Originally created 11/11/99

College hoops begins Thursday



NEW YORK -- The opening game of the college basketball season will feature two nationally ranked teams loaded with freshmen. The second game will be Connecticut's first as defending NCAA champion.

The Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night starts four months of college basketball, culminating with the Final Four in Indianapolis.

No. 10 Duke meets No. 13 Stanford in the opener, followed by No. 1 Connecticut against Iowa, a rematch of last season's NCAA tournament round of 16. The championship game is Friday night.

Duke lost to Connecticut in the title game in St. Petersburg, Fla., last March. The only returning Blue Devils are forwards Chris Carrawell, Shane Battier and Nate James.

Gone are senior sharpshooter Trajan Langdon as well as national player of the year Elton Brand, William Avery and Corey Maggette, all underclassmen now in the NBA.

That means coach Mike Krzyzewski's recruiting class, considered the best in the nation, will be the core of a team that last season finished 37-2, including 16-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"I'm glad we had them, but to me that was ages ago" Krzyzewski said of the four lottery picks. "In coaching, you have to get on to the next thing right away. Once last year was over it's over. My complete focus went to the next year and mine has been."

The freshman who should get the most notice is point guard Jason Williams.

"Jason is still learning how to play point guard and develop the feel and thought process of handling a team for 40 minutes," Krzyzewski said. "He's going to be an outstanding point guard. He's a good one now and he's a willing learner."

Stanford has only senior forward Mark Madsen back from last season's team that reached the second round of the NCAA tournament.

"It seems awfully early to be playing a game of this caliber," Stanford coach Mike Montgomery said. "We are young, and stuff you assume they know they don't. Obviously, we have some quality back with Madsen. But I've been concerned with -- can we be ready as quickly as we need to be?"

Connecticut has three starters back from the team that won it all. One player the Huskies have to replace is All-America Richard Hamilton.

"I really want them thinking that last season is over," coach Jim Calhoun said. "It was a season for a lifetime. Let's start another season for a lifetime and build upon that. But this is a new season. We're 0-0, not the team that won the national championship."

Iowa has a new coach in Steve Alford. Seven of last season's top nine players are gone from the team that lost to the Huskies in the tournament. Calhoun called that game the most physical of his 28-year career.

"It is too early for us because we're under a new system and have new guys," Alford said. "The other teams may feel different with veteran teams or solid foundations. We're on the first floor."

The tournament, sponsored by Ikon, is part of the efforts by the National Association of Basketball Coaches to make money for cancer research. The group has raised more than $10 million.