Michigan State assistant coach Dane Fife is participating in his second Final Four – his first as a coach.As a player, he was a starting guard at Indiana in 2002 when the fifth-seeded Hoosiers reached the national championship game before losing to Maryland.
“I’ve been taking a lot of strolls down memory lane and I’d like to share some of those memories with our players but they really don’t believe I ever played,’’ Fife said with a smile. “They say, ‘Look at you Coach Fife. With a body like that did you play Little League?’’’
Fife has a little history with Duke, too. In 2002, Indiana met Duke, the No. 1 overall seed, in the Sweet Sixteen in Lexington, Ky. IU led by four with less than 10 seconds to play when Fife was whistled for a foul on a 3-point attempt by Jason Williams. The shot went in. Lucky for Fife, Williams missed the free throw and Indiana held on for a one-point victory.
Fife was asked Friday if his advice for his own players was not to foul any 3-point shooters late in the game when clinging to a four-point lead?
He flashed a big grin.
“I like that idea,’’ Fife said. “We’re going to try and stay on our feet and not put ourselves in a position to have a ref make a terrible call.’’
Andrew Harrison is not looking back
Andrew Harrison said that whole experience is completely in his past.
“I actually have not watched that game,’’ Harrison said. “It really can’t help you. It is a new year and a new team, but at the same time, you remember the feeling you had after that game and you don’t want that feeling again.’’
Cook not just happy to be there
Duke senior guard Quinn Cook said one thing he is trying to impart on his Blue Devil teammates this weekend is to not be just happy to be at the Final Four.
He said he believes one of the other Final Four teams that is in Indianapolis this week had that mentality the last time they were in this position.
“I know (Frank) Kaminsky and that Wisconsin team last year, they were just happy to be there and this year they have a different mindset,’’ Cook said. “There is no next year for me, so this is real business-like.’’
Cook said it’s easy to get caught up in all of the national attention a team garners as the Final Four.
“I think sometimes teams can be happy just making it to the Final Four,’’ Cook said. “You’re doing all the photo shoots and getting all this media attention. And that can be it. They can get complacent.’’
Michigan State players talk about Tom Izzo’s career record against Duke: 1-8
There were plenty of themes for each of the teams at Friday’s press conferences. One of the lines of questioning for Michigan State players focused on Spartans coach Tom Izzo and his 1-8 career record against Duke.
“That’s a big motivation,’’ said junior guard Denzel Valentine. “They’re a great team though. They have a great history. We fear no one. We’re going to come out and play them like they’re any regular team. We’re not going to say, ‘Oh, they’re Duke.’ We’ve beaten a lot of great teams this tournament and in the Big Ten Tournament.
“We’re just going to attack them like they’re any other team and play with no fear.’’
Travis Trice said it would mean a lot to beat Duke and get to the title game.
“I haven’t beat Duke since I’ve been here either,’’ Trice said. “I think it’s just extra motivation for this game. We are not trying to get caught up in all that and just take it one game at a time, and one possession at a time.’’
Badgers prefer Super Smash Brothers
Much like Super Bowl media day you never know what the oddest question you’re going to hear during Friday breakout sessions for players at the Final Four, too.
Wisconsin senior guard Josh Gasser was asked about the teams’ favorite video games.
He said they used to play ping pong a lot but lately it has been all Super Smash Brothers all the time.
“FIFA obviously has stayed solid but we’ve turned into a Super Smash team,’’ Gasser said. “We play hours before practice, hours after practice, on road trips, you name it. It has gotten pretty serious.’’