PITTSBURGH — In the regular season, a game between Duke and Rhode Island would be mildly interesting. It would likely merit a small preview about what’s at stake — a challenging nonconference test for the Blue Devils and a chance for the Rams to make a splash against a blue blood.
But this is March, and the assembled media in Pittsburgh has an entire day to do nothing but search for angles on the game. And that means that there’s plenty of March nonsense to go around. Here’s a quick rundown of the top developments from the media day frenzy.
Tortilla chip on their shoulder
Rhode Island is a decided underdog in Saturday’s game, something that the players are trying to use as a motivational tool.
“We watched a couple of their games,” Rhode Island guard Stanford Robinson said at the team press conference. “I don’t think they really watched us. Someone told me they’d seen them in Chipotle yesterday or two days ago, and they asked them about Rhode Island, and they said they didn’t know who we were.”
Just like that, the heat on the game increased from Mild to Fire.
Duke players deny that any trash talk over tacos took place.
“I haven’t been to Chipotle in awhile,” Alex O’Connell said. “I can’t speak for any of the other guys on the team, but I don’t think anyone has.”
“I don’t know where that came from,” Marvin Bagley said with a laugh. “I don’t even like Chipotle, so I wasn’t there.”
“We’ve been eating food at the hotel,” said Gary Trent Jr. “We haven’t been out. Besides, I don’t eat Chiptole.”
Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley shrugged off the chili controversy. “I think that’s going to have zero impact on the game,” he said. “We’re one of the hardest playing teams in the country. Our issues are never motivational. … I think Duke will have respect for us when they take the court.”
Duke’s Coach Queso was not available for comment.
Gender (and college) fluid
Mike Krzyzewski is already the winningest coach in men’s college basketball by a wide margin. On Saturday, he has the chance to add another milestone. Krzyzewski has 1,098 wins, which ties him with legendary women’s coach Pat Summitt for the most by a college basketball coach, regardless of gender.
“Wow,” said Duke freshman point guard Trevon Duval when informed of it. “Really? That’s amazing. Honestly, to be a part of that — because, I know that UConn’s head coach is a really great coach, but for our coach to be able to pass him and be the winningest coach of all time is amazing.”
Tennessee, Trevon. Pat Summitt coached at Tennessee, not UConn.
“Tennessee? Really?” a surprised Duval said. “Oh wow!”
Also, she’s a woman, not a man.
“Either way, she’s a great coach too,” he said.
One Shining Lotus
Wendell Carter Jr. has been playing on a sprained ankle since last week’s ACC Tournament. Part of his treatment, he told the media, involves yoga.
That’s nothing new, however. Duke has embraced yoga workouts all season.
“We do a lot of yoga things during the season when we’re back home,” Carter said. “At one point, we were all doing yoga during the summer, before school started. Some people are still taking classes during the year.”
For a team of driven high achievers, it’s a way to handle the stress of the season, instead of heading back into the gym to work out harder.
“It’s about not overdoing it,” he said. “Maybe we had a bad game — it helps you not beat yourself up and do things that are unnecessary. To just stay humble and recover.
“It helps clear your mind,” Carter continued. “I learned that’s really a big thing. Playing in tournaments and things like this, it’s a lot of high-profile, high-energy things. You can get reckless at times. It’s just about being able to ease your mind. Sometimes that helps. The meditation at the end was probably the best for me, because you’re not thinking about basketball. You’re not thinking about anything — just kind of living in the moment.”
It also helps with flexibility.
“For sure,” Carter said. “It’s opened up a lot of different joints.”
His favorite pose?
“Downward facing dog,” he said before collapsing in embarrassed giggles.
Just another off-day, filled with March nonsense.