INDIANAPOLIS -- There were times during Billy McCaffrey's sophomore year at Duke when many wondered whether he was ever going to be a front-line player.
Some compared the slender guard from Allentown, Pa., to senior Greg Koubek, who after a terrific freshman season slumped until the middle of this season. But nobody is worrying about McCaffrey anymore.
By making his first six shots last night against Kansas in the championship game of the men's National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, McCaffrey shot the Blue Devils into a 14-point lead and eventually to a 72-65 victory.
"You always dream about having a game like this," said McCaffrey, who scored 16 points off the bench. "Everyone dreams about it. I don't know if I was the star, but it was great to have a game like this."
Said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, "You were the star."
It was big-time redemption for McCaffrey, who got off to a good start this season, but slumped and appeared to lose his confidence after spraining his ankle in December. And it couldn't have come at a better time.
"Someone has stepped us for this team at times this year, and tonight it was me," said McCaffrey. "You never know when it's going to happen. But you have to be ready."
McCaffrey was certainly ready last night.
* When Mike Maddox was being recruited out of high school four years ago, his final choices came down to Kansas and Duke. And when the 6-foot-7 forward from Oklahoma City took his visit to Durham, N.C., the Duke coaches told him that the last scholarship would go to either him or Koubek.
"It was basically who made their decision first," Maddox recalled Sunday.
Koubek's decision to attend Duke has led to his becoming the first player in the history of the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament to take part in four straight Final Fours. But going into last night's championship game, Maddox was one up on Koubek.
One championship up.
Now, they're even.
Had the Jayhawks won last night, Maddox would have become the first player since members of the 1975 UCLA team to have played on teams that won more than one national championship. Maddox was a little-used freshman reserve on the 1988 Kansas team that beat Oklahoma in the final in Kansas City, Mo.
"I committed one foul," Maddox said of his contribution.
Maddox's role has grown significantly, and he finished with 10 points and four rebounds in 27 minutes of a 79-73 semifinal victory over North Carolina on Saturday night. He made 21 of 39 shots from the field in the NCAA tournament, and, more remarkably, four of five from the line.
"I can't explain it," Maddox said of his free-throw shooting, which included a stretch of 20 misses in 24 attempts before the jTC tournament. "I'm just happy they're going in."
But truth be told, it is quite amazing that Maddox is still playing at all, considering his back problems.
"He's a tough kid," said Kansas coach Roy Williams.
The way Maddox describes it, he has two degenerative disks in his lower back. He has missed only one game, midway through the season, but admits, "the longer we go, the more painful it gets." Maddox took cortisone earlier in the season, but doctors have told him that it won't help.
Maddox played 19 minutes in last night's championship game, finishing with four points.
* While Maddox went to Kansas, sophomore guard Thomas Hill ended up at Duke two years later after committing orally to the Jayhawks.
"I visited Duke the weekend after I went to Kansas, and that was it," said Hill, who is from Lancaster, Texas.
Hill was leaving out a small detail. The Jayhawks' probation was announced shortly after he committed, and he decided it wasn't worth the chance of missing a couple of NCAA tournaments.
* Krzyzewski was counting on Kansas not being able to do something that is considered next to impossible in the Atlantic Coast Conference: beat North Carolina and Duke in the span of two games.
Though it has been done on a team's home court -- Clemson did it at home last season -- the neutral setting of the Hoosier Dome might make it more difficult. Then again, the Jayhawks might be the crowd favorites, considering the way Tar Heels fans feel about their not-so-friendly neighbors and the way UNLV fans must feel now.
"I've never had the chance," said Williams, an assistant at North Carolina from 1978 until he left for Kansas three years ago.