BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
ANCHORAGE, Aka. - For the first three games of the season, they looked like the nation's No. 1 team only because they wore the uniforms of the Duke Blue Devils.
Otherwise, there were 18 turnovers per game, precious little offensive direction and some needlessly difficult wins against the likes of Fairfield and Davidson. Then the Devils came home to Alaska.
Because Duke adopted Anchorage native Trajan Langdon five years ago, it became this state's favorite college team. The Blue Devils looked very much like the home side - and very much like the nation's best - in a 111-82 first-round victory over Notre Dame Thursday at the Great Alaska Shootout.
''This is a No. 1 team that is certainly deserving,'' said Notre Dame coach John MacLeod. ''They're strong; they're deep; they're talented; they're flexible.''
Duke has so much talent that when it was wiping up the final minutes of the Notre Dame game, it played with two walk-ons and three McDonald's All-Americans.
The Devils enjoyed a similar circumstance last season, though, and still could not reach the NCAA Final Four. They have not advanced that far since the 1994 season, the second-longest drought of coach Mike Krzyzewski's 18 seasons at Duke.
What may be different with this team is Langdon, a 6-3 shooting guard who has played the early part of the season as though he's determined to be its guiding force. Langdon is the only senior in the lineup and one of two in the rotation.
On a team with as much talent as Duke, it's as important as anywhere else to play great, but it's not always easy to be a great player. Langdon is averaging 19.8 points and shooting 50 percent from the field, 50 percent from three-point range and has made 21-of-22 free throws.
He's also serving as Duke's backup point guard, with no one else around who can replace sophomore Will Avery. The depth of which McLeod spoke is much greater in the frontcourt than at guard.
''The coaching staff and my teammates look upon me to go out and shoot when I get a look,'' Langdon said. ''They want me to stay aggressive on the offensive end.
''They know I'm going to hit a lot, and it opens things of my teammates, too. It's also a leadership thing. I think that's most important.''
UC 60, IOWA STATE 52
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