Although the common wisdom here holds that Louisville probably has too many athletes for Duke to handle in Monday night's national championship game, one coach who is familiar with both teams -- having played them this season -- is convinced that the Blue Devils will win.

"Because they always win," said N.C. State Coach Jim Valvano. "Duke will go down in history as the greatest not-great team ever. There isn't a coach around who watches them play who doesn't think his team can beat them. I'd like to go lace up the shoes and play them right now; I think my club could beat them.

"But somehow, some way, you don't. We lost to them twice. Everyone has lost to them. They're like a good pitcher you think you can hit. You feel comfortable at the plate; you don't feel overpowered, and the next thing you know you're back in the dugout. When the day is over, you're oh for four."

Valvano, by the way, showed up for Saturday's semifinals wearing a Duke button. Even though he and Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski have been intense rivals for 11 years -- the first five when Valvano was at Iona and Krzyzewski at Army -- they are friends.

Valvano is genuinely pulling for Duke with his team eliminated.

On the other hand, North Carolina Coach Dean Smith was quoted in a local paper Saturday as being torn between loyalty to former player Larry Brown and the ACC. Bet this: If Smith could have jumped into uniform and taken a charge to help Kansas win, he would have done so.

Some of the better lines of the Final Four: Bill Brill, Duke '52, sports editor of the Roanoke Times and World News and author of an upcoming book on the history of Duke basketball, on staying neutral during the tournament: "Like they say in Nicaragua, the hell with neutrality."

Rick Brewer, North Carolina sports information director and the moderator at all Final Four news conferences, when Brown was asked to compare coaching at Kansas to his other coaching jobs: "We haven't got that much time."

Brewer today, when the Duke players were asked what they liked best about the school: "The fact that it's eight miles from Chapel Hill."

Krzyzewski, responding to Brewer: "Yeah, if we like it being eight miles away, think how much the people who are 10 miles away must love it."

Duke's Jay Bilas, the one starting senior who probably has no realistic shot at the NBA, when asked about playing in the NBA: "I'd give my right arm to play in the NBA. But then, there isn't much call for one-armed players these days."

N.C. State coaches believe that 6-11 Chris Washburn probably will remain in school another year. But whether he stays or goes, Washburn will need a second arthroscopic procedure on his left knee, which often made walking the day after a game painful for him this season . . .

It is difficult to believe that almost no one -- wire services, writer's groups, coaches -- chose Krzyzewski as coach of the year. The excuse given is that the voting is too early. One person who had to put the name of his pick on tape for today's TV special was NBC's Al McGuire. He chose Krzyzewski.

It says here the only other possible choice was St. John's Lou Carnesecca. The U.S. Basketball Writers Association chose Bradley's Dick Versace. Not only did Bradley not beat one top 10 team all season, the program is under NCAA investigation.

Fess Irvin, the brilliant point guard who committed to LSU early and then backed off after the school's NCAA troubles, was reported to have committed to Kansas last week. Don't believe it. Irvin probably will land at LSU . . .

McGuire on LSU Coach Dale Brown: "He asked me about going on vacation with him. I told him, 'No thanks, I have no interest in searching for Noah's Ark' " . . .

Final thought with one game left: Clearly someone made a mistake in analyzing the Southeast Conference this season -- remember The Upset Pick, Xavier over Alabama? Four SEC teams made the final 16 and three the final eight. The crow tasted lousy.

As for The Upset Pick, LSU losing to Louisville was hardly a shock. That was a pick made more to make a pick than anything else. So, all you critics, the record is 7-12, but really 7-11. Either way, no one is picking The Pick for any awards. As for Monday: The game is a tossup. There's no upset to pick, but most people are picking Louisville. Not this observer. It will be close, super close, but, as Valvano says, Duke will find a way.