DURHAM, N.C. -- Mike Krzyzewski can finally coach the way he wants.
The Duke coach will no longer have to call a halfcourt defense to save the legs of players pressed into 40 minutes of action or spurn chances to push the ball upcourt.
After a year with little help from the bench, the Blue Devils are promising to play the kind of sprint-to-the-finish offense and pressure defense that has been a staple of Krzyzewski's time here.
It's almost as if the team -- with four experienced seniors -- is learning Duke basketball all over again.
''They've been accustomed to walking the ball up and having a play called for them," Krzyzewski said yesterday during the team's annual preseason media day.
''Now we're going to do that a little bit differently. They're going to have much more freedom. They also have to think in how to use that freedom. That'll be a big thing in teaching the older guys how to do that."
The Blue Devils are among the favorites to reach the Final Four and give the Hall of Fame coach his fourth national championship. Their seniors include J.J. Redick -- last season's Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year -- all-ACC post player Shelden Williams, point guard Sean Dockery, and forward Lee Melchionni.
They also have sophomore guard DeMarcus Nelson to go with one of the nation's top recruiting classes, which includes forward Josh McRoberts and point guard Greg Paulus.
It's quite a change from last year, when Duke had just eight recruited scholarship players and had to fight through the tough ACC season. Redick and Williams anchored that team, along with the departed Daniel Ewing, with each averaging more than 34 minutes in league games and Redick averaging 37 for the season.
Meanwhile, the 6-foot-3-inch Nelson spent the year trying to matchup with bigger players at forward for the shorthanded Blue Devils.
That's why Redick doesn't mind changes for 2005-06.
''The way we played last year was strenuous and taxing," said Redick, who averaged 22 points per game. ''This year is going to be a lot more open and a lot more freedom -- and it's going to be a lot more fun."
Some changes will be obvious, such as overplaying the wings to apply more defensive pressure on the perimeter and create turnovers to fuel the fast break. Others will be more subtle.
After the Blue Devils ran tons of set plays for their sharp-shooting guard, Krzyzewski said Redick will be allowed to ''audible" out of a play after it's called or freelance according to what the defense does against him -- which has Redick joking that he's the ''Peyton Manning of Duke basketball."
For other players, the challenge will be returning to an up-tempo style they played in high school and expected Duke to run throughout their careers.
''What happens sometimes when you speed the game up, you don't really think hard enough," Nelson said. ''Mentally, you're not sharp enough or you make plays you wouldn't normally make if you were playing at a slower pace."
But anything is better than what they went through last year.
''We knew last year things were going to be kind of hard for us to win a national championship because of our depth problems," Williams said. ''But this year we have higher expectations and hopefully, we can gel right away and get on a roll."