clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

No shortage of history between Arizona and Duke

Getty Images

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Over 2,000 miles separate McKale Center and Cameron Indoor Stadium. Nearly 30 years of coaching tenure separate Mike Krzyzewski and Sean Miller.

While the young Wildcats exude confidence and swagger, the experienced Blue Devils pride themselves on discipline and structure. 

But despite the distinct differences between Arizona and Duke, there's no shortage of history between these two prestigious programs. This isn't just another Sweet 16 matchup between a West Coast Pac-10 team and an East Coast ACC squad.

Arizona vs. Duke means something. 

"You almost have two giants in college basketball for such a long period of time that it only makes sense that some of the great games in the tournament, very meaningful games--National Championship, Final Four--were played between the two programs," Miller said in his Tuesday press conference. "It's nice to be able to play them again."

It's been 10 years since these two teams faced off -- but what a meaningful matchup it was. No. 2 seeded Arizona and No. 1 seeded Duke met in the 2001 National Championship.

It was Lute Olson vs. Coach K, Shane Battier vs. Richard Jefferson, Jason Williams vs. Jason Gardener, Loren Woods vs. Carlos Boozer, Gilbert Arenas vs. Chris Duhon, and most importantly, two of the nation's most successful programs squaring off on the grandest stage. 

Arizona doesn't have the same star power, and the Sweet 16 sure isn't the National Championship, but the Wildcats are well aware of the history attached to this game. It's two former superpowers reuniting as Duke's remained atop the college basketball totem pole, and Arizona's steadily climbing to the spot it used to occupy. 

Junior guard Brendon Lavender was only 10 years old at the time, but he vividly remembers the Duke and Arizona game in 2001. 

"I watched that game before, with my great-grandmother. She's a great sports fan. She just watches all the college games. Football, basketball, everything. Duke has always been a great team. It was a great game, and they came ready to play," he said. "I just remember watching Richard Jefferson, Gilbert Arenas going against them. Hopefully it's a different result in this next game, for us. They've had one of the greatest coaches in college."

Even though Arizona vs. Duke is no longer an annual occurrence, there's no short of history between these two storied programs. Miller said he has "the ultimate respect" for Duke, and his squad knows what it means to take on the Blue Devils, but they didn't spend Tuesday's press conference talking up their opponent -- they're focusing on themselves. 

When asked how much time he spends thinking about Duke, Momo Jones quickly answered, "None. I worry about them when we get into the locker room and we watch film."

Everything that Jones said and the way he said it spoke volumes about Arizona's mission -- prove that Wildcats basketball has a storied history as well. They may not be a one seed or have a hall of fame coach, but Arizona is on the rise and the Wildcats are out to prove it. 

"Like Momo said, we're Arizona and we're also iconic, so we just have to focus on ourselves," Lavender said.    

"We've played some really good teams," Miller added. "We've played Kansas on a neutral court, and this point in time, just beating Texas, I don't really look at our team with having a problem with being star struck."