March 23, 2009

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The way Joanne P. McCallie sees it, women won two years ago when she left Michigan State to coach at Duke.

"It's a neat story for women's basketball and elevating things," McCallie said Monday, a day before top-seeded Duke faced the ninth-seeded Spartans in the second round. "I was able to be at Michigan State, leave and get support from Duke with the buyout. Think about that.

"Usually, that only happens for men."

The last time Michigan State hosted NCAA tournament games, speculation was swirling about McCallie leaving the Spartans to lead Florida or LSU.

"If I was a guy, would there have been as much to do about it?" McCallie asked. "Is it my fault these people called me?"

A few days after Michigan State's 2007 season ended, McCallie signed a contract extension that would've paid her $500,000-plus per season.

Less than a month later, McCallie had her base salary boosted by about $100,000 in a new deal with Duke.

"People liked to tell the story that I broke the contract here, but I didn't," she said. "A contract is not breached if a buyout is paid and that's what happened."

Michigan State center Allyssa DeHaan recalled being in her dorm room two years ago when her father called, saying McCallie was headed for Duke. Later that day in a conference room, McCallie said goodbye to the Spartans.

"When you hear that the coach who recruited you to a school decides to leave, yeah, there were tears," DeHaan said. "I was very sad. It turned my life upside down. But at the same time, I was happy for her. She found something new and she took it.

"And, we got Suzy (Merchant) and things have been fine every since."

Michigan State hired Merchant away from Eastern Michigan to replace McCallie.

Despite her competitor being the center of attention for a few days, Merchant insists she doesn't have a problem with it.

"I think the media really likes this story, and I can see why and that's OK," Merchant said. "It's a great story, but the task at hand is what we have to focus on."

On the court, Duke will give Michigan State plenty to worry about.

The Blue Devils have won at least two NCAA tournament games the past 11 years and they'll have Abby Waner back in the lineup after sitting out of Sunday's win over Austin Peay with a sprained knee.

Duke's in-your-face, full-court defense has led to a school-record 13-plus steals a game.

On offense, Chante Black is the leading scorer with a modest 14 1/2-point average on a team so balanced that eight players have led the team in scoring and four Blue Devils have had at least 20 points in a game this year.

"You don't get a No. 1 seed by accident," Spartans forward Kalisha Keane.

Even though the Blue Devils seem to be at a disadvantage by playing on Michigan State's home court, they don't consider it unfair.

"If you want to be a championship team, you should be able to play on any court," Waner said.