I’m a pretty optimistic guy.
I tend to expect positive things to happen. I think the next day will be a good day at work. I believe tomorrow I’ll handle things better with the kids. I keep renewing my Arizona football season tickets.
But even I wasn’t that optimistic.
The goal this year was simply making the NCAA tournament. You know, the kind of season USC had. Now the Arizona Wildcats have a Pac-10 championship, two Pac tourney wins and three March Madness wins! With two of them coming against half of the four statistically best teams in the country!
Sean Miller isn’t just playing with house money; he took enough of the house’s money to buy a second house.
If the Texas game was gravy, and the Duke win is icing, what would beating UConn be? A digestif?
The turning point for Arizona on offense was with 18.5 minutes left in the 2nd half. Derrick Williams drove into the lane, three defenders collapsed on him and he kicked it out to Kyle Fogg who drained the 3. Duke got exactly what it wanted – Williams giving up the ball – but Derrick’s teammate showed it wasn’t going to be a one-man show any longer.
After that MoMo Jones forgot he’d only scored two total points in the last three halves and scored eight points in six minutes to help turn a Wildcat deficit into a double-digit lead.
But the daggers came with eight minutes left. First, Williams shook his man at the top of the key and hammered one home. Then, two possessions later, Jamelle Horne grabbed an offensive rebound and absolutely posterized the Duke poster boy. Kyle Singler didn’t score from that point on, Lute Olson got to smile on CBS, and the Blue Devils never got closer than 11.
The end of the game was surprising in its lack of drama. Duke was the anti-Illinois. No backcourt traps, no made 3s, no shrinking lead. Instead of leading a ferocious comeback, Singler was pulled early.
It helps to play in front of a friendly crowd, doesn’t it? Although, something to keep in mind, Arizona didn’t exactly have success playing Regional Finals in Anaheim in both 1998 and 2003.
But neither of those opponents was a true eastern team. You want every advantage you can get when facing the University of Connecticut. No team is hotter than the Huskies and no player is hotter than Kemba Walker.
It may come down to which team can get its star to the free throw line the most. In UConn’s amazing eight-game winning streak Walker has attempted at least nine foul shots seven times, and Derrick Williams is the free throwingest player of them all.
Does Williams have another superstar game in him? Can MoMo remain the scoring sidekick? Can Solomon Hill continue to do work in the paint? Will Fogg, Parrom, Horne and Mayes deliver the timely shots from beyond the arc?
Neither Arizona nor UConn was supposed to be here. But the bracket says one of them has to go to the Final Four.
The Final Four! It’s an incredible opportunity for a college basketball player. Sean Miller will have more chances like this, but these players might not. Jamelle Horne certainly won’t. Derrick Williams probably won’t. The three guys on the roster who are losing their scholarships next year won’t.
It’s greedy to ask an overachieving team to give you more. Very greedy.
But when you’ve already mastered nasty, what’s wrong with a little greed?
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