Youthful Blue Devils take on veteran Jayhawks
Published 8:14 am Thursday, March 27, 2003
JOHN NADEL, AP Sports Writer
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.
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.
Returning starters Dahntay Jones and Chris Duhon have certainly done their part, emerging from the shadows of Williams, Dunleavy and Boozer.
And so has an us-against-the-world approach.
Duke made that clear early in the season, winning its first 12 games to rise to No. 1 in the rankings.
Perhaps inexperience caught up with the Blue Devils after that -- they went 11-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
But they won the ACC tournament and carried that momentum into the NCAAs.
While Duke didn't lose until January, Kansas stumbled out of the blocks, splitting its first six games despite plenty of experience.
The Jayhawks won the Big 12 regular-season championship, but weren't given a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament like conference foes Texas and Oklahoma.
Williams admitted that bothered him when the pairings were announced March 16, but quickly added: ''Once you get to this level, you're going to play people who are good regardless.''
While the Blue Devils are a young bunch, the Jayhawks (27-7) are led by seniors Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich, called two of the top 10 players in the country by Krzyzewski.
Hinrich said he believes the experience is an advantage, but added: ''They have guys who have been a part of a national championship team.''
Duke won the NCAA title two years ago and some expected the Blue Devils to repeat last season, but they were eliminated by Indiana in the third round.
Kansas hopes to repeat that feat.
Duke and Kansas have been among the country's elite programs for years, with only an occasional blip. They've played in 24 Final Fours between them -- 13 by the Blue Devils.
Krzyzewski said he believes Duke's past has been more of a burden than an advantage ''because people have expected too much.''
Williams' rivalry with Duke goes back a long way -- since he played guard at North Carolina, the Blue Devils' arch rival.