Young Blue Devils take on veteran Jayhawks

Posted: Thursday, March 27, 2003

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Rebuilding just isn't part of the deal at Duke.

If it was, this would have been the season for it, considering the early departure of Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer to the NBA.

So instead of having all five starters back from one of the nation's best teams, coach Mike Krzyzewski had to make do with two.

And there are six freshmen and three sophomores on the roster.

But it's worked out so far as the Blue Devils (26-6) have advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament as the third seed in the West Regional. They play second-seeded Kansas on Thursday night.

The winner meets either Arizona or Notre Dame on Saturday at Anaheim Arena for a berth in the Final Four.

''What I did this year was not put any expectations on them,'' Krzyzewski said Wednesday. ''We've tried to coach this team based on its level of ability and experience.''

Three freshmen are among the team's top six scorers, including J.J. Redick, who established himself early as one of the nation's finest outside shooters.

Arizona vs. Notre Dame

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The rivalry between Arizona's Jason Gardner and Notre Dame's Chris Thomas goes back to their junior high days in Indianapolis.

The point guards, each chosen Indiana Mr. Basketball as the state's top prep player, first played against each other in age-group tournaments, even though Gardner is two years older.

They attended rival high schools, and Thomas insisted his team from Pike got the better of Gardner's North Central team in three of their four prep meetings.

''I don't really believe that,'' Gardner said, admitting that he couldn't recall the exact results.

Their next matchup will be at the highest level of college basketball when Arizona (27-3) and Notre Dame (24-9) meet in the NCAA West Regional semifinals Thursday night. Duke (26-6) and Kansas (27-7) play the second game.

Both Gardner and Thomas will have several family members watching at Anaheim Arena.

''It's going to be a lot of fun. Our families know each other, our high schools were rivals,'' Gardner said. ''It's a lot of fun to see another Indiana basketball player doing well. It's something a lot of people are talking about back home.''

Marquette vs. Pittsburgh

MINNEAPOLIS -- Dwyane Wade's ability to focus might be the best of all his attributes.

Marquette's star junior sat out his first season because he didn't qualify academically. Last February he became a father and now he's a husband. His first name even gets misspelled all the time.

And Wade, who averages 21.3 points per game, is always the top target of opposing defenses.

Yet he shrugs all this off. The biggest challenge of his college career?

''None, really,'' Wade said. ''I don't think I've really faced any. I'm still in college right now, the best thing that can happen to you. I'm just playing basketball, having fun.''

Wade, a strong, quick guard with excellent shooting range, could be bound for the NBA after this season. He faces one of his toughest tasks of the season Thursday night, when the third-seeded Golden Eagles play No. 2 Pittsburgh in a Midwest Regional semifinal at the Metrodome.

The Panthers are all about defense, allowing a paltry 58.7 points per game, which ranks sixth in the nation.

Wisconsin vs. Kentucky

MINNEAPOLIS -- No need for the Wisconsin Badgers to board a plane. They just jumped on the bus for a four-hour trip to the Metrodome, a cramped but relaxing ride featuring non-stop chatter.

''We got here a different way and we had a chance to bond on the bus ride up,'' Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said Wednesday. ''Ever watch 6-foot-10, 6-foot-11 guys sit in one of those seats on a bus? Interesting.''

If the sight of a lanky basketball player looking for leg room is a tall order, imagine the one facing Wisconsin in Thursday's Midwest Regional semifinal.

Somehow the Badgers must run their offense in the face of a defensive whirlwind, the Kentucky Wildcats, and put an end to a 25-game winning streak that is nearly three months old.

They have to do it against relentless pressure from a deep and athletic team that has a 17.3-point average margin of victory during its long and impressive string of wins.

''So many teams would want to be in the situation we're in right now and we feel like, 'Why should this be the end of the road?''' Wisconsin's Kirk Penney said.

The way Kentucky has been playing since a Dec. 28 loss to Louisville, the only end the Wildcats envision is in New Orleans, where they expect to leave the court at the Superdome with a national title and victory nets dangling from their necks.

''We are going to do the things we need to do at this point in time to win a championship,'' guard Keith Bogans said.

That means throwing the other team's offense awry with what Bogans calls ''old-fashioned defense.''

''This is nothing special about what we do. We get up on that line and stop our man. And if you get beat, you have your teammates to help you out,'' he says.

Wisconsin's ''swing'' offense, which allows guards like the 6-foot-5 Penney the freedom to go inside and bigger players to pop outside, will get its most severe test against Kentucky's superior size and speed.

The Badgers (24-7), who averaged only 10.3 turnovers this season, are deliberate when they need to be. They'll make as many passes as needed for a good shot, but won't hold the ball until the shot clock is ready to run out. And their balance is reflected by five starters in double figures.

Still, their biggest problem Thursday could be getting the ball up the floor to start their offense and finding a comfortable tempo.

''They put great pressure on the guards and get a lot of easy baskets by creating turnovers off the perimeter,'' Wisconsin's Devin Harris said.

Teammate Freddie Owens agrees.

''They like to get after you full court and cause you to speed up your game,'' said Owens, whose last-second 3-pointer beat Tulsa in the second round and propelled the Badgers to Minneapolis. ''What they try to do is speed you up and throw you off.''

In winning three games in the SEC tournament and then routing IUPUI and Utah in their first two NCAA games, the Wildcats (31-3) have held five opponents under 40 percent shooting.

''We just have to be poised and keep our composure,'' said Penney, a senior who averaged 16.1 points this season and played on Wisconsin's Final Four team in 2000.

''We're just going to do what we do well out there -- look out for the ball, get it inside, get it into the post, get those easy points. They're all important.''

The Wildcats play team defense and share the ball on offense. Bogans leads a 16-point scoring average, Gerald Fitch averages 12.4, center Marquis Estill 11.2 and forwards Chuck Hayes and Erik Daniels are just under 10. Add key reserves Cliff Hawkins, Jules Camara and Antwin Barbour, and the Wildcats are capable of wearing teams down.

That's why so many of their points are generated by the non-stop defense.

''You won't get on any highlight reels playing defense,'' Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. ''With the talent now, you have to be creative in trying to stop people. Playing defense can happen every night, even if the offense doesn't show up.''

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