Duke Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski 'in the moment' entering final NCAA men's basketball tournament

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Mike Krzyzewski was in the midst of discussing his team's approach to this year's NCAA tournament -- Duke's first since the 2019-20 season and, with retirement coming, his 36th and last March Madness -- when he noted the difficulty of fully embracing the one-and-done nature of the tournament.

"Most of the time, they don't realize it's one-and-done until it's done," Krzyzewski said.

For the legendary Duke coach, however, that's not a flawed mentality. It's the approach he's embracing on this last dance.

"I'm just going to go for it, and that's what I've tried to do all season long," Krzyzewski said. "I just want to be in the moment. I'm excited."

This season has included plenty of moments, however, and some of the biggest haven't gone Krzyzewski's way. In his final home game against rival North Carolina, Duke lost. Then, in his final ACC tournament game, the Blue Devils fell to Virginia Tech.

Krzyzewski said he thinks those losses are not indicative of his team's potential in the NCAA tournament, but he acknowledged the emotional burden of his farewell tour likely took its toll.

"That's part of the thing this week, is to get them mentally fresh, not just physically fresh," Krzyzewski said. "There's a lot of emotion with all my stuff, and it's over now. That's a lot for those kids."

The second-seeded Blue Devils tip off Friday against Cal State Fullerton, and for the bulk of this team, the game will mark a career milestone. Only senior Joey Baker and transfers Theo John and Bates Jones have previous NCAA tournament experience -- a total of 24 minutes of game action.

Forward Paolo Banchero said the Blue Devils are hoping to shift the focus from the near-constant narrative surrounding Krzyzewski's last game to what could be the players' grand finale, too.

"I think now, it's [thinking about] our last game as a group," Banchero said. "That's our mentality. We're not trying to end our season any shorter than it has to. As a group, we all like being around each other. We've been working hard since June. We know how much work we've put in to get to March Madness. That's our motivation. That's really all we're thinking about."