It is being billed as a game between Kentucky's muscle and Duke's finesse, but tonight's NCAA championship final (WRC-TV-4, at 9:15) will be more a game of Kentucky cool versus Duke enthusiasm, Kentucky experience versus Duke youth and Kentucky's hard-working, serious-minded men grinding it out against the carefree kids from Duke.
Few NCAA finals in recent years have matched teams with such diverse makeups. Duke starts two freshmen, two sophomores (one of them only 18 years old) and a junior. The last few seasons have been lean ones for the Blue Devils and they were supposed to be a team of the future, not of the present.
Kentucky, however, has been the team all year, picked No. 1 before a game was played. The Wildcats are a big, veteran team and the tradition-rich basketball school made it to the NCAA final as recently as 1975.
Duke has nothing to lose tonight. The Blue Devils are cocky enough to feel that it is a sure thing that they will be back again next year and probably for years after that. They don't have a care in the world and they act and play like it.
All of the pressure is on Kentucky.
"From the first day the season started, we've heard 10,000 times a week that we are supposed to be the next national champions, and that's a lot of pressure to live with," said Kentucky Coach Joe B. Hall.
"We can feel the pressure, but I think it has made the tournament a little easier for us," said forward Rick Robey. "We're used to everything now."
After their semifinal victories Saturday, both teams stuck to character. Duke had a victory celebration right there at midcourt while Kentucky ran to the seclusion of its dressing room.
"We haven't celebrated all year after a win," said Hall. "We want to win it all and then celebrate."
"We've told ourselves all year long that we aren't going to be happy until we win it all," say Robey, "and that's what we've been working for.
"Duke is young and playing with youthful exuberance. They are slapping people on the back and hugging each other a lot. That's fine, but we aren't that way. We just take a different approach. We played and acted like they do when we were freshmen, but we aren't freshmen anymore. We're having fun, but we just take things a little more serious.
"We've been thinking national championship all year long. As a result, we may not have enjoyed ourselves as much as we could have during the season, but we will enjoy it the rest of our lives if we win."
Duke is loving every minute of the entire experience.
"Our enthusiasm is just great to be around," said Coach Bill Foster. "We've had our ups and downs, but we've always stuck together. I love the enthusiasm part of our play and I just hope we can keep it up. It's a big part of our success."
"Their enthusiasm is probably their biggest asses," said Robey. "They just keep coming after you with smiles on their faces."
"Our program is serious and our players are serious-minded," said Hall, "but we still have a good time. We just don't show it much."
Kentucky (29-2) beat Arkansas, 64-59, in the semifinals with Jack Givens scoring 23 points and getting nine rebounds. The Wildcats surprised the Razorbacks with their quickness and used it to push Arkansas out of its offense.
Duke (27-6) got 29 points from Mike Gminshi, 22 and 12 rebounds from Eugene Banks and 20 points from Jim Spanarkel to beat Notre Dame, 90-86, in the other semifinal.
Duke, the best free-throw shooting team in the nation, won the game at the foul line by making 32 of 37 foul shots.
Duke plays mostly a zone defense and is not likely to change tonight.
Kentucky, which had used a 1-3-1 zone with great success, prefers to play man to man and will play that defense most of the time against Duke.
"Definitely," said Robey. "We match up well with them. I just hope we can shock them with our defense. Nothing has shocked them so far, thought."
Hall is mum on what the match ups will be, but he has told his team that Banks is the one player who has to be stopped.
"He is their key," said Robey. "If we can shut him off, maybe their other guys will start worrying."
Duke goes to the boards hard and doesn't mind knocking heads with the opposition.
"I expect it to be the same kind of game as Notre Dame," said Gminski, "Nothing dirty, but just rough and physical. Kentucky has a lot of meat and potatoes guys and they'll be in there mixing it up. It'll be fun."