Thursday, April 1st, 2004
One of the biggest sports spectacles in the world continues this Saturday when Duke plays Connecticut and Georgia Tech matches up with Oklahoma State. Both games are worthy of being a finale, but unfortunately for us, it can't be that way.
Duke is probably the most experienced team in the tournament, with Chris Duhon left over from Duke's 2000 NCAA championship season. The Blue Devils also benefit from perhaps the best coach in the field, Mike Krzyzewski, whose last name is so confusing that even he doesn't know how to spell it. Even with the experience factor on their side, Duke must matchup with the Connecticut Huskies, who are probably the most balanced team left in the dance.
UConn might have the best starting five of any team in recent history, when healthy. Health has been an issue for the Huskies this season, and without Emeka Okafor, they are a much different squad. Fortunately for them, Okafor looks to be healthy for Saturday's contest.
With Taliek Brown, Ben Gordon, Rashad Anderson, Josh Boone, Charlie Villanueva, and Okafor, UConn has the best one-through-six in the nation. With Okafor healthy and Chris Duhon ailing for Duke, this may be a more one-sided matchup than most think. Sheldon Williams is the only player for the Blue Devils that can guard Okafor and even if he is covered tightly, Duke will have a tough time handling Gordon, Anderson, and Brown.
On the other side of the bracket, Georgia Tech plays Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State has been very impressive in the tournament, with Georgia Tech surprising many at getting this far. The loss by Kentucky opened up St. Louis bracket for anyone to come out and Georgia Tech took down Kansas to get where they are.
Oklahoma State will probably come away with a victory in this matchup, especially with Tech's B.J. Elder hurting. Jarrett Jack stepped it up in last week's win over Kansas, but his efforts may not be enough to counter the loss of Elder against a tough Oklahoma State team.
A Connecticut vs. Oklahoma State final looks to be in the making. Connecticut looks to be the odds on favorite down the road and their overall talent and balance will probably be too much for the Cowboys to handle.
In a few side notes:
* Georgia Tech took down UConn early in the year, handing the Huskies their first loss of the season, the season in which many "experts" had predicted that the Huskies would go undefeated. If this matchup comes up again, the results probably won't be the same simply because UConn will be ready and is much better than they were earlier this year.
* Even though Coach K is the most experienced tournament coach, Jim Calhoun of UConn is no slouch. His Huskies were national champions in 1999, ironically defeating Duke for that title.
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