INDIANAPOLIS — Free-throw shooting might loom large when Duke plays Michigan State on Saturday in the "other" national semifinal game.
Michigan State ranked last among Big Ten teams in free-throw accuracy (63.2 percent).
"It went from a couple guys missing them, then became an epidemic a little bit," Spartans Coach Tom Izzo said. "That means it was more mental. ... We worked on it. We begged them. We threatened them. We prayed with them. We did everything.
"I think at the end of the day, (former Michigan State coach) Jud Heathcote once told me, if you get the right guys to the line, you'll shoot better."
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Duke shot free throws with much greater accuracy this season (69.5 percent). But the player who took the most free throws, freshman Jahlil Okafor, shot with just 51.1 percent accuracy. Amile Jefferson has made 55.6 percent of his free throws.
"I think it can start mechanical and end up being mental," Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Or start mental and be mechanical.
"Each kid is different. The bottom line is, some kids can shoot better than others. Everyone that says the free throw is an easy shot, you're assuming every one is a good shot. It's not. It's a hard shot, especially in front of 70,000 people."
Everyone's Super Bowl
Asked if Duke's aura defeated some opponents before the opening tap, Krzyzewski borrowed UK Coach John Calipari's standard response on how opponents look forward to playing Kentucky.
Krzyzewski smiled and said, "No. ... Actually, I think teams are more ready for us. Certainly, you know, during the regular season when we're on the road, it's T-shirt day or blackout day."
Krzyzewski suggested that fans of opponents had stormed the court 47 times in the past 18 seasons when Duke lost.
"So they're not down," he said. "They're up when they play us because they want to beat us badly. We know we're going to play somebody who's ready."
UK and Duke
Cauley-Stein sat next to Duke's Quinn Cook at a news conference featuring a player from each of the four teams. The sight prompted a question about the player-to-player mentality. Respect?
"Definitely respect," Cauley-Stein said. "Just the road that everybody's gone through to get here."
Badgers and Irish
Of the perception that Wisconsin can be likened to Notre Dame, Cauley-Stein said of the Badgers, "They run angles a lot. One of our biggest things in the Notre Dame game was giving up backdoors. Easy baskets. They utilized that.
"They kind of pride themselves on, you know, exploiting people's weakness. ... Our biggest thing is not giving up easy baskets. Not letting them play angles against us."
Calipari on how Kentucky can stop Wisconsin: "When you say, 'We're stopping Wisconsin,' we're not stopping Wisconsin. I just hope my team plays well, and then we'll see how it plays out."
'One of a kind'
This year marks the 40th anniversary of John Wooden's final game as UCLA coach (a 92-85 victory over Kentucky in the 1975 NCAA Tournament championship game).
When asked if Wooden's legacy (10 titles) continues to be revered, Krzyzewski said, "It's an honor to answer that question. You're talking about one of a kind. I think almost all records will be broken. His will never be broken."
Izzo then turned to Krzyzewski and said, "I think you're a modern-day Wooden because you have 12" Final Four appearances.
A thin frown appeared on Krzyzewski's face. He shook his head ever so slightly.
Calipari echoed comments made by Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker on Tuesday about how the NCAA should help the parents of players pay travel costs in getting to games.
"It's taken the NCAA 30 to 40 years, but they're beginning to change, now," the UK coach said of the NCAA helping with costs associated with travel to the Final Four. "... My opinion is the parents should come to every round. Why should the parents only come to the final round?"
Ryan noted that he and coaches have worked to help parents travel to the Big Ten Tournament.
'Super Smash Bros.'
Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky noted an interest he and Cauley-Stein share.
"We're talking about Super Smash Bros. on the way up here" to the news conference, he said. "So I feel like we would get along."
Kaminsky said he'd been using the Captain Falcon character in the video game but might return to the Kirby character.
Cauley-Stein touted Kirby's abilities. "He flies around," he said.