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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

3 Reasons: Who will win and why?

Mike+Christy+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AThe+Arizona+Wildcats+took+on+the+Texas+Longhorns+during+third-round+action+of+the+2011+NCAA+Basketball+Championships+Sunday%2C+March+20%2C+in+the+BOK+Center+in+Tulsa%2C+Okla.+The+Wildcats+held+off+a+Longhorn+charge+to+advance+70-69.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats took on the Texas Longhorns during third-round action of the 2011 NCAA Basketball Championships Sunday, March 20, in the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. The Wildcats held off a Longhorn charge to advance 70-69.

Home-court advantage

Six of Arizona’s players hail from the Golden State, and after last Sunday’s game against Texas, some of those players were plotting to collect any leftover tickets they could from their East Coast pals’ respective allotments.

What about the fans from UConn and San Diego State? The Aztecs will likely have a solid following coming up the interstate. Just a guess here, but there’s a good chance both schools from the other half of the bracket will be rooting for the underdog Wildcats. That’s not even considering the whole, “”Everyone’s tired of Duke winning all the time,”” reasoning.

And obviously, Durham, N.C., is five times as far away from the Honda Center as is Tucson — 2,550 miles compared to 469 miles, to be exact. Arizona will likely have the crowd on its side, and if it’s even close to simulating the McKale Center, where the Wildcats went undefeated this year, that’s a definite advantage.

Versatility and depth

Sure, Duke has the length and height advantage in the paint, but the Wildcats will be able to negate that with a more skillful front court. With Williams starting at center, the Duke bigs will be forced to cover him and his 58 percent 3-point percentage on the perimeter.

Even if Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski elects to go with Kyle Singler on Williams, UA starting power forward Jesse Perry will also have a skill and quickness advantage against either of the Plumlee brothers.

And with the Blue Devil big men forced give chase on the perimeter, their aggressive defense becomes vulnerable if Arizona’s wing players or guards break down their defenders.

In addition, UA center Kyryl Natyazhko has come into his own on the defensive end as of late. Though he’s been shy to shoot, the 6-foot-11, 275 pounder can play alongside Williams, and, like Duke’s Ryan Kelly, he can step out and hit a jumper or two.

Natyazhko is just one of Arizona’s 10-deep rotation, which some might say can be even deeper with the versatility giving head coach Sean Miller a number of options as far as match-ups are concerned.

‘Superman’

Forward Solomon Hill swears that Derrick Williams leaves the game with 10 seconds to go and puts on his Superman jersey (not cape, apparently), ready to save the day.

Three times now he’s done it, having two potentially game-saving blocks on the season. Then, last Sunday against Texas, Williams scored on an And 1 bucket and hit the ensuing free throw to give the Wildcats the go-ahead point.

So against the Blue Devils, Williams will once again be the focal point on the offense. Even if he’s not scoring, Williams commands enough attention for an otherwise average shooting team to get hot from beyond the 3-point arc.

In essence, his statistics don’t tell the whole story. If Duke is forced to change up their usual defense, that hand goes to Arizona. If Duke stays with a strict man-to-man without a hefty double, it runs the risk of Williams torching them himself — early this season Kansas did just that, and Williams put 11 combined fouls on the Jayhawks’ best three big men while scoring 27.

And of course, he’s a good weapon to have in a close game down the stretch.

­— Kevin Zimmerman is a journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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