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Duke, Arizona ready to square off tonight

April 2, 2001

MINNEAPOLIS - It’s Duke against Arizona, East against West and to the winner go the spoils.

Another season of college basketball has come down to just one game, and the 2001 NCAA Champions will be crowned tonight.

“We feel honored to be their opponent,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I think it has the makings of being one of the truly great games for a national championship.”

Before the season started, Arizona and Duke were preseason No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

College basketball analysts across the country praised the idea of a Wildcats/Blue Devils championship.

Yes, the dream matchup has fallen into place, but the teams took drastically different paths to get here.

Duke enters tonight’s game with a 34-4 record. The Blue Devils finished the regular season ranked No. 1 and never once slipped below No. 4 in the polls this season.

However, at one point this season Arizona was 10-5 and slipped all the way to No. 21 after holding the top spot for the first three weeks of the season.

But just as critics began to question whether the Wildcats would slip from the rankings altogether, they rebounded with an impressive 18-2 run.

That run included wins over No. 1 seeds Illinois and MSU. The Wildcats defeated the Spartans 80-61 Saturday to advance to the championship game.

If Arizona wins, it will become just the second team to defeat three No. 1 seeds to capture the title.

“In 1997 we did, and became the only team to ever beat three No. 1 seeds,” Arizona head coach Lute Olson said. “So I don’t think it’s anything that’s different for us.”

Olson said there are only two factors that matter in tonight’s game: Arizona and Duke. He said the Wildcats have control of their performance, adding their ability to contain the Blue Devils will decide the game.

Rebounding, limiting turnovers and preventing the three-point shot are the keys to the championship, Olson said.

“Having taken over a thousand threes, that’s why you better be able to defend on the perimeter,” he said of Duke’s 1,003 three-pointers during the regular season. “The problem is when you have four positions - all of which positions they shoot threes from.”

Indeed, four of Duke’s projected starting five - Jason Williams, Shane Battier, Mike Dunleavy and Chris Duhon - are a combined 342-of-831 (41.1 percent) from behind the arc.

Duke put up 27 three-point shots in its 95-84 win over Maryland on Saturday.

Despite connecting on just seven of them, the Blue Devils erased a 22-point Maryland lead to advance to the finals.

Krzyzewski said Duke’s come-from-behind victory against Maryland impressed even him, but added the Blue Devils have done it before. He said it will take that kind of determination from the team to win.

“We’ve won a lot of games like this


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