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Zooming With Mark Williams And Paolo Banchero After UNC And Before The ACC Tournament

Let’s go Duke!

Duke v Syracuse
 SYRACUSE, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 26: Mark Williams #15 and Paolo Banchero #5 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrate during the second half against the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome on February 26, 2022 in Syracuse, New York.
Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

Paolo Banchero says sometimes simpler is better.

“Just share the ball and keep teams honest. Make simple plays as a team. We have a lot of talent across the board. So, when talented teams do simple things right, we’re real hard to beat.”

Banchero and Mark Williams addressed the media today before and after. Or maybe after and before.

“After” of course refers to Saturday’s disappointing loss, probably the most disappointing regular-season loss in Duke history.

Mike Krzyzewski made several points after the game, some to the crowd, some to the media.

To the crowd he called the loss “unacceptable.” To the media he said several times in several ways that his team needed to learn from its mistakes Saturday night.

Which brings us to “before.” As in before the ACC Tournament and then the NCAA Tournament. Before as in “the season isn’t over,” as in there are bigger prizes to be won.

Starting Thursday.

There’s an old saying that you can’t rule the world if you don’t rule your neighborhood.

Krzyzewski has done a pretty good job of ruling the ACC-Tournament-neighborhood.

It took awhile. He lost his first three ACC Tournament games by margins of 3, 35 and 43 points. It took him six years to win his first tournament title. Then there was that curious five-year drought in the middle 1990s when Duke won only two tournament games, one of them a play-in game in 1995 with Pete Gaudet at the helm.

But beginning in 1998 Krzyzewski has been phenomenally successful in the conference tournament. From 1998 through 2019 Duke made the title game 15 times and won it all 12 times. Only in 2007 and 2013 during this span did Duke lose its opening game.

In fact Duke has a five-game winning streak and hasn’t lost in the tournament since 2018.

But has only one tournament title to show for it. The 2020 tournament was shut down before Duke could take the court and a COVID outbreak knocked Duke out after two wins in last year’s tournament.

That’s a potential six games and two titles gone with the wind.

But four current Blue Devils did see action in last season’s truncated tournament, including Mark Williams, who had a break-out performance in Greensboro.

But still he never had a chance to follow up that 23-point, 19-rebound masterpiece in Duke’s 70-56 win over Louisville.

Unfinished business?

“Definitely,” Williams said. “But at the same time it’s also a different situation. We would have been one of the teams playing five games in five days had we continued playing. This year we earned the double-bye and obviously want to take full advantage of that, getting rest and getting ready to play.”

Banchero says he has a 24-hour rule after a game, moving on after a win, after a loss.

But learning from both.

The time spent since Saturday?

“Reviewing some of the stuff we did wrong that we need to do better. Talking about it and moving on. We know what we did wrong and what we have to do. We’re excited to go to New York and try to win the championship. “

Exactly what does Duke need to do better and win that championship?

“We just need to get back to playing like we were. Saturday we took a step back from where we were. We finished out the season strong in order to win the ACC regular season. Being together, locking in on defense, communicating.”

The tournament?

“We look forward to it. We play our best when the chips are down, we’re at our best in a hostile environment. I think we’ll be able to come into the tournament and play hard.”

Williams says the biggest lesson he learned from Duke’s truncated run in last year’s ACC Tournament is to have a sense of urgency.

“All we can do now is learn from it, remember that feeling and the next two tournaments we’re in, no more second chances.”