Best, Worst Times For Blue Devils

Posted: March 14, 1991

MINNEAPOLIS — Some look at Duke and see a team that can't win the big game. Others marvel at a team that has won plenty of big ones over the years.

The second-seeded Blue Devils (26-7) will begin their quest for their fourth straight Final Four appearance - and their fifth in the last six years - when they meet Northeast Louisiana (25-7) today in the NCAA Midwest Regional at the Metrodome.

They don't seem the least bit daunted by the possibility of reaching the NCAA semifinals for the ninth time - and also extending their Final Four futility. In Mike Krzyzewski's 10 previous seasons as coach, the Blue Devils have not won a national championship.

"For me, it's not frustrating at all," said Christian Laettner, a starter on the last two Final Four teams and now a second-team all-American.

Said Laettner: "I love the fact that we can keep getting there and keep surprising people, because I still think in the back of people's minds, they keep saying, 'Duke has been there a lot - maybe they won't get there this year.'

"We keep doing it. It's something we still want to do. And you're right when you say we haven't won it all, but . . . there's no pressure on our team.

"It's fun to get there and it's something that another 300 teams in the country haven't been able to do."

Here's a look at the other teams playing in Minneapolis today, along with their seedings:

3. NEBRASKA (26-7). This is only the Cornhuskers' second appearance in the tournament. Center Rich King set a school record with 180 blocked shots, including 65 this season, when he led the Big Eight Conference. At 7-foot-2, he also has become a prime NBA draft prospect.

6. LSU (20-9). Louisiana State has played in two Final Fours under Dale Brown, but in none since 1986. Some think the Tigers will go this time. That will depend largely upon Shaquille O'Neal, a 7-1 center averaging 27.7 points and 14.6 rebounds per game. Many believe him to be the best big man in college basketball.

7. IOWA (20-10). Acie Earl became both a shot-blocker and an inside offensive threat this season. The Hawkeyes can put a big club on the floor, but their average for field-goal shooting, 40.3 percent, is not as accurate as their three-point average, 42.7 percent.

10. EAST TENNESSEE ST. (28-4). Injuries have made the Buccaneers one of the tournament's crippled teams. Losing junior forward Calvin Talford in the Southern Conference championship game will likely keep them from advancing far. Talford was averaging 14.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.

11. CONNECTICUT (18-10). Connecticut reached the NCAA quarterfinals last year for the first time since 1964. This is one of the tournament's more brash defensive teams, one that likes to intimidate people. Junior guard Chris Smith has kept the Huskies mushing on track with an average of 18.8 points per game.

14. XAVIER (21-9). The Musketeers are the champions of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference. Though not as talented at Pete Gillen's club that reached the Sweet 16 last season, the team has a balanced attack that has seen three of its five starters lead the club in scoring six times apiece this season.

15. NORTHEAST LA. (25-7). Northeast Louisiana coach Mike Vining and his players spent much of their time at yesterday's pre-tournament news conference talking about how desperately they would like to win one NCAA game. This is the Indians' fourth appearance, and they're still looking for their first victory. Three of their starters - Anthony Jones, Chad Jacobs and Carlos Funchess - have all shot better than 50 percent from the field.

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