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The world wakes up this morning to a new reality, and how sweet it is. Duke, the most hated college basketball team in the nation, was dismantled by Derrick Williams and the Arizona Wildcats in a Sweet 16 meeting that will go down as one of the best in the long history of Arizona NCAA Tournament victories.
Congratulations to the Wildcats. Not everyone in Arizona is a fan, but even the Sun Devils had to give their grudging respect for your accomplishments.
Before moving on to the Elite 8 match up with UConn, we give you some of the postgame thoughts and quotes from the players and coaches:
Coach Sean Miller
"I really felt like it was two different games. The first half, Derrick's individual play allowed us to have a chance. I mean he scored 25 points in one half. Made five 3s in one half. We were down 6. We could have had a huge deficit at halftime, but he gave us a chance.
"We talked at halftime about taking care of the ball and moving on offense, driving with intelligence when we go, and most important they had 11 points on second shots in the first half, and Duke is hard enough to deal with on the first shot, when you give 'em second shots you almost don't have a chance.
The one huge turnaround in the second half and that was like a second game, we were a total team. We were rev'd up. We had a lot of guys playing at a very high level, and we rebounded. At the end of the day, 40 rebounds for Arizona, 27 for Duke and a lot of that happened in the second half."
Derrick Williams (32 points, 13 rebounds)
"Makes me feel great that if we win this game on Saturday we're going to be known as one of the best Arizona teams to play, and, you know, just to have our name up there, this is the fourth Arizona team to have 30 wins and that's a great accomplishment right there.
The Elite Eight is great, but we're not looking to stop right there. We're trying to win a national championship one step at a time, and one more game we're in the Final Four. That's what we want to do. That's one of our team goals this season was not only to get in the tournament, but to make a run in the tournament and so far we're doing that."
Coach Mike Krzyzewski
"They played a phenomenal game, especially in the second half; and Williams, he's just a superb player. He's as good as anybody we've played, or I should say better than anybody we've played. He kept his team in there in the first half. I thought we played a little better than the score in the first half, but Williams getting 25 just kept them in."
For more on the game, visit AZ Desert Swarm:
Arizona 93, Duke 73 -- Upset city - Arizona Desert Swarm
They're too young. They're too inexperienced. They're too small. Derrick Williams is their only offensive weapon. Duke's too good. Coach K is too seasoned. Nolan Smith and Kyrie Irving are too much for Arizona's guards handle.
That's all the Wildcats have heard over the last few days. What is there to possibly criticize now?
Bonus, enjoy this postgame video:
No one could have expected this.
The Arizona Wildcats rallied from a six point halftime deficit, wearing down the Duke Blue Devils to take a convincing 93-77 victory in the Sweet Sixteen in Anaheim.
Arizona was led by Derrick Williams in the first half, who scored 25 points to pace all scorers. The second half was a much more balanced attack, featuring Lamont Jones and Solomon Hill as significant contributors.
Williams ended the game with 32 points, while Jones scored 16 and Hill added 13. Other surprise contributions came from Jamelle Horne, who played excellent defense and showed an athletic side we haven't seen in a while.
Kyrie Irving led Duke with 25 points, showing off what the future might hold for Coach Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils. Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith played their final games for Duke, scoring 18 and 8 points respectively in a losing effort.
As the game went on, the depth of the Wildcats came through on the floor, with Momo Jones supplying a spark, making several key baskets at opportune times. The swagger became overwhelming, and Duke couldn't rally its troops to make a dent in the UA lead.
Verne Lundquist said it well during the final minute, noting the "jubilation" of the team and its fans. Coach Sean Miller should be truly proud of the effort his team put forth against Duke.
With this impressive win, the Arizona Wildcats advance to play the Connecticut Huskies in the Elite Eight on Saturday.
For Arizona fan reaction and "jubilation" after this epic victory, check out AZ Desert Swarm.
I woke up at the crack of dawn today to speak with Tim Hall, host of The Sports Experience on The Buzz 620, an AM radio station based out of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Tim and I discussed several important issues in regards to the Arizona Wildcats, including the contributions from the supporting cast and whether or not Sean Miller would leave Tucson for the North Carolina State coaching job.
I was also able to speak to whether or not Arizona will be able to defeat the Duke Blue Devils tonight in the Sweet 16. It turned out to be a pretty decent interview, so feel free to listen to the .mp3 attached here.
Quick fun fact: did you know both Arizona and Duke went 17-0 at home this season? Road games were a different story, with Arizona going 7-4 and Duke going 6-4.
The NCAA Tournament matchup between Arizona and Duke tips off at 6:45 Pacific time this evening, and will be televised by CBS.
Derrick Williams has turned a once-mediocre Arizona Wildcats team into a Cinderella of sorts, and now the nation can see just how talented this sophomore forward is when Arizona takes on the top-seeded Duke Blue Devils tonight in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
Williams makes this Arizona team dangerous for several reasons - first, he's the only player you have to focus on. The rest of the supporting cast is difficult to plan for, because they utilize a different player every time. Secondly, Williams is extremely athletic and plays with a high level of confidence in his game. Williams knows he is more talented than his opposition, and works to make sure the team benefits from his presence in every situation.
This isn't to say that Derrick Williams is unstoppable. This first team All-American was slowed down by USC and UCLA during the regular season by employing a tag team defense of tall, long, athletic forwards against him. When the supporting cast isn't hitting their shots, it's easy to collapse on Williams and force him into tough situations. But in the NCAA Tournament, his teammates have stepped up in a big way.
Arizona won 29 games this year because they were dominant on their home court. The McKale Center is a huge home court advantage for the Wildcats, and the student section, which they call the Zona Zoo, is always packed with fans. The Pac-10 was improved over last season, but there are only a handful of good teams in the conference currently, including Washington and UCLA. The talent just isn't there, and Arizona capitalized on the conditions to have a memorable season in Tucson.
During the regular season, MoMo Jones played the second scorer, but he went scoreless against Texas in the Round of 32. Jordin Mayes and Brendon Lavender came off the bench and contributed 24 points in limited playing time. Mayes had only broken double digits in scoring once this entire season, and that was when he put up 11 against Rice. Lavender only scored points in 4 of the last 12 games he's played in.
See, this year's Arizona team is nothing like this year's Duke squad. The Blue Devils have extremely talented, brand name players. You know who they are going to give the ball to, and you still can't stop them. The Wildcats give the ball to whoever is open, and it's not easy to prepare for that either. This game will come down to coaching and preparation, and you know that Coach K is renowned for both of those qualities.
Playing in the Sweet 16 is always a big achievement, but especially for this Arizona team when you look at how poorly last season went. UA didn't make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 25 seasons, and the team has truly improved in every way. This is the first time in several years where Wildcats fans actually felt like they belonged in the Sweet 16, and the resurgence of the program has made a lot of people very happy.
In the end, Arizona has a chance to win this game against Duke. When you're the five seed, isn't that all you ask of your team?
Arizona vs. Duke tips off at 6:45 Pacific time on CBS. For more Arizona coverage, head over to AZ Desert Swarm.
Most people think Arizona has a chance in this game, when you consider the quality of Derrick Williams and the amount of games he has altered with his mere presence. But when you dissect the Duke roster, things get a little murky.
Duke is led by senior Nolan Smith, who is loaded with experience and passion. He also scores 21 points a game. Kyle Singler is another senior for the Blue Devils, who averages 16.9 points a game and in terms of physical size, matches up comparably to Derrick Williams of the Wildcats.
The wild card in this game is Kyrie Irving, Duke's immensely talented freshman. Before the NCAA Tournament, Irving hadn't played since early December in a victory over the Butler Bulldogs. Irving had a severe turf toe, and his playing in this tournament is a surprise to most people.
Arizona has an opportunity to win this game for three reasons, and we'll break those all down right now.
1. This game is being played in Anaheim. Derrick Williams is from La Mirada, California, which is located ten miles away from the Honda Center, where the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 are being held. Williams will be even more amped up for this game, knowing that his hometown will be supporting him.
2. Duke's four losses all came on the road in 2010-2011. If there's one chink in the armor of this Duke team, it's that they are only "really good" on the road, instead of being "unbeatable." The Blue Devils were 6-4 in true road games this season, while winning all 17 of their home games. Does this mean anything? You tell me.
3. Arizona plays well with the home court advantage. The Wildcats will likely be well-represented in the stands, with the commute from Tucson much shorter than the one from Durham. Arizona won all 17 of its home games in 2010-2011, just like Duke. When you combine Duke's road mortality with the regional advantage that the Wildcats will have, this could be a de facto home game.
Arizona certainly is going to fight an uphill battle against these seasoned, composed Blue Devils. But they still have a real chance to pull out the victory on Thursday night.
The Arizona Wildcats are an 8 1/2 point underdog in Thursday's Sweet 16 match up with the Blue Devils of Duke. That's to be expected given the talent level, experience, and most importantly the notoriety of the Duke team. Casual fans are going be pick Duke over Arizona at a high rate, so the line reflects that bias with at least three extra points going towards the favorite.
There's no question going into this game though, why Duke is favored to win. They have size in the front court with brothers Miles and Mason Plumlee (6-10) and Ryan Kelly (6-11) and more importantly they feature a devastating back court that includes Seth Curry and Nolan Smith. They are bringing the player most experts predict to be a top five pick in the NBA draft, Kyrie Irving, off their bench. Throw in forward Kyle Singler and that's a lot of fire power for the Wildcats to handle.
Arizona does have two things in their favor, depth and the best player on the court.
Throughout their run, the Wildcats have found exceptional performances off their bench from the likes of guard Jordin Mayes or forward Jamelle Horne. At least two of their five reserves need to have exceptional games for Arizona to take some pressure off Derrick Williams.
Duke's freshman point guard Kyrie Irving could be picked first in the 2011 NBA Draft, but given the amount of time he's missed this season with injury and his lack of experience, Williams has the nod as the game's top talent. We saw in Arizona's win over Texas that Williams can be completely taken out of his game and still hit big shots in the clutch. His ability to drive, rebound, shoot and block shots makes him the most dangerous player on the floor.
Predictions: Our Arizona-based staff would love nothing more than to see the Wildcats advance, but even though Charles Barkley is predicting an upset, we can't do it. I agree with my fellow writers who's predictions follow:
Justin Burning: Duke wins. UA is not a deep enough team outside of Williams and their run of lucky breaks will end.
Cory Williams: Duke will win this game. Arizona has been playing well in the early rounds, but they survived some poor execution during the late moments of both contests. Duke is not a team that lets mental errors go unpunished, and the experienced Blue Devils will pick apart the younger Wildcats.
Scott Howard: Duke wins 75-66. When you have the best player - as Arizona does in Derrick Williams - you always stand at least a puncher's chance to win. Problem is that Duke has the second through sixth best players. That will be the difference in a game that Arizona hangs around for a while in but ultimately falls.
NCAA Tournament Schedule: The game starts at 6:45 p.m. Arizona Time, Thursday on CBS. Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery will be the announcers.
As an observer of the Arizona Wildcats all season long, I have been surprised by what I have seen out of them in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Judging from their performance in Pac-10 play, there was speculation on my part that they would be unable to hang with top talent during March Madness, and the Wildcats have proven me wrong.
Players such as Jordin Mayes, Solomon Hill, and even Brendon Lavender have stepped up and produced in the spotlight, punishing Memphis and Texas for overextending their defense against All-American Derrick Williams.
When Lamont Jones was held scoreless against Texas, his teammates chipped in and put the basketball in the bucket. Games during the regular season can be won by incredible individual efforts, and Derrick Williams had more than his fair share of those. But to win in the NCAA Tournament -- that requires a full team effort (unless your name is Stephen Curry).
It won't be easy for the Arizona Wildcats to upset the top-seeded Duke Blue Devils, even with the geographical advantage. Duke's roster is filled with quality players, and Nolan Smith is a college player of the year candidate after scoring 21 points a game this season.
Experience and composure are hallmarks of Coach Mike Krzyzewski's teams, and Arizona will need to improve their late game management in order to defeat this mature club.
For more on the Arizona Wildcats, check out AZ Desert Swarm.
Duke and Arizona will clash in Anaheim on Thursday evening, with the winner earning a spot in the Elite 8. The Blue Devils and Wildcats have played in several significant games against each other during their respective histories.
The Wildcats have played Duke seven times, with the last game coming in 2001 when the teams competed in the NCAA Championship Game. Their first matchup came during the 1961-62 season, when Duke clobbered Arizona 78-47. The games were much more competitive 25 years into the future.
The next time these two schools met, Duke traveled to Arizona in 1987 to play in the Fiesta Bowl Classic, a game that has been held annually for the past 26 years. The Wildcats defeated the Blue Devils 91-85 in Duke's only road game to Tucson in school history.
Arizona has gone 3-4 all-time against Duke, with the Blue Devils winning three of the last four contests dating back to 1990. These two schools have rarely scheduled each other, only meeting in the Maui Invitational and the NCAA Tournament since their last matchup in 1991. Mutual respect between Mike Kryzyzewski and Lute Olson may have kept them from locking horns too often in regular season play.
Arizona coach Sean Miller has only faced the Blue Devils once in his career, losing to Duke in the Elite Eight of the 2004 NCAA Tournament as the coach of the Xavier Musketeers. Lionel Chalmers was Miller's best player, while Duke was stacked with Luol Deng, JJ Redick, Chris Duhon, and several other quality players.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has a career record of 3-3 against Arizona dating back to 1987. Coach K has won 900 games in his legendary coaching career, and could tie Bobby Knight for first all-time with 902 wins if Duke makes it to the Final Four this season.
The last time Arizona and Duke squared off was in the 2001 NCAA Tournament Championship Game, with the Blue Devils outlasting the Wildcats for an 82-72 victory and the national title.
Both teams were absolutely stacked with talent in 2001, and many of the players on both teams went on to have illustrious NBA careers.
As a point of reference, there are currently six players from those two teams still playing NBA basketball: Duke alums include Shane Battier, Mike Dunleavy Jr., and Carlos Boozer, while Arizona spurred the careers of Richard Jefferson, Gilbert Arenas, and Luke Walton. Other players, such as Loren Woods and Jay Williams, also were in the league from those squads
In terms of sheer talent, both schools have excelled since they began playing each other. Arizona has had 31 NBA draft picks since 1989, topping the list of any school during that timespan. Duke is a close second place with 29 NBA draft picks.
At the end of the day, these are two of the most storied programs in college basketball history, and to see them face off in the NCAA Tournament for their eighth all-time matchup will be a treat for fans of the sport. With a spot in the Elite Eight on the line, expect both coaches to have their teams prepared and ready to go come 6:45 Pacific time on Thursday.
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