Smith would be the first to concur with Lavin about the value of these early-season trips. "Right now, I'm still learning about them, and they're still learning about me," he said after his players bounced back from the loss to Arizona to beat Missouri by 22 points. All in all, he seemed to count the journey a success.
Arizona travels more frequently but less happily. Asked how he was enjoying Hawaii, Wildcats point guard Mike Bibby said, "I love it." Had he been in the ocean? "I don't like saltwater," he said. "Or pool water." The fact was, Bibby and his backcourt mate and fellow accidental tourist Miles Simon spent quite a bit of time holed up in their hotel rooms, competing against one another on a Sony Playstation. Asked if they had seen the sights in Lahaina, the nearest town, Bibby said, "We have no way to get there. We don't have a car."
"We have no way to get to McDonald's," added Simon, forlornly.
If the Arizona players are sick of travel, you can't blame them. The day their final exams ended last spring, the Wildcats set off on a 19-hour journey to Australia, where they spent their 23-day barnstorming tour complaining about homesickness and the local fare.
Arizona guard Jason Terry was in better spirits in Maui. Strolling along the beach one day last week, he spied in the distance a pair of swimsuit-clad coeds. "Hey, it's our cheerleaders," he said. "They look a little different, don't they?"
The Wildcats, for their part, look very much the same. All five starters are back, as is Terry, one of the most talented sixth men in the country. Among the first things Arizona coach Lute Olson did after winning his first NCAA championship—and after combing his hair, which had been memorably mussed by forward Bennett Davison in the waning moments of that win over Kentucky—was to unveil a full-court press. This so-called Catastrophe Defense wreaked havoc in the win over Kentucky. Arizona forced 18 turnovers, seven in the first quarter, and coasted to a 15-point win in which it exposed Kentucky's conundrum: It isn't a stellar outside-shooting team, yet outside shots are what its offense is designed to create.
Kentucky will improve. Would Arizona? It was hard to imagine Olson's team playing much better. At a press conference after that lopsided victory, Bibby was asked to account for the bond he and Simon share. Said Simon, under his breath, "Light skin." The remark got a big laugh. The next night, as Arizona broke its huddle before the tip-off of the final against Duke, Simon said something else that cracked up Bibby. Everything about them said, Pressure? What pressure?
Their cockiness didn't survive one quarter. With torrid half-court defense and huge contributions from a trio of teenagers, the Blue Devils beat the Wildcats like a Pahu drum—to which the Old Lahaina Luau Dancers swiveled uncannily at halftime. By then Duke led 51-34, en route to a 95-87 win.
More than any other team in Maui, the Blue Devils had been all business. The tournament championship celebration would be different. Said senior point guard Steve Wojciechowski, who was named tournament MVP in large part because of his dervish play on defense, "I'm going to have a drink with an umbrella in it." While Wojo transformed Bibby into a nonentity (eight points on 2-of-10 shooting) and Duke senior forward Roshown McLeod had a Pippenlike night with 18 points, eight boards, three blocks and two steals, the Blue Devils' real eye-openers were their underclassmen. Freshman center Elton Brand, who is 6'8" and a very solid 248 pounds, gives Duke the inside presence it lacked the last two years. He scored 13 points and pulled down eight rebounds, the same number of boards as forward Shane Battier, a fellow freshman. Another newcomer, point guard William Avery, led all Duke scorers with 21 points. The Blue Devils' ACC foes won't enjoy thinking about how good Duke could be in two months, let alone two years.
While Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski soft-peddled the victory, telling reporters that he didn't think Duke was the best team in the country just because it had just beaten the nation's top team, the Blue Devils fans in this bandbox gym were less gracious. With a minute left to play against the Wildcats, they trotted out their all-purpose malediction: "Go to hell, Carolina, go to hell."