Posted on: April 14, 2011 12:08 pm
Edited on: April 14, 2011 12:17 pm

Making the Leap: Williams, Singleton declare

Posted by Jeff Borzello

After a dominant NCAA tournament performance that vaulted him into the top five of the NBA draft, it came as no surprise that Arizona forward Derrick Williams declared for the draft on Wednesday.

Williams will sign with an agent, meaning he cannot return to the Wildcats for his junior season.

He averaged 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds this past season, shooting nearly 60 percent from the floor.

With Williams, Arizona had a chance to be a top-10 team heading into next season. Even without him, though, the Wildcats will be a contender for the Pac-12 championship.

Jamelle Horne is the only other loss besides Williams, as four starters return. Momo Jones had strong showings in the NCAA tournament, while Kyle Fogg and Kevin Parrom were solid playmakers on the wings. Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry were also effective in the postseason, and Jordin Mayes was in the game during crunch-time situations.

What has everyone excited is the recruiting class Sean Miller is bringing in. Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson were teammates on the AAU circuit, and will make immediate impacts for the Wildcats. Turner can start at the point, while Johnson is an athletic scorer who is also a lockdown defender. Four-star recruits Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson will help replace Williams in the paint.

Williams would have made this team a Final Four contender, but there will still be plenty of wins in Tucson next season.

NBA Draft

Singleton’s loss will hurt Florida State

Florida State’s run to the Sweet 16 after a poor finish in the regular season demonstrated how important Chris Singleton was to the Seminoles this past campaign.

Unfortunately, Singleton announced on Wednesday that he was entering the NBA draft and signing with an agent.

Singleton missed six games due to an injury, but still managed to average 13.1 points and 6.8 rebounds, and cement himself as arguably the most versatile defensive player in the country.

The loss of Singleton means Leonard Hamilton will be without his two scorers from this past season, as Derwin Kitchen used up his eligibility. For a team that struggled immensely to score, that doesn’t bode well.

Next season, the Seminoles will need wings Michael Snaer and Deividas Dulkys to increase their scoring, and Ian Miller has to become more consistent at the point guard position. Bernard James was a defensive force in the NCAA tournament, and Okaro White showed flashes.

The incoming freshman class will help. Aaron Thomas was a late bloomer who brings plenty of offense and deep range on his jumper, while forward Antwan Space is a versatile rebounder who can hit face-up shots. Terry Whisnant is another gunner.

Singleton was one of the best two-way forwards in the country; an ineffective Florida State offense will struggle to replace him.

Photo: US Presswire

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 5, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2011 5:30 pm

Counting down the top 10 moments

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Monday night’s title game between Connecticut and Butler ended the 2011 NCAA tournament on a somewhat sour note, as Butler had a historically bad shooting night and neither team was particularly impressive for 40 minutes. This year’s Big Dance, though, was a lot more than just the national championship game. The Final Four was the most unpredictable in history, with zero No. 1 or No. 2 seeds reaching the national semifinals for the first time ever. Two mid-majors reached Houston, including one that would not have been included in the NCAA tournament last season. There was Cinderella runs, upsets, buzzer beaters and outstanding individual performances – everything you could ask for in an NCAA tournament. When we reflect on the 2011 NCAA tournament, what moments will stand out? Here’s one man’s take.

10. John Calipari and DeAndre Liggins: The battle between Kentucky and North Carolina in the Elite Eight was one of the best games in the NCAA tournament. Big baskets by both teams, trash-talking from players, intensity all over the place. Up one with 35 seconds left, Kentucky’s DeAndre Liggins knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a four-point lead they would never relinquish. Liggins went over to head coach John Calipari, who hugged Liggins and gave him a kiss. Kentucky was going to the Final Four.

9. First day finishes: The first Thursday of the NCAA tournament is always must-see basketball. Last year was arguably the greatest first day in history, but 2011 gave it a run. Within the first seven games of the day, we had Butler senior Matt Howard’s game-winning layup against Old Dominion; Temple’s Juan Fernandez’s leaner to beat Penn State; and Richmond’s Kevin Anderson’s running fallaway with 18 seconds left to clinch a win over Vanderbilt. There were two other buzzer-beaters in that first set that we’ll get to in a bit.

8. Derrick Williams’ block: Similar to what he did against Washington in the regular season, Arizona forward Derrick Williams saved the Wildcats’ win against Memphis with his block of Wesley Witherspoon in the final seconds. It seemed as if Witherspoon had an open lane to the basket, but Williams stepped over from the other side of the basket to send Witherspoon’s shot the other way. Arizona would escape, 77-75.

7. Bradford Burgess’ layup: Down one with the ball under Florida State’s basket with 7.1 seconds left in overtime, everyone was curious what Shaka Smart was going to design. Bradford Burgess slid to the basket, though, getting a perfect pass from Joey Rodriguez and beating Derwin Kitchen for a game-winning layup. Florida State would fail to get a shot off at the other, allowing VCU to win, 72-71, and advance to the Elite Eight.

6. Title game guards: Connecticut’s Kemba Walker and Butler’s Shelvin Mack knocked down too many big shots throughout the tournament – we could make a top 10 of plays by just Walker and Mack. Walker scored 33 points against Cincinnati, 36 against San Diego State and hit a clutch step-back jumper against Arizona to help get the win against the Wildcats. On the other side, Mack simply refused to miss in the final minutes of games. He knocked down a huge 3-pointer against Florida with 1:21 left to give Butler a lead, then went on a tear against VCU in the national semifinals.

5. Demonte Harper’s jumper/Kenneth Faried’s block: This was another one of the fantastic finishes from the first Thursday. Trailing by two in the final seconds, Morehead State’s Demonte Harper hit a pull-up jumper from the top of the key with 4.2 seconds left to give the Eagles a one-point lead. At the other end, Louisville’s Mike Marra seemed to have an open 3-pointer to win it – but Kenneth Faried skied out and blocked the shot, preserving the first round’s biggest upset.

4. VCU beating Kansas: Everyone knew VCU needed to play the perfect game to beat Kansas. Well, the Rams weren’t exactly perfect – and they still managed to win by double-figures. They became the third No. 11 seed to reach the Final Four, but they were the first team that needed to win five games in order to get to the national semifinals. Just three weeks earlier, people had been complaining that VCU was even in the NCAA tournament – Shaka Smart and company proved everyone wrong.

3. Arizona vs. Texas ending: Talk about a change of emotions. Texas led Arizona by two in the final 15 seconds, when Derrick Williams was blocked by Tristan Thompson. Jordan Hamilton called timeout when he picked up the loose ball. On the ensuing inbounds, Cory Joseph was called for a five-second violation – although the five seconds were only about four and change in reality. Arizona would throw it in to Derrick Williams, who finished a 3-point play to give the Wildcats a one-point lead. J’Covan Brown missed at the other end – Arizona would survive. Again.

2. Brandon Knight’s game winners: Both of Brandon Knight’s last-second shots could be top-five moments. In the second round, Knight drove the lane and made his only basket with 2.0 seconds left to hold off upset-minded Princeton. Knight was at it again in the Sweet 16. Facing top-seeded Ohio State, Kentucky was tied in the final 10 seconds. Knight drove past Aaron Craft and pulled up from the right elbow, knocking down a jumper with 5.4 seconds left to give Kentucky the win.

1. Pittsburgh vs. Butler ending: As soon as it happened, everyone knew it would be the defining moment of the 2011 NCAA tournament. Andrew Smith gave Butler a one-point lead with 2.2 seconds left on a layup. On the ensuing desperation play, Pittsburgh’s Gilbert Brown was bumped out of bounds by Shelvin Mack. Brown went to the free-throw line, making the first. He would miss the second free throw, with the rebound falling in the arms of Butler’s Matt Howard. When Howard tried to turn and heave it towards the other end, Pitt’s Nasir Robinson barreled into him, committing a foul 90 feet from the basket. Howard would hit the game-winning foul shot and send top-seeded Pitt packing.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 26, 2011 11:43 pm
Edited on: March 27, 2011 11:50 am

Where will Arizona be this time next year?

Kyle Fogg Posted by Eric Angevine

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- So, Arizona lost in the Elite Eight on a very close final score of 65-63. We're all assuming Derrick Williams will declare for the NBA draft, and that he probably can't tell us with any certainty what he's going to do just hours after a loss. But he should go: he'd be wasting his time in college next year. He's ready now. I know from hearing Arizona coach Sean Miller talk this weekend that he expects Williams to depart.

We saw some real improvement from Williams' teammates over the course of the tournament, so even if Williams does leave, Arizona should be in good shape. Jesse Perry was rugged on the interior, scoring 14 points and hauling down seven boards, much of that production coming when Williams was saddled with foul trouble in the first half. He'll be a senior next year.

MoMo Jones, a sophomore, has shown real leadership despite his youth. If he can score a bit more, he'll become more valuable to the team. He may very well be capable of just that, but his job this year was to pass to Williams whenever possible. Kyle Fogg (right) has shown a deadly shooting stroke, and he and Kevin Parrom did well guarding college basketball's most dangerous player: Kemba Walker. 6-foot-7 Solomon Hill has shown a knack for rebounding.

The real plus is the incoming class of freshmen. Sean Miller landed an excellent crop for next year, and getting the Elite Eight experience for his sophomores and juniors will allow the new guys to fit in gradually.

Let's take a look:

Nick Johnson, 6-3 SG: Like the current players Miller puts on the court, Johnson is a transition threat with athletic ability. He can throw down a dunk when called for, which was a hallmark of the Wildcats' run to the West region final. He'll provide a slasher to go with Fogg's shooter.

Josiah Turner, 6-3 PG: Turner looks like a perfect complement to MoMo. He's known as a scoring combo guard with point guard skills. He can pass or score, and he has the strength to take the ball inside. More strength in the guard corps for Sean Miller.

Angelo Chol, 6-8 PF: Chol is one of the gems of Miller's class of 2011. He is long and athletic, and can shoot. He's not the bulkiest guy around, but a year in the weight room at Arizona should fix that. Chol has the instincts of a shot-blocker, which could come in very handy for next year's version of the Wildcats.

Sidiki Johnson, 6-8 PF: Johnson is a bit heavier than Chol, so he's good for the inside muscle jobs. Still, like everyone Miller is recruiting, he can run the floor. Get used to track meets in Tucson. Johnson gets the offensive putbacks, which could make him a very dangerous weapon with his ability to move.

Each of these guys is a top talent at his position. And let's remember that Miller has taken players that weren't that highly rated and made them his kind of guys. If he starts out with top talent next season, there's no reason he can't take the 'Cats back to the Elite Eight. He'll have to figure out which of these guys is the main scoring option, but he'll have time for that. And now that he's announced the return of the Arizona of legend, expect more top high school players to commit to his program.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 26, 2011 12:02 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2011 1:30 pm

Elite Eight: No. 5 Arizona vs. No. 3 Connecticut

Posted by Eric Angevine

Be honest. If Kemba Walker and Derrick Williams don't somehow combine for 80 points in the regional final game in Anaheim, you'll feel a little bit cheated, won't you?

The crazy thing is, you would be completely justified in feeling that way.

Watching these two superior players all season long has been one of college basketball's major joys - must-see TV for those who couldn't make it to Tucson, Arizona or Storrs, Connecticut on a regular basis. To have them matched up against each other on the same court is enough to make a college hoops fan giddy. Heck, it's enough to make disinterested bystanders sit up and take notice.

If we assume that Williams and Walker will put on a show, and more or less cancel each other out on the score sheet, how do we determine who has the winning edge?

There are a couple of noticeable things going on with Kemba's game right now that bear watching. As his scoring load has increased against ever tougher opponents in the tournament, his other stats have naturally declined.

Kemba Walker's tournament lines

vs. No. 15 Bucknell: 35 minutes, 18 points, 8 rebounds, 12 assists

vs. No. 6 Cincinnati: 39 minutes, 33 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists

vs. No. 2 San Diego State: 40 minutes, 36 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists

This is working out OK for the Huskies because other players are specializing in areas that once also fell heavily on Kemba's shoulders. Alex Oriakhi has always been UConn's pillar of strength inside, but now he's getting help on the defensive boards from freshman Roscoe Smith. Combined, the two forwards had 17 boards against a tall San Diego State team. All but one of Smith's rebounds came on the defensive end, which was crucial to getting the Huskies' offense downcourt in a hurry, where they could get easy buckets or foul shots in transition. Shabazz Napier played tough defense and doled out six assists in limited action, and Jeremy Lamb proved to be a crucial secondary scorer with 24 points and a perfect 3 of 3 from behind the arc.

For Arizona, the upset of Duke was revelatory. Sean Miller showed that his collection of role players could actually function as an ideal unit, as long as nobody else minded that Derrick Williams would be doing most of the scoring. Apparently, nobody does, which seems wise.

Derrick Williams' tournament lines

vs. No. 12 Memphis: 36 minutes, 22 points, 10 rebounds

vs. No. 4 Texas: 29 minutes, 17 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals

vs. No. 1 Duke: 35 minutes, 32 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals

Williams has actually found other facets of his game as the tournament has progressed. Not found, per se - they've always been there - but he's figured out how to work other parts of his game into tight contests on the big stage. Williams' ability to do all this, including blocking a shot here or there, without fouling much is truly impressive.

Williams can get his own shot, that much is obvious, but it really helps that he has fellow sophomore MoMo Jones playing at such a high level right now. Jones got into double figures in scoring on Thursday, but his value as a leader is tough to define with statistical measures. Jones dished six assists in the rout of Duke, which was by far his highest total of the tournament. Williams was freed up to do damage from the wing (5 of 6 from deep) by the workmanlike rebounding of Solomon Hill, Jesse Perry and Jamelle Horne inside. Kyle Fogg, Kevin Parrom and Jordin Mayes showed the ability to knock down shots when left open by the extra attention paid to Williams.

It's tough to draw a defining edge out of that morass of numbers, but the name that keeps sticking out is that of Jeremy Lamb. The freshman's stellar play of late has made Kemba Walker even more dangerous, and Lamb will likely become the rallying point for this team if Walker leaves UConn for the NBA at the end of this season, a possibility that seems more likely the deeper the Huskies go in this tournament.

Fortunately, we don't have to know who will win. The fact that we have no clue is what will make this game such an exciting, intriguing centerpoint to this day. Whichever team comes out of this melee alive will be a welcome sight for fans with an eye on Houston next weekend. For opponents, not so much.

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Posted on: March 25, 2011 6:38 pm

Video: Derrick Williams talks about his teammates

Posted by Eric Angevine

Based on the assumption that he was probably sick and tired of talking about himself already, I asked Derrick Williams to talk about his Arizona teammates, who caught fire last night in the second half to propel the Wildcats past the Duke Blue Devils and into the Elite Eight.

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Posted on: March 22, 2011 10:17 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2011 10:19 pm

16 stories to watch in the Sweet 16

Posted by Matt Jones

1. Ohio State’s quest for dominance
:  College basketball has been decidedly mediocre as a whole this season, with no real difference between most of the teams in the top 25. But all year, Ohio State has seemed to be on a different plane. Its two losses during the regular season were both on the road, against ranked teams in the Top 15. And now in the tournament, as Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, etc have struggled at times in their games, the Buckeyes have rolled and looked absolutely dominant. Now however they are rewarded only with the two winningest programs in college basketball history, Kentucky and North Carolina. Win those two in a convincing manner and they will be cutting the nets down in Houston.

2.  The era of Jorts in full effect:  The most improved player in college basketball is the lone senior on a program known for its freshman, who played 35 total minutes last season. Josh Harrellson is a fan favorite in Lexington, Kentucky, in part because of his Cinderella story and in part because of his unique personality. In addition to becoming a force on the glass down low, Harrellson has embraced the nickname “Jorts,” given to him because he famously wore jean shorts on his campus recruiting visit. The denim legend has a chance to enter UK lore if he can somehow slow down Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and make Kentucky so filled with jean shorts, that it looks like Gainesville on a Saturday college football afternoon.

3.  Buzz Williams’s final audition:  Coach Buzz Williams is absolutely focused on taking Marquette to another Final Four, and to do so, he will have to beat two of the North Carolina, Ohio State, Kentucky trio. But Williams will also be a hot commodity when the season ends, as he is likely to be pursued by all of the job openings left in college basketball. Marquette is not the most attractive BCS-level job and Williams will have the opportunity to jump ship if he so chooses. Either way, a number of college Athletic Directors will be watching his Golden Eagles play, waiting for a loss and a chance to call his cell phone for a quick inquiry.

4.  Harrison Barnes lives up to the hype:  Thanks in large part to the success of freshman John Wall last season, many in the national media felt the need to crown North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes national preseason player of the year before he had even played a game in Chapel Hill. Early in the year, Barnes did not live up the hype, causing some painful growth and verbal reprimands to the press by coach Roy Williams. But as the year has gone on, Barnes has hit his stride and looks an awful lot like the number one player in America he was coming out of high school. A run to the Final Four and the Harrison Barnes redemption story will be told far and wide, likely followed up with a top 5 pick this spring in the NBA Draft.

5. Duke goes for the repeat:  Only two teams have gone back to back in the NCAA tournament in the last 35 years and both were considered some of the best in the history of college basketball. This year's Duke team has the chance to replicate the accomplishment, but do so in a different manner than the two prior winners. Both the 1992 Duke and 2007 Florida teams were dominant from start to finish, but this year's Duke team has been a notch below Ohio State and Kansas all season. They escaped against Michigan on Sunday and now are four games away from college basketball immortality...even if many of us aren't sure that they are all that good.

6. Arizona announces it is back:  It hasn't been that long since Arizona was the dominant college basketball power on the west coast. But then came the rise of UCLA, the decline of the Lute Olson era, Kevin O'Neill and all of a sudden, Arizona basketball became somewhat of an afterthought. Well regardless of what happens in the Sweet 16 versus Duke, the Wildcats' program under Sean Miller has proven that it is once again a power. Derrick Williams has made some of the most athletic plays of the tournament and Arizona has won two hard-fought battles over Memphis and Texas. With a strong recruiting class coming next season, Arizona basketball is back regardless of if they beat Duke. but if they sneak up and knock out the Blue Devils, well Arizona will announce that it is a top ten program once again, this time to stay.

7. Kemba Walker's time:  There isn't much left for Kemba Walker to accomplish at Connecticut. He has had an amazing season and his run in the Big East tournament ensures that he will be remembered forever around the Huskies' program. But he is two wins away from taking his UCONN team to a Final Four, completing a postseason that will have few equals in recent history. His ability to score and will wins at the end of games is unbelievable to watch and Walker now must do it as an underdog two more times to reach his ultimate goal. In a year where the stars have come out, Kemba still has the chance to be the biggest one yet, with two games in Anaheim to tell the tale.

8. Steve Fisher's redemption:  Everyone thinks Steve Fisher is a bad coach. Regardless of his amazing tournament run to the title in 1989 and his time spent overseeing the Fab Five, the reality is that media and most college basketball fans think Fisher is synonymous with "good recruiter/bad coach." But San Diego State has had a tremendous season in a tough conference and now has a chance to prove its mettle versus arguably one of the two best players in the game (Kemba Walker) and the defending national champions (Duke) over the next five days. Win both of those games and Fisher may not quiet the critics, but they will have much less ammunition than they would prefer.

9. Learn about the Morris twins:  Coming out of high school, most figured the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, to be super talented, but likely headed for a substantial amount of trouble during their time at Kansas. That opinion was bolstered by a stupid moment from Markieff, as he shot a BB gun out of a dorm window and ended up arrested on a battery charge. But since then, the Morris twins have gotten better on and off the basketball court and are the leaders of a Kansas team with a legitimate chance to win a title. Both players are forces on the glass and can score, making them not only a great brother tandem, but a matchup nightmare. In a relatively open bracket, it should be easy pickings for the brothers Morris.

10. Richmond tries to keep going:  Every year a team comes from out of the first weekend as a big underdog, heads into the second weekend with lots of press and excitement, only to fall in their Sweet 16 game to a stronger opponent. Last year that team was Cornell from the Ivy League and this year it is the familiar NCAA tournament success story, the Richmond Spiders. Unlike past heroes of the little guy, Richmond is from a near-major conference (Atlantic 10) and counts some good athletes and one great player, Kevin Anderson. Richmond plays great defense and has the ability to beat anyone in the tournament...except perhaps Kansas, who creates matchup nightmares for the Spiders. This is the spot where teams like Richmond exit stage left. We shall see if the Spiders will follow the script.

11. Could VCU be great?:  No team had a better first weekend than VCU. Who would have ever imagined that the Colonial team would put absolute smackdowns on USC, Georgetown and Purdue, all three in games that were never really all that close. VCU coach Shaka Smart has become the hottest name in the coaching community and our CBSSports.com writer Gregg Doyel suggested that they might be the most impressive team so far in the tournament. VCU plays a straightforward offensive style, in which every player can score and all on the court have a variety of skills. It makes them tough to prepare for in a given game and nearly impossible to defend when clicking. It is tough to see VCU coming out of this bracket and beating Kansas, but making the Elite Eight and giving the Jayhawks a good game? I would call it likely.

12. Florida State goes for respect:  Every year there is one team like Florida State that makes the Sweet 16. Usually they are from a power conference, were average all year, often underachieving, and then they get the perfect draw and make a run to the tournament's second weekend. The Seminoles were blessed by getting to play the decidedly unathletic and overseeded, Notre Dame Fighting Irish and are now onto play America's new fascination, VCU. When healthy, Chris Singleton is the type of player that can lead FSU over anyone and there will be no team they will see that they can't match up with athletically. But FSU has always been a team that skeptics dismiss and Leonard Hamilton is a coach that usually brings out the eye rolls from those in the college basketball community. This weekend could change that.

13. Brad Stevens tries to do it again:  Butler's move to the championship game last year was remarkable and a testament to the ability of Brad Stevens and a great group of Butler players, led by Gordon Hayward. But this Butler team's set of last-second wins last weekend may have even been more impressive. While Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack are both playing well, there was a time this year that Butler was completely in turmoil, losing to lower level Horizon League teams and looking like a fragment of the team that was a half court shot from cutting down the nets. But Stevens never gave up, the team got better and now two one point wins have put the Bulldogs two victories from the Final Four. The Southeast bracket is wide open and there is no reason that Stevens cannot make magic again.

14. Jordan Taylor will impress:  Jordan Taylor is a phenomenon to watch. While he plays on a painfully boring team that at times can suck the life out of any room it is in, he is an explosive scorer that also has the ability to get his teammates involved and control a game. Taylor will get overshadowed this weekend by Jimmer, Kemba and the rest, but he is as good a player as they are and at the top of his game, potentially a better NBA prospect. Wisconsin is prime to sneak in under the radar and make a trip to the Final Four, because they play great defense and are a style contrast for most teams. Bo Ryan can get it done with this group, but it will be Jordan Taylor who makes it happen.

15. Jimmer: He is the biggest star in college basketball and has become a sports figure so well known, that he can be called only by his first name. Jimmer Fredette draws the highest ratings of the NCAA tournament and is everyone's second favorite player in the nation. But what he doesn't have is a Final Four, an accomplishment that will make him an all-timer in the sport. Florida is a team that BYU beat last year and the Cougars might be favored against either Wisconsin or Butler. Jimmer can do it and if he does, he will become the Tim Tebow of college basketball.  All it takes is two more wins.

16. The under-appreciated Gators: Florida is playing its best basketball of the season and is one of only a few teams left in the tournament that has a scoring threat at every position. This Florida team has generally been overlooked all season and was thought by most to be way overseeded in the No. 2 spot in the Southeast region. But the Gators played two great games in Tampa and come to New Orleans with the most open bracket in the field and are the odds-on favorite to advance. Billy Donovan is extremely overlooked as a coach...three national title games in 11 years and a chance to go to a fourth Final Four this year. Get that done and he has to be considered one of the five best coaches in the game, a group he is rarely placed into.

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Posted on: March 20, 2011 10:51 pm

West Regional preview

Posted by Eric Angevine

The Anaheim Regional is the chalk champion this year. The 1, 2 and 3 seeds made it through, and No. 5 Arizona over No. 4 Texas wasn't much of an upset by seed. So, what we have here is nothing but the game's best active coach (Coach K at Duke), A Player of the Year candidate (Kemba Walker at UConn), A likely top-5 NBA draft pick (Derrick Williams at Arizona), and a first-time program with arguably the nation's most potent frontcourt (San Diego State). Meh. Chalk. How boring.

Three storylines dominating Anaheim

1. Coach K goes for 902 wins and yet another Final Four trip. 
2. Derrick Williams is coming home to L.A. 
3. Kemba Walker attempts to keep his postseason win streak intact.

How They Get to Houston

No. 1 Duke: The key word for the Blue Devils is 'maintain'. The backcourt rotation has become truly formidable with the return of Kyrie Irving. When he plays alongside Nolan Smith and Seth Curry, Duke has so many ways to destroy a team. Kyle Singler will continue to overwork opposing defenses with his ability to drive inside or step back and drill a jumper. Duke's inside players simply need to play their roles as they have all season. Two wins, and Duke fans get to celebrate a Final Four and Coach K becoming tied with Bob Knight as the winningest coach in D-I.

No. 2 San Diego State: Get the ball inside. The Aztecs entered the season with one of the nation's top frontcourts, and nothing has changed on that score. Kawhi Leonard, Billy White and Malcolm Thomas are good for roughly 48 percent of the team's points scored this season. Chase Tapley is the jump shooter any big lineup needs to keep defenders honest, and D.J. Gay is the distributor who feeds the machine. If those five players do their jobs, and Steve Fisher doesn't have to go to the bench too terribly often, the Aztecs can get to the Lone Star state.

No. 3 Connecticut: Kemba. Kemba, Kemba Kemba Kemba. Kemba? Kemba. OK, seriously. Kemba Walker continuing to play like he's got JRR Tolkien-style Elf blood in his veins is the key to everything UConn has done and hopes to do this season. Alex Oriakhi is the key rebounder, and Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier are the helpful apprentice scorers. There is no longer room for doubt: Kemba Walker can do anything he wants to do on the basketball court.

No. 5 Arizona: The Wildcats are really an unusual team to see at this stage. Sophomore Derrick Williams scores a full 25 percent of his team's points. One quarter! Momo Jones is the only other Arizona player who even comes close to double figures in scoring, and he averages 9.8 per game. The youth movement worked against Texas, and could be a harbinger of things to come. Freshman Jordin Mayes and sophomore Solomon Hill each played well to get the 'Cats to the Sweet 16. The key is to have a one possession game and let Williams take over. It's worked thus far.

Anaheim's five best players

1. Nolan Smith: Duke's leader can stroke a jumper or drive the lane with ease. He averages 20.9 points and 5.3 assists per game.
2. Kemba Walker: Quite simply college basketball's Superman this season. 23.6 ppg and 4.5 apg.
3. Derrick Williams: A sophomore who almost single-handedly put his team in the Sweet 16. 19.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Shoots 61% from deep.
4. Kawhi Leonard: If you needed a rebound to save your life, and Kenneth Faried wasn't available (well, he isn't), you'd want Leonard to be your guy. 15.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg.
5. Kyrie Irving: With so many other choices, it's tough to go here, but Irving is the piece that makes a good Duke team great.

The Duke Blue Devils will cut down the nets, because college basketball is a guard's game, and the Devils are hoarding at least four good to exceptional ones. Kyle Singler is an NBA talent in the frontcourt, and the trio of big men can, together, play the role that Brian Zoubek played for the defending national champs last season. They're not quite as complete as Ohio State, but that's a concern for another day.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 18, 2011 6:02 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2011 6:32 pm

Williams' block seals Arizona's win

Posted by Jeff Borzello

The highlight reel for Thursday and Friday's action is sure to be filled with buzzer shots and game-winning shot, but Arizona's Derrick Williams made his own lasting memory at the end of the Wildcats' win against Memphis on Friday.

With Arizona leading by two with five seconds left, Memphis guard Joe Jackson missed a free throw. Forward Wesley Witherspoon grabbed the offensive rebound and seemed to have an opening at the rim. However, Williams came out of nowhere to send Witherspoon’s attempt the other way.

The block preserved Arizona’s two-point lead, helping the Wildcats pull out a 77-75 win.

There is some controversy surrounding the block, as an argument has been made that Witherspoon was fouled on the final play. He took a bump from Jamelle Horne immediately after the rebound and then had some body contact with Williams. Interestingly, Tim Burr -- the same referee at the center of the Big East tournament fiasco -- was the referee standing under the basket, just a few feet from the play. As he did in the St. John's vs. Rutgers game, Burr didn't blow the whistle. In this case, though, I think Burr was right.

For what it’s worth, Williams also had 22 points and 10 rebounds. He was 9-for-9 from the free-throw line and hit the go-ahead 3-point with 3:51 remaining to put Arizona up 68-65. Despite his offensive prowess, it was his one block that has Arizona in the round of 32. 

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Category: NCAAB
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