With Duke and North Carolina having played the best basketball of the season, fans yearning for a momentous college game turn their eyes to Chapel Hill and ask, Is this a preview of the March 30 national championship game in San Antonio?
Through Sunday the Blue Devils (18-1, 7-0 in the ACC) had not lost a game since Dec. 13, even though their top scorer and rebounder, freshman Elton Brand, suffered a season-ending foot injury on Dec. 27. The biggest reason for that success has been 6'8" senior forward Roshown McLeod, a 1995 transfer from St. John's who has averaged 15.2 points per game in Brand's absence.
But do the Blue Devils have enough inside strength to contend with North Carolina's Antawn Jamison, a strong candidate for national player of the year honors? Through Sunday, Jamison had averaged 25.0 points over his last 11 games, and along with senior guard Shammond Williams (15.0 points, 4.8 assists per game), gives the Tar Heels (20-1, 6-1) one of the most potent inside-outside attacks in the nation.
The other key to watch is the point guard battle between Steve Wojciechowski (far left) and Ed Cota (5). It should be spirited.
The winner of this game will have the inside track on the No. 1 seed in the East Regional and, thus, the chance to play the third and fourth rounds of the NCAA tournament in nearby Greensboro. But San Antonio is the ultimate destination, and these two teams are looking more destined to meet there every day.