Indianapolis, IN – Two iconic coaches meet in the Elite Eight, as Mike Krzyzewski's Duke Blue Devils take on Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals in the Midwest Regional final at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
The winner advances to the Final Four next Saturday in Atlanta.
Pitino has made six trips to the Final Four and a seventh would tie him for fourth all-time with North Carolina's Roy Williams. Meanwhile, if Duke moves on, Krzyzewski would tie John Wooden's NCAA record with 12 Final Four appearances.
Duke did not win the ACC's regular season or tournament titles this year, but came into the NCAA Tournament with a bit of a chip on its shoulder following last year's early exit. The second-seeded Blue Devils have certainly exorcised those demons with this year's run. After posting comfortable wins over Albany (73-61) and Creighton (66-50), Coach K's squad made it three double-digit wins by outlasting Michigan State in the Sweet 16 on Friday night, 71-61. With the victory, Krzyzewski improves on his own Division I record with 82 NCAA Tournament wins. The victory over the Spartans also gave Duke its 13th 30-win season, all under Krzyzewski. Duke is now 7-1 in NCAA Tournament games played in Indianapolis, including capturing national titles in both 1991 and 2010. The Blue Devils have advanced to the Final Four a total of 15 times, tied for third-most in NCAA history with Kentucky.
By virtue of their superior season and winning the Big East Conference Tournament, the Cardinals were tabbed as the No. 1 overall seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Pitino's squad has certainly lived up to that billing, navigating the Midwest Regional field with easy victories over NC A&T (79-48) and Colorado State (82-56) last week, followed by a 77-69 victory over Oregon in Sweet 16 action on Friday night. With the win, Pitino moved to 11-0 in regional semifinals and has Louisville on the cusp of its second straight Final Four appearance. Overall, the Cardinals have won 13 straight games. Louisville is making its 13th trip in the regional finals and at 32-5 overall, is just one win shy of matching the school record for wins in a season. The team has advanced to the Final Four eight times.
These two teams have already met once this season, with Duke coming out on top, 76-71, to capture the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament title back on Nov. 24 in the Bahamas. As a result, Duke's lead in the all-time series with Louisville stands at 5-3.
This matchup pits Krzyzewski against Pitino in a regional final for the second time. The first came in 1992 when Duke beat Pitino's Kentucky Wildcats on Christian Laettner's famous buzzer-beater.
Seth Curry was on fire, hitting six 3-pointers and finishing with a game-high 29 points, as Duke pulled away from Michigan State in the second half of Friday night's clash to advance to the Elite Eight. A strong defensive effort in the second half complemented Curry's accuracy from long range, as the Blue Devils held the Spartans to just seven field goals over the final 20 minutes. Rasheed Sulaimon added 16 points for Duke, thanks to a 12-of-14 showing from the free-throw line, while Mason Plumlee finished with 14 points and seven rebounds. Duke did have some problems with Michigan State's strong defensive play as a whole, with the Blue Devils shooting just .408 from the floor, well below their season average.
Duke has been much more efficient in terms of shooting the basketball on the season, coming in averaging 77.6 ppg, shooting .475 from the floor, including a stellar .403 from behind the arc. The team has tremendous balance with the perimeter game of Curry (17.6 ppg, .437 from 3-point range) and the interior toughness of Plumlee (17.1 ppg, 9.9 rpg). Scoring depth continues with perimeter players like Ryan Kelly (13.1 ppg. .436 from 3-point range), Sulaimon (11.8 ppg) and Quinn Cook (11.7 ppg, 5.3 apg).
Russ Smith was at it once again, as he tied his career-high with 31 points in leading Louisville to a victory over Oregon in the Sweet 16 on Friday evening. Smith was 9-of-16 from the floor and 12-of-14 from the free-throw line in the win. Kevin Ware came off the bench to tally 11 points, while Gorgui Dieng just missed a double-double in the middle, finishing with 10 points and nine rebounds. As has been the case all tournament long, Louisville was once again efficient at the offensive end, shooting .538 from the floor. It was needed, as the team's vaunted defense was a little more forgiving in the game, allowing Oregon to shoot 44 percent, while forcing only 12 turnovers.
Smith (18.8 ppg) has been electric in terms of his offensive exploits this season. He has turned up his play in the postseason, averaging 27.0 ppg in the first three outings of this event. Dieng (10.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 74 blocks) is the perfect complement with his physical play in the paint. Point guard Peyton Siva (9.7 ppg, 5.8 apg) was on the bench for a good portion of the first half against Oregon, but needs to stay on the floor going forward, as the team's top facilitator. Depth for the Cardinals comes in the form of Chane Behanan (9.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Wayne Blackshear (7.9 ppg).