BOSTON - Duke had lost at Clemson by 27 points. The Blue Devils had given up 101 in a home loss to North Carolina. They had lost four of six. Coach Mike Krzyzewski considered one of the wins, a huge comeback against Miami, a loss. Figured his team was actually 1-5 during that stretch.
The Hall of Fame coach had a choice. He could keep doing the same things and expect a different result. Or he could make a change, searching for a different result.
"How long are you going to keep doing what you're doing?" Krzyzewski said. "And maybe we can go one-and-five again for the next few games. So we needed to do something different."
The coaches inserted freshman Elliot Williams into the starting lineup and moved shooting guard Jon Scheyer to the point. Duke went from a team lacking quickness on defense with a point guard who wasn't a scoring threat to a team with more of the former and a point guard who had to be honored.
The result of the change? Going into tonight's Sweet 16 matchup with Villanova at TD Banknorth Garden, Duke has won 10 of 11, including the ACC championship.
Most coaches find something they like and stick with it, no matter the evidence. The good coaches are willing to re-evaluate when it is obvious the original plan is no good.
Krzyzewski probably does not get enough credit for doing what the best modern coaches do - find players you can trust and then trust them. Make it about the players and not the coach.
Villanova's Jay Wright does it as well as anybody. So does Krzyzewski who has managed to stay connected to his past mentors, like Bob Knight, while adapting his methods to a changing game and changed players.
"I think that we've positioned our players where the strengths of certain players helped the strengths of other players," Krzyzewski said. "I think that's what happens during a year when you face very difficult competition. I think our schedule has been ranked the tops in the country and we finished No. 1 in RPI. And playing that type of schedule exposes strengths and weaknesses. And then you have to adjust as a coaching staff and as a team to try to position your players the right way."
Obviously. Duke has done that.
Those just tuning in might think Duke to be the Duke of Laettner, Hill and Hurley or Battier, Boozer and Williams. That would be a mistake.
It would also be a mistake to think this Duke team is similar to the Duke teams that lost to Virginia Commonwealth in the first round in 2007 and nearly lost to Belmont in the first round last year. Some of the players are the same, but the team is not. This group is much better.
But are they good enough to beat Villanova, a team just about everybody thinks is Duke's mirror image?
"Yeah, I think we're similar in a lot of respects," Krzyzewski said. "I think the very first thing is we don't have players who are positioned. We have basketball players . . . You're not going to call [Dante] Cunningham a center, but you call him a really good player. [Scottie] Reynolds, he can play with the ball or off the ball. And [Dwayne] Anderson - we're very similar in that regard.
"And I think Jay has done a good job in allowing his kids to use their abilities and trust them and I think we do, too . . . They're probably a little bit deeper offensively than we are, because when they have [Corey] Fisher and [Corey] Stokes off the bench, it raises their offensive abilities. They can really put out an outstanding offensive team when those two kids are on the court with Cunningham, Anderson and Reynolds. And they can score from every position."
Duke has a few really good shooters, the explosiveness of Gerald Henderson and the all-around game of Kyle Singler.
This game is close on paper. It might be equally close on the court.
"You've got to beat them," Krzyzewski said. "Villanova is a team that doesn't lose; you have to beat them. And I would hope that we're the same type of team." *