What will determine Tuesday's title game?

Updated: April 3, 2006, 4:11 PM ET
ESPN.com

BOSTON -- If at first you don't succeed …

Yes, all but one of our experts incorrectly tabbed the North Carolina Tar Heels as the favorite to win it all. But now that Maryland has knocked out UNC and Duke dominated LSU, why not take another shot at some predictions? So when Duke and Maryland meet for the fourth time this season with an NCAA championship on the line, what are the X factors and which team will win?

Mechelle Voepel, ESPN.com columnist

Mechelle VoepelDuke's defense will be the X factor. It was exceptional against LSU and the Blue Devils probably need to play just as well against a very offensively confident and versatile Maryland team. The Terps are capable of having big offensive games from every position on the floor, which was too much for North Carolina on Sunday. This is the game where Duke's depth might be a key factor if it's going to win a national championship.
Who wins: Duke

Graham Hays, ESPN.com

Graham HaysThe championship game will hinge on the battle between Duke's patience and Maryland's explosiveness. The Blue Devils are playing much better defense than they did in an ACC tournament loss to the Terrapins, using that defense to ride through occasional offensive lulls. But Maryland has more offensive diversity than either Connecticut or LSU, which could stretch Duke's defense to the breaking point. If it's a half-court game, the Terrapins' propensity for turnovers will doom them. But if the game picks up speed, the Blue Devils might struggle to keep the momentum they've picked up in the NCAA Tournament.
Who wins: Duke

Nancy Lieberman, ESPN analyst

Nancy LiebermanDuke cannot allow Maryland to dominate the paint like it has throughout the tournament and certainly did Sunday. The Blue Devils must force the Terps to take outside shots. Yes, Maryland can be a very potent 3-point shooting team, but right now, it's the lesser of two evils. On Sunday, posts Crystal Langhorne and Laura Harper combined to score 47 of Maryland's 50 points in the paint and, more importantly, helped the Terps shoot 65 percent in the second half against UNC. In that game, Maryland didn't even attempt a 3-pointer until almost 13 minutes into the game and finished just 1-for-8 from 3-point range.

Duke must use its size inside to change shots and limit Langhorne's and Harper's looks, and have the bodies to do it. Alison Bales is playing the best basketball of her career and Mistie Williams remains solid game in and game out. They must help Duke get on the boards. Maryland really limited UNC's possessions by grabbing 10 more rebounds (41-31) than the Tar Heels and really getting after it on the defensive glass (28 rebounds). And keep in mind that though these teams have already played three times this season, none of those games or the fact Duke won two of them doesn't matter here. Both teams are playing very differently than they did in the regular season or even just a month ago in the ACC tournament.
Who wins: Duke

Doris Burke, ESPN analyst

Doris BurkeIn Maryland's lone win over Duke this season, in the ACC tournament, the Terps went to the free throw line 34 times. That's a significant number and means that Maryland was setting the tone, attacking the glass hard and probably getting a lot of multiple-shot opportunities. And just as you evaluate a good offensive player by her ability to get to the free throw line, you evaluate a team by its ability to get there.
Who wins: Duke

Beth Mowins, ESPN

Beth MowinsThe team that takes the best care of the ball will win. Both teams are very good at forcing turnovers and converting those into points at the other end. That means Maryland and Kristi Toliver, who had 12 turnovers Sunday, are going to have to take much better care of the ball -- or Duke will make them pay. The Blue Devils have more experience and leadership and showed off their depth and defensive prowess against LSU.
Who wins: Duke

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