Mike Krzyzewski seemed to be in excellent spirits Friday. That had something to do with the improved health of Duke guard Chris Duhon, the giddiness that comes with any trip to the Final Four and, maybe, because the pressure this time is on someone else.
Duke has the mystique, the remarkable 10 trips to the Final Four since 1986, the No. 1 seeding in its regional and the label as the standard-bearer for excellence in college basketball. Yet it is No. 2-seeded Connecticut, the team the Blue Devils play Saturday night in the second semifinal game, that has emerged as the team to beat for the national championship.
That is what happens when a team loaded with talent lives up to preseason expectations and demolishes four NCAA tournament opponents on its way to the Final Four, as Connecticut has. Duke has been cast merely as the team that might be good enough to stop this runaway train.
"People are saying we'll probably lose," Krzyzewski, the Duke coach, said. "That's healthy."
It's not that Duke (31-5) has been unimpressive on its way here. The Blue Devils started the season at No. 2 in the polls, behind only Connecticut. They sewed up a No. 1 seeding by winning the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and have won their four NCAA tournament games by an average of 19 points. The only test came against Xavier in the Atlanta regional final, a game Duke won, 66-63.
A case can be made that the Blue Devils have yet to play their best during the tournament because of Duhon's health problems. He has been hampered throughout the tournament by bruised ribs, but Krzyzewski said Friday that Duhon, a senior point guard, is doing much better.
"We're in good health," Krzyzewski said before Duke practiced. "Duhon is much better than he was at this time last week. He's actually practiced at least half the time this week and he's had contact. So, if we can get through this practice in a little bit, we should be in really good shape. I'm excited about that."
Connecticut (31-6) also had good news to report about injuries. Center Emeka Okafor, bothered in the Phoenix regional final by numbness in his right hand, said that he should not have any problems playing at 100 percent Saturday. He has also had back and shoulder problems in the postseason.
"I'm feeling real good right now," he said. "As far as what I do to get myself ready, I'm practicing full time. I'm just doing my ab routine to keep my back strong and doing my shoulder exercises to keep my shoulder loose."
With a healthy Okafor, Connecticut should have all the pieces in place for another stellar performance. The Huskies get great defense from Okafor, senior leadership from Taliek Brown and explosive offense from Ben Gordon and Rashad Anderson. Anderson, who did not enter the starting lineup until Feb. 24 against St. John's, had 28 points in Connecticut's victory over Alabama in the regional final, and Gordon had 36.
"It doesn't surprise us that we're the underdog," Duke guard J.J. Redick said. "Connecticut has been playing as well as any team in the country, not only in this tournament but for most of the season. They were the preseason No. 1 and have a lot of future NBA lottery picks. They should be the favorite."
But not an overwhelming favorite in a game that has pitted two programs with superb coaches, outstanding records and some notable history between them.
Two women yesterday morning attempted to hang a banner from the Acropolis in Athens in protest at the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, but were detained by Greek police. The women, 18-year-old Tibetan student Tsela Zoksang and 22-year-old exiled Hong Konger Joey Siu (邵嵐), both US citizens, are members of the “No Beijing 2022” campaign, a statement from the New York-based organization Students for a Free Tibet said. They, and a third person, entered the archeological site as paying customers, and then Zoksang and Siu climbed some scaffolding, from which they attempted to unfurl the banner. A security officer rushed to them and took
TREBLE CHANCE: Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei is eyeing a third title in the California desert after winning in 2014 with Peng Shuai and in 2018 with Barbora Strycova Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Belgian partner Elise Mertens on Thursday cruised into the women’s doubles final at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California. It took second seeds Hsieh and Mertens just 54 minutes to defeat Japanese third seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara 6-2, 6-0 in the semi-finals to advance to their second final as a duo. Hsieh and Mertens denied the Japanese duo, winners of a WTA Tour-best five titles this year, a spot in their sixth final of the season as they broke serve five times and won the final nine games. “We’re very happy about the performance. Just
It is the world’s longest certified foot race: a 4,989km run that takes participants around the same New York block 5,649 times. Thousands of people have climbed Everest — but just 49 have completed the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race, organizers say. Runners finish more than two marathons a day for almost two months, on less than five hours of sleep a night. They cannot rely on changing scenery to keep them motivated as the route is a 883m loop on a concrete sidewalk around a high school in Jamaica, Queens. To mix things up a bit, they alternate between running clockwise
Sean Wainui, a rising star of Super Rugby with the Hamilton, New Zealand-based Chiefs, died yesterday in an automobile accident. He was 25 and the father of two children. His death was confirmed by family members and by New Zealand Rugby, which said “one of New Zealand Rugby’s tallest Totara trees has fallen.” Wainui played 44 matches for the Chiefs from 2018. He also played nine times for the Christchurch-based Crusaders and was a New Zealand Maori representative from 2015. Wainui scored five tries for the Chiefs against the New South Wales Waratahs in June, a Super Rugby record. Police said they were notified