Experience vs. Youth
March 23, 2001
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The NCAA East Regional final will match a team ofseniors and juniors playing their second full season together against astarting five that has three sophomores and a freshman.
It would be easy to assume that top-ranked Duke, the school with six FinalFour appearances and two national championships during the '90s, is the onewith all the experience rather than sixth-seeded Southern California, which isseeking its third Final Four berth and first since 1954.
On Saturday night, it will be the team from the West Coast trying to usethat experience for yet another upset in this tournament.
'They are a veteran team, a team that's played together. They're tough.They're men,' Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of the Trojans (24-9). 'They'rea difficult matchup for us because their experience, not just individually butcollectively, makes them very good.'
Southern California has used that experience to win its three tournamentgames, getting out to a big lead each time, then holding on down the stretch.
'We have come out in each game in the NCAA tournament with a lot of energyand we have to again now,' Trojans coach Henry Bibby said.
The most recent start was a 31-10 opening against second-seeded Kentucky,like the Blue Devils (32-4) a young and talented team, and the Trojans hung onfor an 80-76 victory.
'They've gotten off to the best starts of anybody in the tournament and Ithink that's because they're as veteran a team as anybody in the tournament,'Krzyzewski said. 'They know who they are. They look like they don't get tooexcited, just go about their business. We have to get off to a start to matchtheirs so we don't play from behind right away. That has to be one of ourgoals.'
Duke didn't get off to a great start in the 76-63 regional semifinal winover fourth-seeded UCLA, but with Jason Williams scoring 19 straight points inthe second half, the Blue Devils closed impressively.
'We're going to throw a lot of guys at him and try to wear him down,'Trojans point guard Brandon Granville said of Williams, who has averaged 29points per game in the tournament.
Shane Battier, Williams' teammate and fellow All-American, has averaged 24.0points and 10.7 rebounds in the tournament. He is the only senior in the BlueDevils' starting lineup.
The Trojans have used their matchup zone and balanced offense - all fivestarters are averaging between 17.7 and 9.3 points per game - in the tournament
These teams met last season in the Wooden Classic with Duke winning 81-68.USC will start the same five players from that game.
'We look back at that game and note they were a very, very good team withgreat athletes who are well-coached,' Bibby said.
Battier and Williams both started that game, but Carlos Boozer, MikeDunleavy and Nate James will again see a lot of minutes as they did then.
Boozer played Thursday night for 22 minutes after missing six games with abroken bone in his foot and Dunleavy injured his shoulder early in the game,making it feel 'like I had a five-pound weight on my elbow when I shot.'
'Mike's shoulder is still sore but not to the level we thought it would beand Carlos reacted well to the 22 minutes,' Krzyzewski said.
This is Krzyzewski's 10th regional final at Duke and the Blue Devils are 8-1in those games.
'If you take getting to an Elite Eight for granted then you shouldn't becoaching,' he said. 'When you are fortunate to get this far it's with adifferent team. This may be the youngest starting five I've ever had get thisfar. To see it through their eyes and experience it through them is ice.'
Bibby never has coached a team this deep into the tournament but he playedon UCLA's national championship teams from 1970-72.
'Duke has all the mystique. They have all the tradition there is with goingto the NCAA tournament,' Bibby said. 'They are accustomed to being here.There's nothing like coming here every year.
'People talk about us celebrating us after each win, well, this is thefirst time we've gotten here. When you've come as many times as Duke and UCLAand Kentucky, you don't have a lot to celebrate. This is normal for them. Thisis not normal for USC to be here every year and we're happy about it and Ithink the kids have a right to show people they're excited about it.'
By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer