Coach Kay broke John Wooden’s record, finishing 13th and finishing fourth

In San Francisco on Saturday night, Duke presented Mike Kryzewski with his coveted retirement gift: the record-breaking 13th Final Four appearance.

Krzychevsky hugged his players and shone with joy after his Blue Devils finished 78-69 Elite Aid victory over Arkansas to extend his farewell tour for another week.

Duke, who exhibited excellent personal talent and impressive maturity, is no doubt who the best team is. The Blue Devils opened the 12-point halftime lead and responded with a knockout punch after Arkansas reduced their deficit to five early in the second half.

Krzevsky surpassed John Wooden to make it to the top four finals of any college coach, knocking out racerbacks in fourth place. UCLA’s Wizard of Westwood went to the national semifinals 12 times from 1962 to 1975.

Waiting for Duke in New Orleans will be either a NCAA match favorite or the Blue Devils’ biggest rival. To set up the first NCAA match between rivals in Tobago Road, North Carolina will have to beat 15th seed St. Peters on Sunday.

Only four times before this season Duke and North Carolina have produced Elite Eight in the same year. It was not until 1991 that they both reached the final fourth place.

Although Duke has a loaded list that includes half a dozen NBA opportunities, the Blue Devils’ youth for most of the season was as clear as their potential. Twice late in early March, that moment seemed too big for them, as they seemed to be hooking up under pressure to send Krzyzewski out with a perfect last hurray.

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After Cameroon sadly ruined Kryzewski’s last game at the indoor arena 94-81, the famed coach grabbed the microphone and apologized to his dozens of former players who attended. “Let me tell you – it’s unacceptable,” he said. “Unacceptable today, but the season is very acceptable. I tell you, the season is not over, right?”

Some useful conversations from that blistering speech helped set the Duke’s path to New Orleans. On Friday, Khrushchevsky said he regretted how he had handled the pain of the loss and that he had spoken to his players about it.

“I felt so bad for them,” Krishevsky said. “When I said ‘unacceptable’, they were not unacceptable .It’s an unacceptable decision and I wanted to make sure it was not misunderstood by them.

Another subtle and significant change made by Krzyzewski was the different use of the longer 20-minute half-time of the NCAA match. Instead of immediately starting a speech about what’s right and what’s wrong, Khrushchev spent much of his time listening to his players’ opinions.

“When I get to the locker room, I pull out a chair and I sit with them for about five minutes,” Kryzewski said. “That’s right, we’re here, talking to them.”

If the first two weeks of the NCAA match are any indication, Duke seems to be responding well to that gentle approach. The young Blue Devils seem to be growing and dealing with the pressure to send Kryzewski to retire with another ring.

They rallied for a second-round victory over Michigan State, despite being five minutes behind in play. They were then stunned by Texas Tech’s fancy defensive play in the Sweet 16, shooting only 71 percent off the field in the second half and not missing a single shot in the final eight-plus minutes.

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No need to make a late comeback against Arkansas, Duke converted a game with an 8-0 rise to finish the first half. The Razorbacks went under 12 at half time, despite being within 4-6 points.

The mistake that really hurt Arkansas Chris LikesDecide to raise the 3-pointer with 10 seconds left in the half. By not running the clock any further, Likes gave Trevor Keels time to punch the razorbacks in the buzzer with a 3-pointer.

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