It took a Derrick Williams late block to eek the 5-seed Arizona Wildcats over a Memphis team who wasn’t even supposed to make the tournament. Then they surprised everybody when they beat the criminally underseeded Texas Longhorns in the next round. A matchup against Duke was supposed to end their pleasant season.
But then things got weird.
Duke was up double figures for a good chunk of the first half, but Arizona’s offense came out to ball after the break. Spurred on by their own raucous crowd in Anaheim, they completely wrecked the Dukies 55-33 in the second half. Derrick Williams made his case for a top pick in this June’s draft by putting up 32 points on just 17 shots, including 5 three-pointers and 12 rebounds, 6 of which were offensive. This is without mentioning the barrage of vicious, ferocious, Darryl Dawkins-like throwdowns he stamped on Kyle Singler and the Plumlee brothers. It was completely filthy.
MoMo Jones and Solomon Hill got in on the action for the Wildcats as well, making plays inside and out to drive the dagger deeper into the backs of the Blue Devils, who could not get things together even after multiple time outs by all-world head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Detractors will blame Coach K for playing Kyrie Irving before he was ready but that is, frankly, ludicrous. Arizona shot out of their minds — no fault of the freshman — and he himself scored a terrifically efficient 28 points. He hadn’t played in three months and it looked like he was as fresh and rust-free as if he sat for only a few days. Very impressive showing from the young kid in what may be his final collegiate game.
Arizona gets to face UConn in a 3/4 matchup almost nobody predicted that sends the winner to the Final Four. Duke gets to watch the rest of the tournament from home, and will wait to hear from Mason Plumlee and Irving about their decisions in regards to the NBA. They’ll lose Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler to the draft as seniors, but Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins will take on bigger roles on the team.
But the most important NBA news in this game is that Derrick Williams’ draft stock has never been higher. He’s a very efficient player, but if someone uses the number one pick on him, their expectations better be for a role player.