Coach K, Izzo maybe rare March meeting
Duke, Michigan State lined up for potential showdown
Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo have been regulars in the NCAA tournament, both making multiple Final Four appearances and winning national titles in impressive streaks of appearances.
They are only two victories each away from a rare March matchup in the Midwest Region.
Duke (27-5) will play in its 18th consecutive NCAA tournament under Krzyzewski, as the No. 2 seed. For their 16th NCAA in a row, Izzo's Michigan State Spartans (27-7) are the No. 3 seed in the same region.
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The coaches have gone head-to-head only twice in the NCAA tournament, splitting those games. Both have work to do before there can be a third -- and then there would be the potential regional final matchup against Big East champion Louisville (29-5), the No. 1 overall seed.
"You know it is hard to look ahead to any of that. Coach speaking, never do that. But in human speaking, you do that," said Izzo, 1-6 in his career against Duke.
Michigan State, which has been to six Final Fours and won the 2000 national title under Izzo, opens Thursday in its home state against Valparaiso (26-7), the Horizon champion that has won nine of its last 10 games and is in its first NCAA tournament since 2004.
"I love being at (Auburn Hills, Mich.), I think that's great. I love Indy if we get past the first weekend," Izzo said. "Early on, we have to play games that we have to find a way to win. If we get out of the first weekend, we really have two (No.) 1 seeds."
The Blue Devils got a No. 2 seed for the second consecutive year, and play America East champion Albany (24-10) on Friday. Remember, they didn't make it past their first game last year, losing to 15th-seeded Lehigh. Duke was knocked out of the ACC tournament by Maryland in the quarterfinals last week, its earliest exit since 2007. But their NCAA bracket path could take the Blue Devils through familiar territory.
If they get through next weekend in Philadelphia, where they are 4-0 in NCAA tournament games, they will advance to Indianapolis -- where they have won two national championships, including their most recent in 2010. The Blue Devils have won two national titles and been to two other Final Fours in their current tournament streak with Coach K.
And at the very least, they had some extra time to get rested and refocused.
"We have to have a good week of practice," big man Mason Plumlee said after the Maryland loss. "There is no time to start questioning things, but at the same time we have to right the ship going forward."
Assuming Duke doesn't have another shocking loss to start this tournament, the Blue Devils will play No. 7 seed Creighton (27-7) of the Missouri Valley or No. 10 seed Cincinnati (22-11) in its second game in Philadelphia.
The other Midwest Region game Thursday in Michigan matches Conference USA champion Memphis (30-4), the No. 6 seed, against the winner of Tuesday's game between Middle Tennessee (28-5), with an at-large berth from the Sun Belt, and Saint Mary's (27-6), an at-large team from the West Coast Conference.
"We got a 12 my first year, and eight last year, and a six this year, so we'll just keep moving up. I think (sixth seed) was fair," Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. "My attitude is, `Hey, guys. We're in.' You don't take it for granted. People have got to play us. We have won 30 games."
Memphis and Gonzaga, the No. 1 seed in the West Region, are the only 30-win teams.
Louisville gets to stay in hits home state for the first two games, with coach Rick Pitino's Cardinals potentially facing a 20-loss team and then possibly have a rematch of an early-season game they easily won.
MEAC tournament winner North Carolina A&T (19-16), in the field for the first time since 1995, and Big South tournament champion Liberty (15-20) play Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio. The winner goes to Lexington, Ky., to play Louisville on Thursday.
Colorado State (25-8), the eighth seed with an at-large berth out of the Mountain West, plays SEC newcomer Missouri (23-10) in the other Thursday game at Rupp Arena. Mizzou lost 84-61 to Louisville in the Bahamas the day after Thanksgiving.
First-year Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy is taking his fourth different team to the NCAA tournament, having previously gone with Utah State, Iowa State and Southern Mississippi. The Rams lead the nation with a rebounding margin of 12.1, and Missouri is third with a 9.5 advantage. The Tigers are also the only team in the nation with six players averaging in double-figure scoring.
Oklahoma State is a No. 5 seed for the first time since 1993, when the Cowboys lost to Louisville in the second round in Indianapolis. They could face the Cardinals in Indianapolis in the round of 16 this time - which would pit Pitino against the regional MVP of his 1993 Final Four team at Kentucky, Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford.
"I agree with the NCAA committee that they're the No. 1 overall seed, after watching them play last night and what they've done lately in the Big East," Ford said. "Definitely the team to beat at this point. It would be nice to have the opportunity to make it that far and have a chance to play."
The Cowboys (24-8) are led by Marcus Smart, the guard was selected as the Big 12's Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. They play Pac 12 champion Oregon (26-8) on Thursday in San Jose, Calif.
Atlantic 10 champ Saint Louis (27-6) is the No. 4 seed in the Midwest three months after the death of coach Rick Majerus. The Billikens play WAC champion New Mexico State (24-10) in the other Midwest game in California.
After winning the A-10 tournament in Brooklyn on Sunday, the Billikens were on their way to the airport for their charter flight, with plans to watch the NCAA selection show in the terminal before flying back home. But they got caught in traffic, and instead went to a Best Buy store in New Jersey to watch the show.
"A team like this, I don't think there's a limit on how far we can go," St. Louis junior forward Dwayne Evans said. "We've got a lot of special pieces that work well together."