Collins knows how Duke seniors feel
Chris Collins told Duke seniors Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry that he now has something in common with them.
Like them, the Blue Devils next loss will mark the end of his tenure with Mike Krzyzewski’s basketball program.
Collins, a Duke assistant coach since 2000, was named Northwestern’s new head coach on Wednesday night.
In brief comments about the decision on Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium, where Duke plays Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament tonight (9:45 p.m., WRAL), Collins said he is glad he gets to coach the Blue Devils at least one more time.
“It’s my senior year, too,” Collins said he told Plumlee, Kelly and Curry. “This is my last run. That’s the way I’m viewing it. I’m excited to see what we can do the rest of the tournament.”
The 38-year-old Collins, who also played with the Blue Devils from 1993-97, will remain with Duke until the season ends before taking over the Wildcats program.
Northwestern marks the first head coaching job for Collins, whose father, Doug, is the Philadelphia 76ers head coach.
“I’m excited,” Collins said. “It’s a great fit for me. A great fit for my family. Chicago is my home. It’s a great school not only athletically but academically. It’s a great fit for everything I was looking for, and I’m looking forward to getting started.”
At the same time, saying goodbye to the home he has known for most of the past two decades isn’t easy.
“I played at Duke,” Collins said “I’ve been with Coach for 13 years. He’s like a father to me. Everything I have in this business is because of making the decision to play at Duke when I was in high school.
“Being able to coach in the Olympics and win championships and coach in the Final Four, I’m forever grateful for everything that Duke has meant to me and that will never go away.”
Appling battling injury
Michigan State point guard Keith Appling, the Spartans’ leading scorer, is attempting to play through a shoulder injury for the second time this season.
Appling’s right shoulder briefly popped out of its socket during Sunday’s 70-48 NCAA Tournament win over Memphis. He experienced a similar injury in February and was able to play three days later.
But Thursday, Appling admitted he’s not fully healthy.
“I wouldn’t really say that my shoulder is 100 percent, but it’s close to it,” Appling said. “I’m going to do as much as I possibly can to help my team advance in this tournament.”
Appling practiced Thursday wearing a brace on his shoulder and will wear it in a game for the first time this season tonight against Duke.
Like many people who filled out brackets, 13-year-old Steven Izzo struggled with the Sweet Sixteen matchup between No. 2 Duke and No. 3 Michigan State before finally going with the Blue Devils.
What makes Steven’s story noteworthy is that his father is Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.
“I tried to be a real parent,” Izzo said Thursday. “You know, not push your kid, help him make intelligent decisions, like all of us do. And I said, ‘Steven, I love you, man. Do it with your head, not your heart. Don’t worry about Mom or Dad.’ ... He didn’t worry about us at all.
“So as I told a lot of people, I love my kid. He’s a skinny little guy that won’t be eating for a month if we lose this game. That’s the way it works. That’s the way it goes.”
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said that one of his granddaughters picked against the Blue Devils, but it was in a championship game matchup with Montana. Krzyzewski joked that he appreciated Steven’s bracket.
“(He) will be sitting on our bench and has a scholarship to Duke,” Krzyzewski said. “I’ve been communicating with him and have arranged that deal. So he sold (Tom) out, but he sold him out for a good price. So it’s a good thing.”
Tonight’s game will be the 11th time in 35 contests that Duke tips off at 9 p.m. or later.
Freshman Amile Jefferson said he preferred afternoon starts because it meant less time anticipating the game. But sophomore Quinn Cook said he liked the late-night start, since he could take a three-hour nap after the morning shoot-around.
“I love sleep,” the 6-1 point guard said. “Plus I’m trying to grow, so. ...”
Duke is 9-1 in late games, with wins over Louisville, Ohio State and N.C. State and a home-and-home sweep of North Carolina. The lone defeat was at Virginia.
Michigan State is 4-0 in games that started at 9 p.m. or later.
All four teams playing the Midwest Regional have at least one NCAA Tournament championship in their men’s basketball histories.
Yes, that goes for 12th-seeded Oregon, as well.
The Ducks have the distinction of winning the very first NCAA Tournament championship in 1939. Oregon has not been back to the Final Four since, but it reached the Elite Eight in 2002 and 2007.
Still, this year’s Oregon team remains hopeful. The team has the 1939 championship trophy with them this week.
Duke leads the Midwest Regional group with four NCAA championships (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010). Louisville claimed championships in 1980 and 1986, while Michigan State ruled college basketball in 1979 and 2000.