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.