April 2, 2001
ROUND: National Championship.
TIME: Monday, 9:18 p.m. EDT.
SITE: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis.
Two teams trying to make parallels to their previous NCAA tournament titlesmeet for college basketball's biggest prize at the Metrodome on Monday as Dukeplays Arizona in Minneapolis.
Duke, which has won NCAA tournament titles in 1991 and 1992, has taken thesame road the 1992 title team used. The Blue Devils started with wins inGreensboro, N.C., in the first two rounds and recorded two victories inPhiladelphia before arriving in Minneapolis.
Mike Krzyzewski's current team, though, called on all its resolve inreaching the championship game after Saturday's 95-84 victory over AtlanticCoast Conference rival Maryland. Senior forward Shane Battier scored 25 pointsand Jason Williams added 23 as Duke rallied from a 22-point first-half deficitand dug itself out of a Final Four-record 11-point halftime deficit.
'This team has a lot of heart,' Krzyzewski said. 'It's the youngest team,so we're prone to getting nervous. But one of the biggest hearts I've coachedis Jason Williams, and he carried us on his back.'
The Blue Devils are in the title game for the second time in three years butwere on the wrong end of a 77-74 upset to Connecticut in 1999 after enteringthat game with a 37-1 record.
'They were talking about us as one of the great teams of all time,' saidBattier, a sophomore on the 1999 team. 'The game pressure that was on us wasunbelievable.'
Two years the wiser, Battier - the national player of the year - realizesthe legacy he can create for himself and the Blue Devils with a win in hisfinal collegiate game.
'I would love for that to be my legacy,' Battier said. 'It was trulyamazing to see everyone doubt our program and write us off for the next four orfive years until coach could come up with another banner recruiting class.
Duke will need similar contributions from role players Chris Duhon, CaseySanders and Carlos Boozer like it received Saturday. Duhon had 10 points andsix assists before suffering a concussion late in the second half. He returnedto the game in the final minute and is expecting to play in this game.
'I'll definitely play the next game, the national championship,' Duhonsaid. 'There's no guarantee I'll make it back here.'
Sanders and Boozer proved to be an incredibly effective tandem inside,combining for 24 points and nine rebounds in Saturday's semifinal win. Williamshas made 21 3-pointers in Duke's five wins, leaving him six shy of matchingGlen Rice's NCAA tournament-record 27 set in 1989.
Arizona won its only NCAA tournament title in 1997, defeating three No. 1seeds along the way. The Wildcats can equal that feat with a victory in thisgame and are coming off an impressive 80-61 trouncing of 2000 NCAA tournamentchampion Michigan State in Saturday's other semifinal.
Lute Olson's team used a 14-0 run at the outset of the second half, sparkedby the defense of guard Gilbert Arenas, who tied a Final Four record with sixsteals. Backcourt partner Jason Gardner scored 21 points for the Wildcats, whohave looked like the preseason No. 1 team throughout their five NCAA tournamentwins.
'We couldn't play better in the second half than what we did,' Olson said.'We knew it would come down to the boards and turnovers. We felt we couldoutshoot them as long as we didn't give them so many second and thirdefforts.'
The 6-foot-3 Arenas likely would defend Williams if Arizona uses aman-to-man defense. The Wildcats showed the ability to play an effective zonedefense in Saturday's victory to negate Michigan State's effectiveness on theoffensive glass.
This edition of the Wildcats has become the sentimental favorite of the NCAAtournament as it overcame a sluggish start due to center Loren Woods' six-gamesuspension, the tragic death of Olson's wife Bobbi after her two-year strugglewith ovarian cancer and coach Lute Olson's ability to return to the sidelinesafter a two-week absence following his wife's passing.
'It's been real tough, what the coach has gone through and what the teamhas gone through,' Wildcats forward Richard Jefferson said. 'It keeps comingup continuously. That's the hardest part for us as a team. We've been talkingabout it a long time. The season is dedicated to Mrs. Olson.'
Despite the fact both schools have been seeded fourth or higher in 10 of thelast 12 NCAA tournaments, Duke and Arizona have never met at any point in theNCAA tournament. The teams have split six all-time meetings, with the BlueDevils recording a 95-87 victory in the championship game of the 1997 MauiInvitational in the most recent game.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Arizona - F Michael Wright (15.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg), FJefferson (11.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg), C Woods (12.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg), G Arenas (16.3 ppg,2.3 apg), G Jason Gardner (11.0 ppg, 4.1 apg). Duke - F Battier (20.0 ppg, 7.2rpg), F Mike Dunleavy (12.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg), C Sanders (2.6 ppg, 1.8 rpg), GWilliams (21.7 ppg, 6.1 apg), G Duhon (7.1 ppg, 4.4 apg).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Arizona - At-large bid, Pac-10 Conference. Defeated No.15 Eastern Illinois 101-76 in first round, defeated No. 10 Butler 73-52 insecond round, defeated No. 3 Mississippi 66-56 in regional semifinal, defeatedNo. 1 Illinois 87-81 in regional final, defeated South region champion MichiganState 80-61 in National Semifinal. Duke - Automatic bid, Atlantic CoastConference tournament champion. Defeated No. 16 Monmouth 99-52 in first round,defeated No. 9 Missouri 94-81 in second round, defeated No. 4 UCLA 76-63 inregional semifinal, defeated No. 6 Southern California 79-69 in regional final,defeated West region champion Maryland 95-84 in National Semifinal.
ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Arizona - 32-18, 20 appearances. Duke - 72-22,25 appearances.