Duke vs. Arizona Features Talent and Tradition

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We all can’t be as lucky as the fans in Anaheim will be this weekend watching the West Regional.  This regional has all the makings of being a great one, and one matchup in particular could surprise a lot of people – Arizona and Duke.

The Wildcats and Blue Devils are two of the more storied programs in college basketball. Dating back to when Coach K took over this Duke team, and the great Lute Olsen led Arizona to many tournament appearances.  But not only is the past great with these teams, the present and future look pretty bright too.

This game has two of the most talked about and NBA ready players in the country as of now in Duke’s Kyrie Irving and Arizona’s Derrick Williams. But that’s where the similarities stop.

Irving is an explosive point guard who can shoot, but he’s been hampered with  major foot injury since midseason.  Derrick Williams is a dominant force down low that is athletic enough to take post players off the dribble and will be the difference in this game. Despite a clear home court advantage playing this in Anaheim, Arizona isn’t good enough to rally around Williams; they need him to dominate the game from the beginning and keep Duke’s post players at bay.

Duke knows what to expect from the Wildcats – a lot of servings of Derrick Williams. Arizona doesn’t have another scorer that is in double figures in points, but that could be a blessing in disguise for them. They have a lot of contributors and they all seem to do it when they are needed the most. If Duke doesn’t shut down Derrick Williams early, this game could get ugly for them.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened to the Blue Devils in their last game against the Michigan Wolverines. Their offense stalled down the stretch and that could be because of Kyrie Irving’s added role into the offense. If Duke doesn’t figure out how to score while he’s on the court, Duke will likely be going home. They learned how to play without him for half the year. Now they need to re-integrate him into the mix.

What Duke needs to do is what they have been doing all year – play defense, keep the scoring balanced, and stay out of foul trouble. In Duke’s four losses, they have only had 2 guys get double digits in scoring in each of those games. If that happens tonight, then this game will be a lot closer than the 8.5 point spread indicates.

I see Duke’s experience trumping any court advantage Arizona might have or struggles Duke has on the offensive end. It sets up a great matchup either against a young, hot Connecticut team or an underappreciated senior laden team in San Diego State in the Regional Final.  Either way, I see Duke advancing in this half of the bracket.

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