Thursday Sweet 16 Review and Preview

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Duke’s second half collapse to Arizona was as stunning as Derrick Williams’ one-handed put back dunk in the first half. The Blue Devils should have been ahead by a dozen or more points at halftime instead of holding a 44-38 lead. However, Williams’ brilliant 25-point 20-minute show kept the Wildcats in the game and coach Mike Krzyzewski was so thrown off by his performance he even went completely out of character and granted the rarest of commodities, a halftime interview with CBS’s Lesley Visser. (Bet Coach K will not do one of those again)

I had heard Memphis coach Josh Pastner say early in the week that he believed Arizona could upset Duke because of the quickness edge they had in the frontcourt and as long as the Wildcats guards could hold their own, Arizona had a real chance for the upset.

Pastner’s words were prophetic, as Williams, Solomon Hill and other Arizona players were quicker to the ball and were dogmatic on the boards. They exposed the lack of quickness by the Plumlee brothers, who were never in defensive or rebounding position the entire second half. Arizona played a perfect final 20 minutes.

This sets up a very entertaining regional final with Connecticut. The Huskies have won eight games in a row over a 17-day period and have shown fatigue at least for this group is overrated. Kemba Walker had his usual outstanding game (36 points) and this time was assisted by freshman Jeremy Lamb, who tied a season high with 24 points against San Diego State.

Walker is unstoppable as he wants to be, having a tremendous feel about the game, knowing when to look to score and when to be a facilitator. If Connecticut is to return to Final Four, 81 percent of the points cannot come from two players like it did vs. the Aztecs. With how active Arizona’s bigger people are the challenge falls to UConn bigs Alex Orlakhi and Tyler Orlander to be more diverse in rebounding, scoring and player defense.

History buffs have to like Connecticut since the last three times they advanced to Final 4, they came out of the West regional and the Huskies are 11-0 SU and ATS on neutral courts this season.

The cruelty of tournaments like this is you don’t get to choose how you would like it to end. Player of the Year Jimmer Fredette was 11 for 29 (3 for 15 on three-point attempts) from the field and committed six turnovers as Florida took the game over in overtime and bounced BYU 83-74.

The Gators guards did solid work in harassing Fredette and added 33 points. BYU had no answer for Alex Tyus who was a beast with 19 points and 17 rebounds.

Then there is Butler, a team full of winners who continually find ways to take away their opponents strengths and sap their confidence. What Wisconsin does best is feed off the tandem of Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer and make three-point buckets. Taylor had a misleading 22 points, scoring most of them late in the contest when the outcome had already been decided. Leuer was abysmal 1 for 12 from the field and fouled out and the Badgers were 7 for 29 (24.1 percent) from behind the arc.

Florida and Butler set up as two very confident clubs with two coaches used to preparing teams for big games. Both are capable of playing different styles, thus tempo does not look to be an issue, however the importance of 6’11 Andrew Smith cannot be understated for the Bulldogs to do battle with Florida. If his tender ankle is problematic, the Gators have decisive edge in the paint.

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