INDIANAPOLIS -- 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 Greg 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 between Duke (31-7) and Kansas (27-7) at the Hoosier Dome, Maddox was one up on Koubek.
One championship up.
If the Jayhawks were to beat the Blue Devils, Maddox would 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 has made 19 of 35 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 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.
But there is one more game to play, on April 1 no less.
"If this is an April Fool's joke, this is the best one anyone has ever played on me," said Maddox.
* 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.
* Duke point guard Bobby Hurley was asked if he thought Larry Johnson might have nightmares after the Runnin' Rebels lost to the Blue Devils on Saturday night.
"He's probably going to dream that he's down in a pit with a bunch of devils," said Hurley, who had shark dreams last summer.
* Mike 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.
Williams said it was strange the other night to have Duke fans rooting for Kansas. "It was the first time anyone from Duke has said anything nice to me," said Williams.
* The Laettner household must have been a bit confusing considering that Duke center Christian Laettner's older brother is named Christopher. Christian said his brother, 26, is a minor-league umpire in North Carolina.
Christian Laettner said that part of Duke's new-found competitiveness comes from some of the pingpong and air-hockey games the players find themselves engaged in on the road.
"None of us like to lose, especially Bobby [Hurley]," said Laettner.
* Speculation heated up here yesterday that Jerry Tarkanian had coached his last game at UNLV. Some names being mentioned include Bobby Cremins of Georgia Tech and John Thompson of Georgetown.
Things have quieted down a bit at Syracuse, where Jim Boeheim still is trying to clear his name from allegations by the NCAA. But if Boeheim gets pushed out, look for Texas' Tom Penders to be interviewed for the job.