Power Play

The perception is that West Virginia will hope the referees in its Saturday night regional semifinal will allow for a more physical style of play. But its opponents from Duke insist they are more capable of banging around than the squad that fell to the Mountaineers in the second round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament.

Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski acknowledged that even his better teams from the past weren't great rebounders and lacked a physical presence on the defensive end.

But this year's squad, he said, is a different story.

"Our team totally wants to rebound and play defense," said the Hall of Famer. "We are much different than our teams in the past. We still wanted to play defense, but we played it a different way."

Part of that is the increased role of his center, Brian Zoubek.

The senior, who is hardly the South regional champion's first option offensively, makes his mark by being a defensive stopper in the post, rebounding the basketball on both ends of the floor and converting second chances into easy baskets.

Zoubek was a role player on the No. 2-seeded Duke squad of 2008, which fell 73-67 to WVU at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

But the 7-foot-1, 260-pounder from Haddonfield, N.J., is now a starter for Krzyzewski, averaging 5.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per contest. Perhaps more importantly, he adds a physical presence to what has often been considered a program that thrives on finesse.

"He has been absolutely terrific for us," said Krzyzewski. "His rebounding, particularly on the offensive boards, has really been key for us. The other think he has done is really talked well to our team. When you have an inside voice talking on defense, it really helps your perimeter defense."

Beyond Zoubek, the Devils boast a pair of 6-foot-10 reserves that play inside.

Brothers Miles and Mason Plumlee both come off the bench to spell Zoubek and provide some extra power in the post. Miles (a sophomore) and Mason (a freshman) combine to average 9.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.

So Kyle Singler, who was only a freshman in 2008, feels this year's Duke squad is different from that one.

"We're a more physical team this year," said the junior forward for the Blue Devils. "You have to look at our big men."

"In 2008, we didn't really have a big man presence. With Brian, Lance (Thomas, a 6-foot-8 senior forward), Miles and Mason, those are four guys that bang and are physical. They can take more fouls."

Of course, few (if any) West Virginia players fit the mold of a traditional post presence.

Wellington Smith (6-foot-7) and Kevin Jones (6-foot-8) are the Mountaineers most apt to play inside defensively, while only reserve forward Deniz Kilicli truly plays with his back to the basket on offense.

Otherwise, head coach Bob Huggins' five-out, open-post motion offense reigns supreme in the WVU attack. So Zoubek expects his opposition on Saturday night to do many of the same things Baylor did in the Elite Eight.

"They have a lot of athletic, interchangeable players," said the senior center, comparing West Virginia to the Bears, which Duke defeated 78-71 in the South regional final in Houston.

"Obviously, I know they're going to try to spread it out and try to take me outside of the lane, so I can't protect the basket as much."

That could be pivotal, as some of the key strengths for Huggins and company are also pivotal for the Blue Devils' success.

Both teams are among the nation's very best at crashing their own offensive glass, and second-chance points are of the utmost importance to both squads.

So while perception may be that the Mountaineers will be the ones hoping to make it a battle of physical strength, Duke's legendary head coach thinks his squad is capable of hanging tough if the game turns in that direction.

"(The players) have accepted who they are, which is good stuff," said Krzyzewski. "And they've tried to become better at who they are, instead of trying to become somebody they are not."

"They acceptance of roles has been key for our team. That's one of the reasons I really love the guys, because they haven't tried to be somebody else. We're going to need that to have an opportunity to beat West Virginia, because they know who they are."

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