GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Iowa guard Kevin Smith remembers the empty feeling as he walked off the court at the Metrodome in Minneapolis a year ago, his team the victim of an 85-70 stampede by the Duke Blue Devils in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
"Walking off, I felt there were a lot of people who were disappointed," said Smith, a sophomore guard. "We just felt we could have all dug down deeper and done better."
A bit more than a year later the Hawkeyes say they are a better team. With everyone back from last year's squad, they'll get a chance to see just how improved they are in this afternoon's rematch with the Blue Devils in second-round play at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Four of the best conferences in the nation will be represented in today's second-round play here. Top-seeded Duke (29-2) won the Atlantic Coast Conference title and will go against the Big Ten's fifth-place team in No. 9 Iowa (19-10). In the second game, Big East co-champion Seton Hall (22-8), the No. 4 seed, takes on No. 5 seed Missouri, the third-place team in the Big Eight.
Iowa coach Tom Davis said he is looking forward to playing Duke so he can gauge his team's improvement.
"We're definitely better than we were a year ago," Davis said. "At the same time, so is [Duke]. It's an interesting matchup for the players because they feel motivated by the way Duke beat them."
Duke did it with its inside game, getting a combined 50 points from Christian Laettner (19), Grant Hill (14) and Thomas Hill (17). The Blue Devils blew the game open early, leading by 15 at the half.
A fast-breaking team all season, Iowa shot an incredible 71.4 percent in the second half of a wild up-and-down affair against Texas in the first round. Iowa won 98-92.
A lot of Iowa's points are generated by its pressure defense, a style that Duke players say won't phase them.
"We just want to attack the pressure," said Duke forward Brian Davis. "We love playing against the press because we like to finish the break, so we hope they press a lot."
Duke will have the advantage of playing before a partisan crowd, most of whom missed the Iowa-Texas game because they left right after the Blue Devils blew away Campbell, 82-56. How dedicated are the Duke fans -- 5,000 showed up at the Greensboro Coliseum for a one-hour practice Wednesday night and wildly cheered the Blue Devils.
"It felt real good," said Duke center Christian Laettner. "But it got a little ridiculous with all the screaming and yelling."
Laettner is hoping that the fans are yelling and screaming today during the course of a Duke win, but he expects the game to be extremely difficult.
"They're older, they're mature and they're more big-game tough," Laettner said. "This is their second go-around with us and they'll be prepared."
In the second game, Seton Hall will play despite being outplayed throughout by La Salle in its first-round game. It took the late three-point shooting of guard John Leahy, and a jumper by Terry Dehere with 1.8 seconds left, to give the Pirates a 78-76 win.
"I thought La Salle was close to dominating the game," said Missouri coach Norm Stewart. "But every time I looked at the scoreboard it was one or two points."
The Pirates stayed in the game behind their three-point shooting, with some of the shots coming from an unexpected source. Guard Bryan Caver was 3-for 3 from behind the arc on Friday -- he had hit just five three-pointers this season, with the last coming 10 games ago.
"I just took the open shot," said Caver. "I know they were focusing on [Arturas Karnishovas and Dehere]. I just wanted them to pay a little attention to me a little bit more, so it could open things up for my teammates."
Now Caver and his teammates will have to focus their attention on Missouri's Anthony Peeler, the Big Eight Player of the Year, who scored 25 in the Tigers' win over West Virginia.
"Anthony's more like [Ohio State's] Jimmy Jackson because he's so big and strong, and he can shoot the three-point shot as well as penetrate," said Seton Hall coach P.J. Carlesimo. "We're not going to be able to stop Anthony Peeler -- we just have to make him work."
Peeler helped Missouri advance past the first round for only the second time in their last six chances.
"Seton Hall's a bigger team than we are," said Missouri coach Norm Stewart, who was unusually fired up on the bench on Thursday. "We're going to have to have five people on the boards."