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Associated Press

NORFOLK, Va. -- One team has been a No. 1 seed four years in a row. The other has only been to the NCAA Tournament four times.

In Tuesday night's Mideast Regional final between Duke and Minnesota (7 ET, ESPN), the pressure of high expectations is on the Blue Devils, who have reached two straight Final Fours and lost in the semifinals each time.

"It's sort of unfinished business,'' Duke's three-time All-American Alana Beard said Monday. "Sometimes I wake up in tears thinking about how much this class deserves it and how much I want it for this program.''

"It,'' of course, is a national championship, now three wins away for the Blue Devils and Golden Gophers.

"It's kind of hard just to put off to the side and ignore because there's such a strong fire burning inside of my heart,'' Beard said. "But you don't want to put it aside because it keeps that fire burning.''

After being No. 1 during the season and winning their fifth straight ACC title, Duke (30-3) was expected to get this far, and to make it a more rewarding tournament than the last two.

"Every year the question's been asked, 'Do you think you're going to win?' '' Iciss Tillis said. "And every year the answer is, 'Yes.' But this is our last shot and we've got to leave everything out on the floor.''

The Golden Gophers (24-8) have come from obscurity by taking out No. 2 seed Kansas State in the second round and No. 3 Boston College in the regional semifinals on Sunday, a 76-63 victory.

With a deceiving record caused by playing seven games without second-team All-American Lindsay Whalen, Minnesota's rise as a seventh-seed has surprised everyone but the Gophers themselves.

"Four weeks ago when the seedings came out, no one expected us to do a whole lot,'' Whalen, a senior point guard, said. "I don't know that anyone other than our team expected us to get out of Minnesota.''

It doesn't mean the Gophers want to win any less, just that they will come at the game from a different perspective than Duke.

"There's a difference between feeling like you have to go somewhere to wanting to,'' Whalen said. "When you want to do something, you play so much better and so much more in control compared to when you feel like you have to do something. Then, you start to feel the pressure.''

Duke's seniors prefer to view it as desire, but the affect is the same and clearly enhanced as they prepare to make one last run at a national title.

Tillis has a nightly ritual attached to championship dreams.

"Every night before I go to bed, I think about playing great and the shot clock winding down and we're up and we're looking at each other and somebody throws the ball up and everyone rushes out there,'' she said.

"I get that feeling and I smile. I think about it every year. I always get the feeling of us winning and it hasn't come true yet,'' she said. "But I really really still feel it's going to come true.''

Tuesday's winner will play Connecticut in the Final Four.



EAST
1 Penn State
2 Connecticut
3 Houston
4 North Carolina
5 Notre Dame
6 Colorado
7 Auburn
8 Virginia Tech
9 Iowa
10 North Carolina State
11 UC Santa Barbara
12 Southwest Missouri State
13 Middle Tennessee
14 UW-Green Bay
15 Penn
16 Hampton
MIDEAST
1 Duke
2 Kansas State
3 Boston College
4 Texas Tech
5 Louisiana Tech
6 Ohio State
7 Minnesota
8 Old Dominion
9 Marquette
10 UCLA
11 West Virginia
12 Montana
13 Maine
14 Eastern Michigan
15 Valparaiso
16 Northwestern State
WEST
1 Texas
2 Purdue
3 Georgia
4 LSU
5 Miami
6 TCU
7 Villanova
8 Michigan State
9 Arizona
10 Mississippi
11 Temple
12 Maryland
13 Austin Peay
14 Liberty
15 St. Francis (Pa.)
16 Southern
MIDWEST
1 Tennessee
2 Vanderbilt
3 Oklahoma
4 Baylor
5 Florida
6 Stanford
7 Rutgers
8 George Washington
9 DePaul
10 Chattanooga
11 Missouri
12 New Mexico
13 Loyola Marymount
14 Marist
15 Lipscomb
16 Colgate