When Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski won his fourth NCAA championship last April against Butler in a game for the ages, it elevated him onto a plane with Kentucky legend Adolph Rupp south only of the unapproachable 10 won by UCLA's John Wooden. So, there was some symmetry when Duke again beat Butler Saturday afternoon at the Izod Center to give Krzyzewski his 876th career win, tying him with Rupp for third on the all-time wins list behind Bob Knight (902) and Dean Smith (879) on the Division I list.
Reminded of that fact after the Blue Devils' 82-70 win, Krzyzewski smiled and said, "I'm going to win more games. Coach Rupp, God bless him is not. He won a lot in his way and they didn't have as many games then. Each era has outstanding achievements by individuals. In this era, I've been fortunate to have some. It's tough to compare because he had such an impact on the game. I'd much rather tie him on the one in April."
Judging by the way No. 1 Duke (8-0) is playing, Krzyzewski might take a step up to No. 2 in titles all by himself. Duke just completed a two-week stretch in which it won a tough tournament in Kansas City over Marquette and Kansas State, continued out to Oregon for a win, returned to Duke to handle No. 6 Michigan State, which was a Final Four team last season, and then polished off Butler.
"It was a hard-fought win, and it was at the end of a two-week period that was as tough as any two weeks a team has gone through in the United States," Krzyzewski said after getting past the Bulldogs. "We traveled for eight days to Kansas City and Oregon and came back and had an hellacious game against Michigan State Wednesday night. We scheduled it this way because you can't practice the amount of energy you need, and being on the road and playing against championship-level teams."
Asked to compare this season's Duke team to the one that beat him in April, Butler coach Brad Stevens noted that the addition of freshman point guard has given the Blue Devils far more team speed. " The thing that makes them hard to prepare for is they have three of the best players in the country in their starting lineup [Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler, Irving], and then, they bring two deadeye shooters off the bench [Andre Dawkins, Seth Curry]. That makes it hard to guard."
The rest of the country has until April in Houston to figure out if there's a way to keep Krzyzewski from title No. 5.