SI Preview: Duke vs. UConn
Posted: Monday March 29, 1999 11:06 AM
If Richard Hamilton nails some shots early on, he could carry the Huskies' offense. AP
Checking in from St. Pete, Sports Illustrated writers Grant Wahl and B.J. Schecter break down Monday night's championship game. Click here to check out CNN/SI's position-by-position analysis of the matchup.
What UConn must do to win:
Richard Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin will need to equal or surpass their 42
combined points against Ohio State, but that's only part of the story. One
of UConn's big men -- either Kevin Freeman or Jake Voskuhl -- has to show up on
the offensive end if the Huskies are to have any chance. Most important,
Connecticut's interior defense has to stand up to Elton Brand and keep him
from bulling his way to the basket. -- G.W.
What Duke must do to win:
The Blue Devils must control the tempo and the boards. Duke certainly has the players to run with UConn, but with Duke's advantage inside the Blue Devils would better served in a half-court game. UConn has no answer for center Elton Brand and if Duke can get the foul-prone Voskuhl out of the game, this one could be over quickly. The Blue Devils will have many mismatches (Brand and whomever, Trajan Langdon and El-Amin, Shane Battier and Freeman) and if they get everyone involved in the offense they should be able to handle the Huskies. -- B.J.S.
How UConn can be beaten:
As they showed against Ohio State, the Huskies have absolutely no interior
depth . To expose that weakness, Duke would be wise to dump the ball inside
to Brand over and over again from the start. Brand will either get easy
twos or he'll get Jake Voskuhl in foul trouble, and if that happens UConn
has no one of any skill who can replace him. (In case you're wondering,
Edmund Saunders isn't the answer.) -- G.W.
How Duke can be beaten:
Brand and/or Langdon have off nights . In the semifinal against Michigan State, Duke let the Spartans dictate the tempo and ended up playing an ugly second half. They can't afford to do that with UConn. Conventional thinking in the playground says when one team runs, the other tries to outrun them. The Blue Devils can't fall into that trap. Duke has superior talent and must take advantage of it. -- B.J.S.
UConn player to watch:
Rip Hamilton may be the tournament's leading scorer, but no one thinks
he'll be the most dominant player on the floor against Duke. He'll have to
be. Keep an eye on Hamilton for the first five minutes. If he's able to get
open looks early, he could light up the Blue Devils. On the other hand,
UConn is in for a long night if Duke small forward Chris Carrawell can fight through UConn's
battery of screens and keep a hand in Hamilton's face. -- G.W.
Since defensive matchups favor Trajan Langdon, he must take on more of the scoring load. AP
Duke player to watch:
Trajan Langdon. UConn will have to sag in and double Brand, which means Langdon will get some good looks. And with UConn's defensive stopper, Ricky Moore, likely matching up against point guard Will Avery, that means Langdon will draw 5'10" Khalid El-Amin. He must exploit that and establish the perimeter early. -- B.J.S.
Ricky Moore's defense. If he's guarding his old high school teammate
William Avery (as expected), Moore could keep the Blue Devils' half-court
offense from getting started. -- G.W.
Corey Maggette. Duke's most explosive offensive player, Maggette comes off the bench and could deliver the knockout blow. If Maggette crashes the boards like he has in previous tournament games and establishes the baseline, Uconn will not have an answer. -- B.J.S.
Grant Wahl's prediction:
I'd feel better about the Huskies chances if they were playing the way
they did during the Big East tournament, when they actually were better
than Duke for about a week. But while it has been a tremendous
accomplishment for UConn to reach the final, don't expect all the pieces to
fall in place tonight. Brand is a superior player. Duke is a superior team.
Blue Devils by 14.
B.J. Schecter's prediction:
UConn's will, not to mention its talent, is stronger than most teams. But the Huskies can't check Brand, and in the end UConn will wilt in the paint, where the game will be decided. Though UConn will keep it close, Duke will win its third national championship under coach Mike Krzyzewski.