Duke (5-0) vs Connecticut (4-0)
New York, NY - Madison Square Garden
TV: ESPN2 / Tip: 5:00 PM EST
Program Vitals Conference: Big East Nickname: Huskies Colors: Blue & White Head Coach: Jim Calhoun (24th season) Career Record at Connecticut: 561-205
Projected Starters: 11 Jerome Dyson (6-4, 190, Sr.) – 20.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.8 apg 21 Stanley Robinson (6-9, 210, Sr.) – 16.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg 34 Alex Oriakhi (6-9, 240, Fr.) – 6.5 ppg, 10.3 rpg 33 Gavin Edwards (6-10, 235, Sr.) – 11.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg 15 Kemba Walker (6-1, 175, So.) - 16.0 ppg, 4.3 apg, 2.6 spg Key Reserves: 4 J. Coombs-McDaniel (6-7, 210, Fr.) – 3.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg 2 Donnell Beverly (6-4, 190, Jr.) – 2.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg 24 Darius Smith (6-1, 170, Fr.) – 1.3 35 Charles Okwandu (7-0, 255, Jr.) - 0.5 ppg
Story Lines For Connecticut:
How They Got Here:
Both teams enter Friday's Championship game with perfect records. In their last game the Huskies looked as formidable as any team in the country, running over previously unbeaten LSU by an 81-55 margin. Before routing the Tigers, however, Connecticut looked solid, but not dominant in beating Hofstra by six, Colgate by 14, and William & Mary by nine.
Meanwhile the Blue Devils had been cruising along and blowing teams out right and left before a scrappy and well-coached Arizona State team led by Herb Sendek jumped out to an eight point lead early on and would hang around before Duke was finally able to pull away late in the game to win by 11.
This will be the ninth meeting between the schools (4-4) and the first since the 2004 NCAA National Semifinal in San Antonio won by UConn. After jumping out to a 4-0 series lead, the Blue Devils have lost four straight to the Huskies including the 1999 NCAA Championship game. The average margin of defeat in those four games, however has been just 4.2 points per contest with none of the games being more than 71-66 matchup in 1999. Five of the eight matchups have taken place in the NCAA Tournament, including two at the Final Four.
The Huskies enter Wednesday night's game relatively healthy. The Blue Devils will be without starting big forward Mason Plumlee who remains sidelined with an injured left wrist.
Huskies OK With Local Stadium Play
UConn has a record of 7-5 at Madison Square Garden during in- season tournament play. This is the sixth trip in school history to the Garden for a tournament in the regular season and the Huskies have no tournament titles in the five previous trips. Overall the Huskies sport an impressive 50-45 record at MSG including a 44-29 resume under Coach Calhoun.
Big Time Players For Huskies:
Senior Jerome Dyson and sophomore Kemba Walker were named to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team while senior Stanley Robinson garnered All- BIG EAST Honorable Mention accolades. Dyson averaged 13.2 points in 2008-09 before missing the final 12 games of the season with a torn meniscus. One of the league's top rookies a season ago, Walker averaged 8.9 points per game in his first season with the Huskies. He was instrumental in UConn's third Final Four appearance, averaging 10.2 points per contest in the NCAA Tournament. Walker scored a game-high 23 points in the Final Eight over Missouri, earning a spot on the West Regional All-Tournament Team. Robinson appeared in 28 games for UConn last season, averaging 8.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. He contributed 14.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per contest in the NCAA Tournament, including a double- double with 15 points and 13 boards in the NCAA Final Four game.
Big Time Coaching Matchup
Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Calhoun rank fourth and sixth on the all-time wins list with Coach K sitting at 837 overall wins and Calhoun at 809. Calhoun owns a 4-2 overall record against Duke and Coach K and, as mentioned previously, has a four game win streak. In addition the two coaches have combined for five National Titles.
This game comes down to which team shows up on each side. Will it be the absurdly athletic UConn squad that made easy work of LSU on Wednesday night? Or will it be the team that struggled with teams such as William and Mary and Hofstra? On the flip side will it be the Duke team that was comfortable scoring over 100 points a night while raining down threes and owning the boards; or will it be the Duke team that struggled to find its range and couldn't deal with dribble penetration before gutting out a victory over Arizona State? The key for Duke will be containing the UConn athleticism. The Blue Devils do not want to find themselves on defensive islands against the Huskies. It will be crucial for Duke to get Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith off to strong starts and for Miles Plumlee to stay out of foul trouble. If Duke can do all that, they can pull it out. If not, the Blue Devils are going home with the runners' up trophy.