A coaching matchup for the ages highlights Sundays regional finals in the NCAA Tournament.
Dukes Mike Krzyzewski and Michigan States Tom Izzo face off in the East Region. Krzyzewski has 12 Final Four trips and five national titles. Izzo has seven Final Four appearances and a national championship since taking over at Michigan State in 1995.
Izzo looks forward to competing against his longtime friend.
“We know that Duke is the No. 1 overall seed. And theyve earned all their stuff, too, with the way that program has been, Coach K and the players,” Izzo said. “So hopefully it will be as good as a game as the billing.”
History favors Duke against Michigan State — the Blue Devils have won nine of the past 10 and seven straight in the series, including a victory in the 2015 Final Four. Krzyzewski downplayed it on Saturday.
“You play the team that youre going to play against right now,” he said. “And theyre capable of handing us a defeat. It doesnt make any difference whats happened in the past, really.”
In Sundays other regional final, Kentucky faces Auburn in the Midwest.
Duke has been up to the challenge in close wins over Central Florida and Virginia Tech.
“Playing the entire game until the end is the thing, and then you accept the outcome,” Krzyzewski said. “And, obviously, the outcome has been good for us or else I wouldnt have the pleasure of spending time with you all today.”
Duke freshman Zion Williamson has scored 80 points in the NCAA Tournament, the most of any freshman in his first three games. Another freshman, RJ Barrett, is the team leader with 22.7 points per game.
Michigan State counters with a veteran cast. Junior guard Cassius Winston averages 18.8 points per game and junior forward Nick Ward averages 13.4 points and 6.2 rebounds.
“Theyre very aggressive and physical and they rebound the ball very well,” Williamson said. “And they have a great motor. So theyre a great team. Their bigs are very great as well. So were just going to have to try our best to contain them.”
Krzyzewski said Saturday that freshman forward Cam Reddish will be a game-time decision with a knee injury. Reddish averages 13.6 points per game.
Auburn already has NCAA Tournament wins over Kansas and North Carolina. Kentucky might be the next blue blood to fall.