Arizona and UConn playing best basketball
Cinderella lives in Tucson, wears a No. 23 jersey and dominated Duke on Thursday night.
Arizona Wildcats fans can argue they knew Derrick Williams would do this all along, but how many truly believed what this team as a whole was capable of?
The excitement and pressure doesn’t stop here, though.
The sophomore forward must now lead his Wildcats against a player who could give him a run for his title as the first overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and a team on an eight-game winning streak: Kemba Walker and the UConn Huskies.
Not many would argue against Williams and Walker being the two best players left in the NCAA Tournament.
Unstoppable would be a good word to describe these two. Through their three March Madness games, Williams is averaging 23.7 points and 10.7 rebounds, while Walker is averaging 29 points and 6.7 assists.
In Saturday’s showdown, a spot in the Final Four is on the line. It’s safe to assume both stars will do everything in their power to win the game, but the better supporting cast will most likely be the deciding factor.
For UConn, this means Jeremy Lamb, Alex Oriakhi and Shabazz Nappier. For Arizona, MoMo Jones, Jamelle Horne and Jordin Mayes will be the ones expected to make the impacts that will matter most.
Already being regarded as one of the best young coaches in the nation, Sean Miller has accepted the challenge of bringing Arizona back to the top of the college basketball world. Miller can prove himself even more if he prepares his team to defeat Jim Calhoun’s Huskies and make a surprise Final Four appearance.
Getting to the Elite Eight hasn’t been easy for either of these teams though, starting with their play in their respective conference tournaments.
UConn wasn’t taken seriously in the Big East Tournament until Walker hit a buzzer beater to beat Pittsburgh in the third round. They ended up winning the conference title and beat Bucknell, Cincinnati and San Diego State in convincing fashion to start their tournament run.
The nation’s attitude on the Wildcats couldn’t have been more different. After losing to Washington in the Pac-10 Tournament Championship game, many were predicting a Memphis upset in the first round. Instead, Arizona turned it on against the Tigers and the Texas Longhorns before playing their best basketball against the Blue Devils.
Going further doesn’t get any easier for either team.
The Wildcats have spotty defense that has been hidden well throughout the tournament based on their strong offensive play. Handling the point guard position, though, will be their biggest challenge.
For the Huskies, forcing turnovers would create a significant advantage. Arizona turns it over 16.3% of the time, but UConn is ranked 315th in forcing that issue.
Even though Arizona has proven they can control the glass throughout this tournament, UConn is seventh best in the nation at getting offensive rebounds. Allowing Walker and Co. extra chances could prove to be deadly through the game’s 40 minutes.
Both teams are playing their best basketball of the season and the result is facing each other for a chance to continue playing in Houston.
A victory for either team in this game won’t be categorized as a surprise. Not anymore.