Blue Devils to pull this one out.

It’s perhaps only fitting that this milestone victory came at Madison Square Garden, where Krzyzewski also picked up win number 903 to surpass Bob Knight as the all-time leading in coaching victories. Duke plays at least one game in the New York City area every year, and Krzyzewski has won 26 games in that building as the Duke head coach.

All the while, it’s easy to forget that this game could have been a big help to St. John’s aside from putting off the milestone and preventing it from happening in such a fitting location. Big East play has been a struggle for the Red Storm, though they don’t have a truly bad loss right now (that could change if, say, Seton Hall and/or DePaul struggles the rest of the way, and the Pirates lost on Sunday to fall to 3-4 in Big East play). Even so, the quality wins are hard to come by, and the slow start in Big East play has put the Red Storm in a position where they need to win a lot of games the rest of the way.

They got an inspired effort for much of Sunday, led by the likes of D’Angelo Harrison and Sir’Dominic Pointer, the latter of whom was in seemingly every play. In a key six-minute stretch late in the second half, though, it was all Duke, as the Red Storm didn’t make a field goal during that decisive run.

Coach K made an interesting comment after the game, saying, “There will be others that win more, but it is kind of neat to be the first one to 1,000.” Let’s take a little issue with that one and say that he’s just being diplomatic. Unless Jim Boeheim outlasts him by a few years, no one will catch Krzyzewski, especially considering how the coaching business has changed. Few land their first head coaching job at a young enough age to build up the longevity to get this many wins, especially given the money they make (which would allow for retiring earlier). If a head coach struggles early, they may not last at their job; it’s well-known that Duke was not an instant Final Four team under Krzyzewski, and perhaps had he become head coach at Duke just three years ago instead of over 30, he might be on the hot seat right now with his early record at the school. There is less patience with coaches nowadays.

There isn’t enough space to go over all of the accomplishments he has had at the school; it’s a dizzying list that is nothing short of remarkable. There may never be another college basketball dynasty like UCLA during the John Wooden days, but Duke under Mike Krzyzewski for a while might have been the next-best thing. These days, it’s clear he’s still a pretty good mentor to some young players, and on Sunday it showed with a victory one more time.


Side Dishes

Duke’s win overshadowed a couple of close calls among other ACC contenders on the day. The biggest scare was Virginia, which just did get by arch-rival Virginia Tech 60-57 after trailing for a good portion of the game. Buzz Williams is getting all he can out of his Hokies, and if he gets some talent there he could contend. Notre Dame needed a late tip-in to force overtime, then needed a block late in the extra session by do-everything guard Jerian Grant to hang on for an 81-78 win at NC State.

Utah got a good push from Washington for a time, but a few minutes into the second half the host Utes broke the game open with a series of three-pointers and run-outs en route to blowing out the Huskies 77-56. Utah keeps pace with Arizona atop the Pac-12 with this win, though the Wildcats won the only meeting between the two thus far (they meet again on February 28 in Salt Lake City).

Northwestern’s young team is still looking for a breakthrough win. They certainly tried, but to no avail on Sunday as Maryland rallied past them for a 68-67 win. While the Wildcats are led by young players, it was a freshman who led Maryland as well as Romelo Trimble had another big game with 27 points.

Staying in the Big Ten, Ohio State beat Indiana 82-70, giving the home team wins in both meetings between the two teams this season. It also moves the Buckeyes to 5-3 in Big Ten play, and gives them a quality win. D’Angelo Russell continued his fine freshman campaign with 22 points and ten assists.

An interesting note in the Missouri Valley Conference comes as a result of Wichita State (74-40 over Drake) and Northern Iowa (54-53 at Illinois State) both winning on Sunday. When Wichita State travels to Northern Iowa on Saturday, it will mark the first time in 25 years that two Valley teams ranked in the AP top 25 will play each other, and this also marks just the fifth time in conference history that two teams have started a season 18-2 or better in the same season.

Two teams that rolled on Sunday were Louisville, who took care of Pittsburgh 80-68 on the road, and Villanova, who knocked off visiting Creighton 71-50 to keep the Bluejays winless in Big East play.

Rhode Island has gained a little talent for next season in the form of Memphis transfer Kuran Iverson. The sophomore forward left the school earlier this month after being suspended and will now be close to home, as he grew up in Connecticut. He never lived up to expectations at Memphis, but being closer to home might help. He’ll also boost a Rams team that by then may be ready to seriously contend in the Atlantic 10, as he will be eligible at mid-season next year.


Tonight’s Menu

We don’t have a big slate, but there are some important games on tap. We also must keep an eye on any impact for games later in the week from the winter storm that is already hitting the northeast as of early Monday morning.

  • Syracuse visits North Carolina in a matchup of two quietly contending ACC teams, and a little later Texas visits Iowa State in a key Big 12 matchup.
  • It’s a busy night in the Horizon, MEAC, Southland and SWAC. Among the interesting matchups there are Cleveland State visiting Oakland (Horizon), Delaware State traveling to play 7-0 North Carolina Central (MEAC), and best of all is a SWAC showdown with Southern (6-1) visiting Alabama State (6-0).

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