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Duke wary of Chippewas

Back in the day when Duke's stranglehold on college basketball supremacy was undisputable, it would've been a major upset to see the Blue Devils bounced from the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament.

Those days are a distant memory.

"You can lose at any time, no matter who you are right now," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

That's why he insists that if Colorado State had rallied past Duke Thursday night in the Huntsman Center, it wouldn't have been much of an upset. That's also why Krzyzewski is very mindful of 11th seed Central Michigan in Saturday's second-round game in the Huntsman Center at 6:10 p.m.

Just like the Mountain West tournament champion Rams, Krzyzewski doesn't expect the Chippewas to be all starry-eyed being on the same court as Duke.

"Why would they?" he joked at Friday's press conference.

During the glory days of Duke's program, senior leadership was always the key to success, whether it came from the likes of Grant Hill or Christian Laettner. If those two were born a decade later, they probably never would've played college basketball at all. Instead, they would've declared for the NBA Draft straight out of high school.

"These big-time programs are playing with 18- or 19-year-old kids, but the teams you are playing are all 22 or 23 years old," said Krzyzewski, who has 59 career tournament coaching victories.

Central Michigan is exactly that type of team.

In contrast to Duke, which starts two freshman and just one senior, the Chippewas start two seniors, two juniors and zero freshman.

"The one thing we always look at is the age and experience factor of the team we're facing," said Krzyzewski. "You go far in this tournament because of the character that your team has developed, and Central Michigan has great character."

The Chippewas built that character by winning the Mid-American Conference regular season and tournament titles, and only added to it Thursday by upsetting sixth-seeded Creighton.

If Central Michigan has any hopes of bouncing Duke and advancing to the Sweet 16, they better hope MAC Player of the Year Chris Kaman has a monster game.

"He'll be the best center we've faced all year," said Krzyzewski. "You're never going to stop him, you just have to try . . . to limit his impact on the game."

Creighton had success with that holding Kaman to 12 points. What the Blue Jays didn't account for was a career-high 29 points from forward Mike Manciel.

Perhaps the key to the game will be the guard play of Duke's Chris Duhon and Daniel Ewing. If they can penetrate Central Michigan's defense and in the process create open looks for J.J. Redick and Dahntay Jones, the Blue Devils could roll to a double-digit win.

If the Chippewas' guards hold their own, it could be another nailbiter in the Huntsman Center.

WEST REGIONAL NOTES: Reddick missed Friday's team practice, but is expected to play Saturday.

"He's been sick for about three days, but he's really sick today," coach Mike Krzyzewski said.


E-mail: jedward@desnews.com