In Final Four, doing the dirty work will propel either West Virginia or Duke

The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg talks about this years NCAA basketball tournament and the proposal to expand the contest to 96 teams.
By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 3, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS -- When West Virginia beat Duke in an NCAA tournament second-round game two seasons ago, Mountaineers guard Joe Mazzulla memorably slapped the court to mock Duke's defensive tradition.

Mazzulla said he got caught up in the moment and did not intend to send a message to the Blue Devils. But the gesture remains an indelible image from that game and is most representative of the tenor expected throughout Saturday's Final Four game between the same two teams at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Both teams have improved in two seasons, and both are here because of defense, rebounding and what players on both sides called dirty work. As much as anything, Saturday's game will be decided by deflections, charges, loose balls and second-chance points. It may not always be easy on the eyes.

"I can't remember the last time we won a pretty game," Mazzulla said. "We just try to grind things out."

The Mountaineers have accepted their roles and have accepted their identity. They were walking around the stadium this week wearing T-shirts that read "Do What We Do" on the front.

The same garb could be issued for the Blue Devils, as well. This could be the least talented of the 11 Final Four teams that Coach Mike Krzyzewski has had at Duke. Their credentials as a No. 1 seed were questioned and they were widely viewed as the top seed most likely to be eliminated first. But here they are.

"They have accepted who they are," Krzyzewski said. "And they have tried to become better at who they are, instead of trying to become somebody they are not."

Duke has found different ways to win when some of its best scorers are having off nights. Leading scorer Jon Scheyer made 1 of 11 field goal attempts in a second-round victory over California, and forward Kyle Singler missed all 10 of his field goal attempts in the South Region final against Baylor.

But Duke got 23 offensive rebounds against Baylor -- including two that led to second-chance points in the final minutes of a tight game -- and the Blue Devils dominated Purdue on the boards, 48-27, and held the Boilermakers to 37 percent shooting.

Through four NCAA tournament games, Duke is averaging 15.8 offensive rebounds per game and is holding opponents to 25 percent shooting from three-point range.

"You have to play shots as missed shots," Krzyzewski said. "I don't know how many teams in the United States rebound more than 40 percent of their misses like both of us [Duke and West Virginia] do. The boards will be a huge part of this game."

The onus will also be on Mazzulla to handle Duke's pressure because point guard Darryl Bryant (fractured foot) is not expected to play. The Blue Devils also will try to force the Mountaineers to shoot over their big men.

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