INDIANAPOLIS -- Tonight's national championship game between Duke and Kansas (9:10 p.m., Ch. 11) could be called a meeting of the redeemed and the restored.
For the Blue Devils, Saturday night's stunning 79-77 win over Nevada-Las Vegas served to cleanse the bad taste of their biggest humiliation from their mouths. Last year UNLV beat Duke by 30 points in the national title game.
"Winning last night was very satisfying and it was probably the most satisfying game that I have ever played in," said Duke guard Bobby Hurley.
Meanwhile, the Kansas Jayhawks knocked off North Carolina 79-73 to complete the comeback from NCAA sanctions that denied them a chance to defend their 1988 national title.
"We've had to overcome a lot to get to this point; it's made us stronger," said Kansas center Mark Randall, who was a redshirt freshman on that championship team.
Both teams have had to go through mine fields in the tournament to get to tonight's game. Duke (31-7) overcame the biggest obstacle, UNLV. The Blue Devils, seeking the school's first championship in nine Final Fours, had to upset the undisputed favorite, snapping the Rebels' 45-game win streak.
Kansas (27-7), which goes for its third title in nine appearances, had to beat Arkansas and North Carolina, both top seeds in their regions, and Indiana, the second seed in the Southeast region.
Kansas and Duke each play extensive and exhaustive man-to-man pressure defense and both use motion offenses. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski says his team looks to drive more out of its offense, while the Jayhawks try to post up more.
Here's a look at the individual matchups in tonight's game:
POINT GUARD Duke's Bobby Hurley (6-0 soph.; 11.3 points, 7.4 assists) vs. Kansas' Adonis Jordan (5-11 soph.; 12.5 points; 4.4 assists).
Hurley exorcised more than a few demons Saturday night with a sparkling performance, scoring 12 points, hitting three of four three-pointers and dishing out seven assists. He is on a roll.
Jordan is quicker and is a better scorer and rebounder than Hurley, but doesn't quite have his overall court savvy. Hurley is the Blue Devils' quarterback; Jordan shares the load. He's the Jayhawks' leading scorer in the tournament.
* Edge: A slight nod to Duke.
Duke's Thomas Hill (6-4 soph.; 11.8 points; 56 percent field goal shooting; 39 percent three-point FG) vs. Kansas' Terry Brown (6-2 sr.; 16 points; 43.3 percent FG; 40.2 percent three-point FG).
Brown has been a clutch performer in the tournament, drilling five of six three-pointers in the first half of the win over Indiana in the Southeast regional semifinals. He also has exceled on defense.
Hill, in his first year as a starter, runs the break very well, has exceptional quickness and leaps well. Hill was recruited by Kansas and orally committed to going there, but changed his mind after the Jayhawks drew NCAA sanctions after their 1988 national championship.
* Edge: Kansas.
Duke's Grant Hill (6-7 fresh.; 11.2 point; 5.0 rebounds) vs. Kansas' Alonzo Jamison (6-6 jr.; 10.6 points, 6.5 rebounds).
Many believed Hill would be the marquee freshman of the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, but injuries slowed him. He's a versatile player who can post up inside and fill in for Hurley at the point.
Jamison, like Brown, has come up big in the tournament, especially on defense, where he has shut down New Orleans' Ervin Johnson, Pitt's Brian Shorter, Indiana's Calbert Cheaney, Arkansas' Todd Day and North Carolina's Rick Fox.
* Edge: Kansas.
Duke's Greg Koubek (6-6 sr.; 5.9 points, 2.9 rebounds) vs. Kansas' Mike Maddox (6-7 sr.; 7.5 points; 3.2 rebounds).
Neither Maddox nor Koubek will wow an observer with a wealth of basketball talent, but both do the little things that need to be done.
Maddox is a fine defender who sacrifices his body on screens, while Koubek is the team's best three-point shooter and was surprisingly tough defensively on All-America forward Larry Johnson Saturday.
* Edge: Even.
Duke's Christian Laettner (6-11 jr.; 19.8 points, 8.7 rebounds) vs. Kansas' Mark Randall (6-9 sr.; 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds).
Laettner is the vocal and focal point of Duke, offensively and defensively, and shares Grant Hill's inside/outside versatility.
Randall, who played with Laettner and Hurley on the U.S. team in the Goodwill Games last summer, also shoots well from the perimeter and is a good rebounder, though not as quick as Laettner.
* Edge: Duke.
* Both teams are deep and bring a lot of quality off the bench, though Kansas' substitution patterns are a bit more solid.
Duke brings 6-6 junior Brian Davis, a prime defender, and 6-3 sophomore Bill McCaffrey, a fine scorer, in periodically. The Jayhawks have three capable freshmen in Richard Scott, Patrick Richey and Steve Woodberry, and they also use Sean Tunstall, a 6-2 junior.
* Edge: Kansas, because of quantity.
Williams, 40, has won 76 of his first 100 games at Kansas. Krzyzewski, 44, has taken Duke to five Final Fours in the last six years. Both are among the fine young minds in college basketball.
Williams hasn't proven himself in the snap strategy department, while Krzyzewski can either draw up the long-range plan (see UNLV Saturday) or beat you instantaneously (an audible to beat Connecticut last year to reach the Final Four).
* Edge: Duke.
THE BIG QUESTION: Can Randall stop his good friend Laettner, or at least keep him from dominating? If so, the Jayhawks can win.
THE PICK: Seldom have two more evenly matched teams advanced to the championship game, and as a result, this game could be as electrifying as the 1989 Michigan-Seton Hall final, won by the Wolverines by one.
The long frustration in Durham should come to an end. Make it Duke 85, Kansas 83.