Sunday, April 01, 2001

Duke, Arizona prove pollsters right


Preseason No. 1, No. 2 to battle for title

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MINNEAPOLIS — One game is all that remains, and the college basketball season is right back where it started.Arizona, ranked No.1 in the preseason, will meet Duke, the preseason No.2, for the national championship Monday night.

        Tipoff at the Metrodome is set for 9:18 p.m.

        Both teams took drastically different routes to get to the title game.

        The Wildcats (28-7) overwhelmed Michigan State 80-61 in Saturday night's first semifinal.

        The Blue Devils (34-4) had to rally from a 22-point first-half deficit to defeat Maryland 95-84 in the second game.

        Arizona, whose five starters each average in double figures, is making its second appearance in the NCAA final. It beat Kentucky for the 1997 national championship.

        “You can call us soft if you want, but we're playing for the national championship,” center Loren Woods said. “We'll be the softest team playing for the championship.”

        Duke, led by Player of the Year Shane Battier and sophomore point guard Jason Williams, is in the final for the ninth time; it is 2-6 in previous title games, winning its championships in 1991 and '92. The Blue Devils were ranked No.1 in the final regular-season poll.

        “I think they're the most athletic team in the country, and they have the most talent top to bottom,” Battier said of Arizona. “It's great that the two best teams will meet for the national championship.”

        The teams have split their previous six meetings but have not met since November 1997 (Duke won 95-87).

NCAA Tournament coverage at Cincinnati.com



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