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Laettner talks Coach K, 'The Shot,' and predicts the tourney

Christian Laettner Gives His Tournament Prediction | Tipico
Christian Laettner Gives His Tournament Prediction | Tipico
Alex Valdes
Published: 2023-03-15

In our series Tipico Edge, we work with both our internal analysts and external experts to provide you with betting insights and tips on key games or tournaments.

It's been over three decades since Christian Laettner sank Kentucky with 'The Shot,' and the former Duke star shared his admiration for Coach K, recalled his college and NBA days and predicted this year's NCAA Tournament winner on Facebook Live with interviewer Lauren Jbara.

Laettner told Jbara he hadn't filled completely out his bracket, but he's picking Houston to win the title.

 "I love the way they play defense. I don't think I've ever seen a team get after it on defense like Houston does. Sometimes they stall on offense, but I expect their defense to carry them to the Final Four.”

Despite his Houston prediction, Laettner said defending champion Kansas has a good chance at a repeat.

"I think they can. I like the way Kansas looks pretty much mostly all the time. Kansas is a very good team, they've had two or three bad games this year, but like I said they have a few juniors and seniors on their team that really help.

"I love the way Bill Self coaches this team, I love the way that some of the kids stay there, and they don't do the one and done thing, just makes a huge difference."


Laettner also said he has been impressed with Alabama's freshmen, 7-foot-4 "monster" Zach Edey at Purdue and UCLA's Jaime Jaquez Jr.

Laettner also told Jbara he has a few sleeper teams in the tourney -- UConn, Marquette and of course Duke.

"I really like No. 44 (Andre Jackson Jr.) on UConn's team, he is the glue to their team. He plays the 3-man position, he's like a guard, he handles the ball well, he passes the ball well, he sets up everything on their offense. He doesn't score a ton, but if 44 does well for UConn they're a very good team."

In his 13-year NBA career, Laettner played for six teams and averaged 12.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and a .480 field goal percentage. He averaged double-digit scoring in 10 seasons.


But Laettner became a star at Duke, where he won back-to-back national championships in 1991 and ‘92. That run included the buzzer-beater that lifted Duke over Kentucky in 1992. The former 6-11 center recalls how "strict" coach Mike Krzyzewski was.

"He forces you to play the way he wants you to play basketball,” Laettner told Jbara. “He establishes his defensive philosophy, he practices it, he works on it, we used to deny every pass, fight every catch, so he was very tough on us in all those regards. Then on the offensive end, he would make us play the right way, move, pass, cut, don’t jack up so many threes.

“But the thing I loved about Coach K was he was just so determined on, if you don’t play the way I want you to play, then you're going to sit on the bench, and you can transfer if you want, but you've got to play the way I want you to play. But I believed in everything he said, every little way he wanted us to play.

"I couldn't appreciate him more now than I did 30 years ago."


Laettner also recalled his time on the ‘Dream Team,’ a collection of NBA stars that crushed the competition en route to winning the Olympic gold medal in 1992. That team included future Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing.

Laettner played on the team after graduating from Duke and prior to being drafted No. 3 overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1992.

“To be on a team with them was just incredible,” Laettner told Jbara. “I’ll never forget it, and I still treasure it to this day. The biggest thing I realized playing with those guys is you gotta get on your horse and run. On the Dream Team, our fast break was incredible. The speed with which they changed from the defensive end to the offensive end of the court was just incredible.

“The biggest thing I learned (from the Dream Team) was I better be ready to run in the NBA because the transition game is just off the charts in terms of speed.”

Alex Valdes is our staff editor and has written for NBCSports and MoneyTalksNews.

Christian Laettner Gives His Tournament Prediction | Tipico


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