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Duke-Texas showdown a Final Four preview?


Dec. 18, 2003
The mecca of college basketball, Madison Square Garden, will be rockin' and rollin', baby! Saturday's Duke-Texas showdown should be special (ESPN, noon ET). This showcase game featuring highly ranked teams has the potential to be a Final Four preview.

I can't wait to be courtside along with play-by-play man Dan Shulman and courtside reporter Doris Burke on Saturday. Duke (7-1, No. 3 ESPN/USA Today) and Texas (5-1, No. 10) are both talented teams, but they do things differently.

J.J. Redick
Duke sharpshooter J.J. Redick is averaging 13.4 points per game.
Duke has its share of experience on the perimeter but lacks depth. Guard Chris Duhon is having a solid senior season. He's a defensive stopper who can also create opportunities for his teammates on offense. Duhon has learned to be more consistent and should be outstanding throughout the campaign.

With sophomore guard J.J. Redick and junior guard Daniel Ewing, Duke is capable of scoring on the perimeter. Inside, the Blue Devils have received solid play from sophomores Shavlik Randolph and Shelden Williams. Randolph has really improved and bulked up following a hip injury. He was special in Duke's blowout of Michigan State in East Lansing.

Texas is deeper, with lots of talent and size. The Longhorns need to be more consistent at the point. Senior guard Royal Ivey is a defensive stopper -- a tough, hard-nosed New York City kid with a winner's mentality. He's trying to make the adjustment as a ball-handler in executing Texas' offensive sets.

Duke cannot allow Texas to get up and down the court in a track meet but must make it a half-court game instead. Ten Longhorns are averaging double figures in minutes played, so they have lots of firepower for an up-tempo game.

Texas also has plenty of players capable of scoring, though senior guard Brandon Mouton is doubtful with an ankle injury. The Longhorns have scored at least 80 points in every game this season.

Freshman forward P.J. Tucker is a diaper dandy who will be a force on the baseline come Big 12 play. How did the schools on Tobacco Road let this guy get away from Raleigh?

Inside, senior center James Thomas is a rebounding machine as he teams up with sophomore forward Brad Buckman. Coming off the bench, Texas has senior forward Brian Boddicker (who can shoot the three), junior guard Edgar Moreno (who fills in at the point) and Baylor transfer Kenny Taylor (who provides long-range shooting).

Duke cannot allow Texas to get up and down the court in a track meet.
I believe Texas will be heard from come March Madness.

Saturday's contest will be a classic matchup between a pair of coaches familiar with each other from ACC days, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski vs. Texas' Rick Barnes (who previously coached at Clemson).

Barnes has more ammunition now than when he was with the Tigers. Pride is on the line with one of the ACC's best facing one of the Big 12's premier powers. Wow!

What a day for college hoops. Gonzaga and Stanford meet at the Pete Newell Challenge in Oakland. North Carolina and Wake Forest meet in an ACC thriller. Marquette and Wisconsin battle in an intense rivalry. Indiana and Kentucky hook up at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

College basketball is heating up, my friends! This is the first big, big Saturday of many to come in this college campaign.

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