INDIANAPOLIS — The talking is over.
It’s time to play some basketball.
“The waiting is definitely the hardest part,” Duke guard Nolan Smith said on the eve of the Final Four. “We were here four days before our game. We were excited to get here and play, but there are all these other things … we all just want to get out on the court and play.”
Four days may seem like a long time to Nolan Smith.
West Virginia, Duke’s opponent in the national semifinal that starts at 8:47 p.m. after a pair of No. 5 seeds, Michigan State and Butler, match up, has waited 51 years to get back to the Final Four.
Both teams are on a mission.
The Blue Devils, the No. 1 seed in the South Regional and 33-5 for the year, believes it is its birthright to be in the Final Four, a place Hall of Fame Coach Mike Krzyzewski has taken them 11 times.
But they haven’t reached the Final Four in the last five years, something that digs hard at the Blue Devils senior class that includes leading scorer Jon Scheyer, 7-1 center Brian Zoubek and forward Lance Thomas.
Compared with the success in the past, this Duke group had fallen short and they didn’t like it.
“At times I felt earlier in our career, we felt like we had to live up to past players, things teams have done before us,” Scheyer explained. “I think finally when we stopped worrying about that, that’s when we started to really hit our stride and just start playing.
“Of course, each year we didn’t make the Final Four, we wanted to do it that much more. I think it was a little more frustrating that we didn’t. I think we put all that aside and said, ‘Don’t worry about what we’ve done in the past, let’s just go play.’”