Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Stars Go Pro, Scrambling the College Game

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Stars Go Pro, Scrambling the College Game

Article excerpt

The underlying story in college basketball this year is not so much about which team will win the NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis come April 3 - most likely are Connecticut, Cincinnati, or Michigan State - as which won't. And why.

The textbook example of the won'ts is Duke.

In almost all seasons and for all kinds of reasons, Duke is the poster team for greatness. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is an ongoing genius, posting a record of 469-155 in 19 years as Blue Devils boss. Duke should have won the NCAA title again last season because it simply was better than UConn. But in a fluky turn of events, Duke was upset, 77-74.

It was a sobering experience for Duke fans. But they brightened by the next day when they figured out their team would be better this season and still better in 2000-2001. Therefore, back-to-back national titles looked to be ordained.

Then came horrendous speed bumps. National player of the year Elton Brand, a sophomore, became the first Duke basketball player ever to leave the Durham, N.C., campus before completing his basketball eligibility. Brand was the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. Coach K thought this might happen, since Duke could not expect to continue to be exempt from early desertions to the NBA.

But nobody thought sophomore point guard Will Avery would go pro. Or that freshman Corey Maggette would. Or that sophomore center Chris Burgess, already inked in by Coach K to replace Brand, would transfer to Utah.

Incredibly, Duke went from title heir apparent to decimated. Krzyzewski told ESPN, "It's all fine." Hardly. The team that led the nation in scoring last year abruptly lost all four of its double- figure scorers - an average of 60.5 points per game. Result: At least four freshmen will be very important to Duke this year and depending on freshmen can be hazardous.

It was all terribly un-Duke-like. Duke has won big in the past because all its stars, including Danny Ferry, Christian Laettner, and Grant Hill, completed their college eligibility. But such are college hoops as presently constituted. For any coach - or fan - to look past the current season is folly.

Duke and Krzyzewski are the last ones to be whacked by reality. Times are changing at warp speed in other ways, too, and some are having more trouble adjusting than others. Indiana is a good example, where Bob Knight, the self-appointed High Potentate and Grand Pooh Bah of college basketball, seems to have fallen and can't get up.

Clearly, he's a legend, what with a 28-year record at Indiana of 641-231, no fewer than 19 wins over the last five seasons, 12 straight NCAA tournament bids, 3 NCAA crowns, and 11 Big Ten championships.

But the last NCAA title was in 1987, and this year the Hoosiers will be fortunate to finish fifth in the Big Ten. Knight, whose personal behavior also is erratic, simply has stayed too long at the party, and things have gotten ugly. …

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