MINNEAPOLIS 6 — MINNEAPOLIS -- Mike Krzyzewski did not have a difficult time getting the attention of his Duke basketball team this week. The Blue Devils concentrated on their defense, and on their concentration.
Both were noticeably absent last week against Kentucky, especially for the last 15 minutes of regulation and for most of the overtime in Duke's 104-103 victory in the NCAA East Regional final at the Spectrum.
"I don't think we've played a full game of good defense the last couple of games, although that has to do with some of the offenses we've played against," Krzyzewski said earlier this week. "I don't think our concentration has been there for a full 40 minutes."
Duke's defense, as well as its concentration, will have to be there tonight when the defending national champion Blue Devils (31-2) meet Indiana (27-6) in the second semifinal of the NCAA tournament.
If the narrow, last-second victory over the Wildcats did anything for the players on the nation's top-ranked team, it helped bring them back to their roots. When Duke began its run of five straight Final Fours, it started with defense.
"I haven't lost sight of that, but I think some of the guys on the team figured that our offense was good enough to blow people out," said senior forward Brian Davis, who along with Christian Laettner will be playing in his fourth straight Final Four. "If we don't play defense against Indiana, we could get blown out."
Said sophomore forward Grant Hill, "I don't think we've played defense with the same sense of urgency as we did before. I think the fact we almost lost to Kentucky made the guys realize it's not our God-given right to be in the Final Four. We have to work hard, a lot harder than we have."
The Blue Devils could have their hands full against the Hoosiers. Indiana blew through a watered-down West Regional shooting nearly 58 percent from the field and more than 80 percent from the free-throw line. Duke, meanwhile, seemingly allowed Kentucky to score at will, especially down the stretch.
What will make the Hoosiers more difficult to defend than any of Duke's previous tournament opponents is their motion offense and the frequency with which they get to the free-throw line.
"Free throws are a big part of our game," said senior center Eric Anderson, who came off the bench to become the Most Outstanding Player in the West Regional.
To stay out of foul trouble, and thus keep the Hoosiers off the line, Duke needs to help out against the screens and double-screens Indiana will try to set up. The Blue Devils fell victim to this last week against Kentucky, and nearly lost when Sean Woods beat Duke point guard Bobby Hurley by coming around a John Pelphrey screen to put up a shot over Laettner with three seconds to go.
"Communication is going to be very important," said Hurley. "I think the main thing for us defensively is for me to put pressure on the ball. That's something I haven't been doing for a while. Part of it is mental. Part of it is physical. If I can get more pressure on their guards than I did against Woods on Kentucky, I think we can do a better job defensively."
The Blue Devils almost blew all of their 12-point lead against Seton Hall and all of a 12-point lead against Kentucky, before coming back to win on Laettner's 16-foot jumper at the overtime buzzer. It was something Duke did in the latter stages of the rTC regular season as well.
"We're concentrating, but then we go into a lull for two or three or five minutes at a time," said Krzyzewski, who put his team through brutal back-to-back practice sessions in Durham, N.C., this week. "A lot of it comes from our offense. If you're making turnovers, it's hard to stop the team at the other end."
Some believe that the manner in which they beat the Wildcats was a sign that Duke is destined to become the first team to repeat as NCAA champions since UCLA in 1972-73. Others take it as a sign that the Blue Devils are more vulnerable, that their lack of depth might finally be catching up with them.
"I think it woke us up," said Hurley.
The alarm clock has been reset for a little past 8 tonight.
NCAA FINAL FOUR
Michigan (24-8) vs. Cincinnati (29-4), 5:42 p.m., Chs. 11, 9
B6 Duke (32-2) vs. Indiana (27-6), 8 p.m., Chs. 11, 9
Semifinal winners, 9:22 p.m., Chs. 11, 9