Archive for Thursday, March 27, 2003

Jayhawks have edge in veterans

Experience favored Duke in last game against Kansas

March 27, 2003


— The last time Kansas University met Duke on the basketball court, the Blue Devils ended the Jayhawks' season with a 69-64 victory in the second round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament at Winston-Salem, N.C.

Someone will be sent packing again tonight when the teams meet at the Arrowhead Pond in the West Regional semifinal.

"I just remember being heartbroken after the game," KU senior Kirk Hinrich said Wednesday. "We probably played our best basketball of the year in that game. For us not to win that game ... we thought we played as good as we could."

Hinrich was a freshman on that young KU team which didn't have a single senior starter. The Jayhawks finished 24-10.

"We made a couple of mistakes and ended up losing," he said. "It just comes back to experience. I felt they were the experienced team. They had guys like Chris Carrawell and Shane Battier -- guys who had been there before who made big plays for them."

Carrawell was a senior and Battier a junior on that top-ranked, ACC championship team, which finished 29-5. But Duke had seven freshmen on that squad, including Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski won his third national title the following season.

The Blue Devils (26-6), who start only one senior, will have a similar mix of youth and experience tonight against a veteran Jayhawk squad (27-7).

"The great thing they have is some young guys who have that youthful exuberance and some older guys who've been there before," KU coach Roy Williams said.

Duke's six-man recruiting class last year was considered the best in the nation. NCAA rules prohibit schools from signing more than five players to scholarships in one year, so top-100 prospect Leo Melchionni paid his own way to the Durham, N.C., school.

Forward Shavlik Randolph, guard J.J. Redick, guard Sean Dockery and center Michael Thompson were members of the McDonald's All-America team, and the heralded class has lived up to its billing.

Two of Duke's freshmen -- Redick and forward Shelden Williams -- start, while Melchionni, Dockery and Randolph are among Krzyzewski's top reserves.

Redick is the team's second-leading scorer with an average of 15.3 points a game and has knocked down 94 three-point shots.

"He's played like an upperclassman all year," Krzyzewski said.

Kansas, meanwhile, hopes its experience is worth more than the Blue Devils' "youthful exuberance." The Jayhawks will start four players who saw action in last season's Final Four.

"It's an advantage, but when you think about it, they've been playing a lot of games together this year," Hinrich said. "They're experienced. They have guys that have been part of a national championship. We have guys who've played a lot of games in the NCAA Tournament and been to a Final Four. Anytime you have experience it's good, but I think at times it can be overrated."

Duke, which leads the all-time series 6-1, stands in the way of the Jayhawks' goal of a return to the Final Four.

"We realize we have to play our best game," Williams said. "If we don't play our best game, we're not going to win."

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