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Duke-Kentucky looks like a classic at Jimmy V


Dec. 16
Tuesday night's Jimmy V Classic is going to be something special. Two Hall of Fame coaches, a potential Final Four preview, and it's all for a great cause -- battling against the dreaded disease, cancer.

Jason Williams
Jason Williams (22) and Duke face Maryland on Thursday for the first time this season.
I know that Jimmy Valvano is up in heaven, smiling, knowing that many of his buddies have assembled to play hoops to raise money for a cause that was so special to him -- The Jimmy V Foundation for cancer research.

I know he would be jumping with joy over the special matchups taking place at the Meadowlands in New Jersey this year.

It doesn't get any better than the heavyweight showdown between top-ranked Duke and Kentucky, baby! This is Ali-Frazier on the hardwood.

There are marquee matchups everywhere: Mike Krzyzewski vs. Tubby Smith, and Tayshaun Prince, Keith Bogans and Co. against Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer and Chris Duhon. This could also be a homecoming party for Duke's new standout, Dahntay Jones, who transferred from Rutgers.

This is a great showcase for Duke's Williams. He will want to put on a show and make an early case for player of the year honors.

But keep an eye on Prince. Can he light it up the way he did against another ACC team? Prince hit five straight trifectas versus North Carolina. If he comes out on a tear, watch out!

The 'Cats have a lot of depth, with Marvin Stone, Jules Camara, Erik Daniels, Cliff Hawkins and J.P. Blevins all contributing. Kentucky has been on fire after an opening Shock City loss to Western Kentucky.

When you're talking college hoops, baby, these are two of the marquee programs in America. They both could end up playing in the Final Four in Atlanta at the end of the season.

Duke is aiming for back-to-back national championships; the Blue Devils were the last team to accomplish this, in 1991 and '92. Duke did it then with Grant Hill, Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley. Can this group -- with Williams, Dunleavy, Duhon and Boozer -- make it happen for Coach K, the Hall of Famer? This is certainly the toughest challenge to date, though Seton Hall took the Dukies to the wire in Maui and Iowa was not an easy opponent.

In the opener, Hall of Famer John Chaney and Temple face Alabama. For the Owls, it all starts with the little guard, the orchestra man, the leader and catalyst, Lynn Greer. He is one of the nation's super point guards. Temple also has size inside, led by Kevin Lyde and Ronald Rollerson.

Temple basketball is synonymous with coach Chaney. He has taken five teams to the Elite Eight, an amazing achievement. That was one reason he received the ultimate honor, being enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The key for Temple is the potential return of David Hawkins, who has sat out for academic reasons. Alex Wesby also needs to step up in this contest. Chaney can use another strong player in the lineup.

The Owls face a challenge against the Crimson Tide. Coach Mark Gottfried has done a great job recruiting blue-chip athletes to Alabama, but can the Tide win away from Tuscaloosa? They need to find consistency on the road; if they do, they can create havoc in the SEC. This will be a good test, as Alabama lost recently to UCLA.

One reason for excitement in Tuscaloosa is the presence of Maurice Williams, a diaper dandy in the backcourt. He can flat-out penetrate and create with the best young prospects out there. How will he fare against the tough Temple defense?

On the wing, Rod Grizzard is a potential big-time scorer who can give Alabama production in many different ways. He is an exciting player to watch. And Erwin Dudley is a solid contributor inside.

Wow, Hall of Famers in Chaney and Coach K! Big Blue and the Tide in the Meadowlands too! It should be awesome with a capital A, baby!

It's quite a night for a super cause. Remember, call 1-800-4-JIMMY-V to help keep Jimmy's dream of beating cancer alive.

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