UNLV (34-0) vs. Duke (30-7)
Outlook: The rematch of last year's NCAA final shouldn't be a replay of the Runnin' Rebels' 30-point victory, but it probably won't be close, either. While both teams are better than they were a year ago, the Blue Devils haven't closed the gap that
much. One thing on Duke's side is that Mike Krzyzewski's team has nothing to lose.
Guards: Perhaps the most critical matchup of this game is between the backcourts. Anderson Hunt, last year's Final Four MVP, has been in a shooting slump, hurt his right shoulder against Utah and was in a minor traffic accident earlier this week. Bobby Hurley was the MVP in the Midwest Regional and is coming off the game of his Duke life (20 points, seven assists, seven rebounds, four steals) against St. John's. If Hurley has a good game, this could be a lot closer than most think. Thomas Hill, a sophomore, is a versatile player who can be just as tough on defense as on offense. But he might not be quick enough to stay with either Hunt or point guard Greg Anthony, nor big enough to contest Larry Johnson up front. Poor shooting by Hunt and Anthony could open the door for Duke. EDGE: UNLV
Forwards: Johnson and Stacey Augmon will be first-round NBA picks in June, and likely lottery choices. The Blue Devils have no one to defend Johnson inside -- Greg Koubek could be the one having pre-game stomach problems this year -- and Augmon will likely make Grant Hill remember that he is a freshman. Don't be shocked if Krzyzewski goes zone to be able to defend the inside game of UNLV.
Center: Christian Laettner should have been Player of the Year in the ACC -- sorry, Rodney -- but the 6-11 270-pound junior will have his hands full with UNLV's two-headed entry of George Ackles and Elmore Spencer. These two make the Runnin' Rebels even more dangerous than they were a year ago. Laettner gets a lot of people in foul trouble, but 10 fouls is a lot to expect in the Final Four. EDGE: NONE
Bench: One of the few areas in which the Blue Devils have an advantage. Sophomore Billy McCaffrey offers instant offense, and junior forward Brian Davis is one of the best perimeter defenders in the country. (For that reason, expect to see Davis play a lot, and he might even start). Spencer would be starting for most teams, but the Rebels are a little thin after that. EDGE: DUKE.
Coach: Jerry Tarkanian would like to ride off into the sunset with a second straight NCAA championship -- not to mention the last laugh. If not for his battles with the NCAA, this man would be considered one of the game's best defensive coaches, right up there with Bob Knight. But that's a big if. Krzyzewski will certainly win an NCAA championship some day -- try 1992 in Minneapolis -- but not yet. EDGE: UNLV
What the Runnin' Rebels will have to do to win: Keep Johnson or Augmon out of foul trouble, put a lot of pressure on Duke's guards, keep Laettner off the foul line. One more thing: keep playing the way they have.
What the Blue Devils have to do to win: Ever hear of Joe Hardy?
.` Prediction: UNLV 87, Duke, 75.