INDIANAPOLIS -- You would think the films of last year's Duke and Nevada-Las Vegas NCAA championship game would never have seen the light of day in Durham, N.C.
To the contrary, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski used them as the blueprint for Saturday's stunning 79-77 upset of UNLV that propelled the Blue Devils into tonight's championship game against Kansas.
Krzyzewski said he began watching film of the 103-73 massacre of Duke in Denver and discovered something amazing.
Sure, the Runnin' Rebels were better than Duke, but they weren't 30 points better. In fact, the more Krzyzewski watched, the more he was convinced that under the right circumstances, the Blue Devils could actually win a rematch.
"After watching it, I became more confident that we could win. They were better than us, but not that much better," Krzyzewski said yesterday.
"We didn't use our dribble effectively and our offense didn't help our defense at all. We looked tired and there was no spark. We tried different things, but it just wasn't there."
But it was there Saturday, for Duke had five days, rather than one, to prepare and rest for an encounter with the defending champions.
And this time, Duke guard Bobby Hurley, who had a bout with diarrhea in Denver, was healthy and able to run the offense efficiently.
"I have put that [game] past me," Hurley said during Saturday's postgame celebration. "I'll be happy not to have any more questions on last year's game."
And so he won't, though the Rebels were still in a position late in the game -- indeed, on the last shot -- to win.
But the air in their 45-game winning streak began to slip out when point guard Greg Anthony fouled out with 3:51 to play. Duke outscored UNLV 8-3 the rest of the game to win.
"It was a great win for Duke," said Rebels guard Anderson Hunt. "They wanted it more than we did. They played hard and pulled the upset on us. They just played hard and smart."
"We were basically outplayed," Anthony agreed. "You can make excuses all day, but I credit Duke for outplaying us."
The Blue Devils withstood every challenge, including one of the heart.
"We came out with no fear tonight," said reserve forward Brian Davis. "You have to do that to play your type of game and keep a positive attitude on the floor."
"We have played a difficult schedule this year," said Hurley. "At this point in the season, we are playing hard and we're not going to back down from anyone. That's how we had to do it last night and that's what we have to do [tonight]."