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Original Issue

2. Duke Last year the timid young Blue Devils ended their season in disastrous fashion; this year they're older, bolder and wiser

With 9:32 remaining in last season's South Regional final in St.
Petersburg and Duke leading Kentucky 71-54, Blue Devils freshman
forward Shane Battier peeked up at the scoreboard and turned his
thoughts toward cutting down the nets and going to the Final
Four. When the game ended in an 86-84 Duke loss, Battier studied
the Tropicana Field scoreboard again and committed that moment
of deep disappointment to memory. "We were like the Big Bad
Wolf," he says, "huffing and puffing, but we just couldn't knock
the door down and crash the party."

This year's Blue Devils lineup is a more seasoned bunch and has
every intention of reaching the Final Four, which in a luscious
coincidence will be held at Tropicana Field. "I think we're
going to be really good, so I like the high expectations," says
coach Mike Krzyzewski, who in his 18 seasons at Duke has reached
seven Final Fours, more than any active coach. "I don't have a
problem with telling my guys that we want to win a national

The expectations in Durham are as huge as Duke's frontcourt,
which includes four players who are 6'8" or taller. With that
skyline at his disposal, Krzyzewski has shifted his team's
offensive emphasis from the perimeter to the paint. Sophomore
Elton Brand, who averaged 17.0 points and 7.6 rebounds in
helping the U.S. win a gold medal at this summer's Goodwill
Games, is a strong player of the year candidate, and Battier (53
blocks, 51 steals, 29 drawn charges) is one of the nation's top
defenders. Those two and sophomore Chris Carrawell will get
plenty of room to maneuver down low as long as Trajan Langdon
consistently knocks down his jumpers. Though he shot nearly 40%
from behind the arc in 1997-98, the senior guard has a history
of late-season funks: In his three years in Durham he has hit
49.6% of his threes before Feb. 16 but only 35.3% after.

Duke's success, however, will hinge most on whether sophomore
guard William Avery develops into a dependable playmaker. Avery,
an eager shooter who launched more than 100 three-point attempts
despite averaging less than 20 minutes, must improve his assist
to turnover ratio (87 to 60).

It's no secret that poor half-court execution in the final 10
minutes against Kentucky cost Duke a ticket to last year's Final
Four, and the reason may have been a lack of experience in big
games. Five of the nine Blue Devils who played against the
Wildcats were freshmen or sophomores. "We were wide-eyed and
tentative, and Kentucky showed the moxie of a champion," Battier
says. "It's like monkey see, monkey do. This year we've got a
lot more swagger."

Battier recalls that as the team bus pulled out of the gate at
Tropicana Field last March, he was beginning to sense that moxie
stirring inside him. As he watched the dome shrinking in the
distance, he had one thought: See ya next year.

--Tim Crothers

COLOR PHOTO: BRIAN SPURLOCK Durham Bull Duke has beefed up its inside attack, which features Brand as the go-to guy. [Elton Brand in game]



SF Chris Carrawell 6'6" Jr. 10.1 ppg
PF [*]Shane Battier 6'8" So. 6.4 rpg
C [*]Elton Brand 6'8" So. 59.2 FG%
SG [*]Trajan Langdon 6'3" Sr. 14.7 ppg
PG William Avery 6'2" So. 8.5 ppg

'97-98 record: 32-4 Final rank (coaches' poll): No. 5
[*]Returning starter