Sweet 16: Bench matchup Arizona Wildcats vs. Duke Blue Devilsby Javier Morales on Mar. 24, 2011, under Sports
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A look at what to expect from the reserves Thursday at approximately 6:45 p.m., Tucson time, at Anaheim between No. 5-seed Arizona (29-7) and No. 1 seed Duke (32-4) in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament:
What’s going right: The Blue Devils go a legitimate eight deep with the most publicized reserve of the NCAA Tournament — freshman sensation guard Kyrie Irving. The 6-2 playmaker, out three months with a right toe injury before returning last week, will make people in Cleveland think less of LeBron James when he is selected as the No. 1 draft pick in April. The last time the Wildcats faced an NBA No. 1 selection was Derrick Rose of Memphis on Dec. 29, 2007, when the Tigers beat Arizona (coached in the interim by Kevin O’Neill) 76-63 in Memphis. Rose had a subpar game, however, with only 12 points and five assists with six turnovers. This is what the experts at DraftExpress.com wrote about Irving before he injure his toe in December: “Productive, efficient, unselfish, exciting—there’s really no shortage of ways to describe the way Irving has performed thus far. He’s managed to take a NCAA Tournament championship team—ranked as the best offense in college basketball—and make them even better, acting as their main facilitator, shot-maker and go-to guy. Dominant when needed, but still deferential enough to keep all of Duke’s many other options happy (thus far), Irving has fit in as seamlessly as possible, making the transition to the NCAA-level look effortless.” … Wow. … Sophomore guard Andre Dawkins can start for most teams in the country. He has made at least one three-point field goal in 29 of Duke’s 36 games and has nine games with three or more made threes. He has scored in double figures 12 times with a career-high 28 points vs. Bradley. Ryan Kelly (6-11, 234) adds additional size to the Blue Devils’ spelling the 6-10 Plumlees (Miles and Mason). He started 27 games this year. A proven shot-blocker, with three or more swats in eight games.
What’s going wrong: Not so much going wrong, but how soon will Irving make getting this right? — Getting back in the flow of Duke’s offense and rotation. At least for Duke this is not his first game and the Blue Devils know, by what coach Mike Krzyzewski said this week, that Irving will play “significant minutes” against Arizona. Dawkins scored a bunch early in the season, including 28 against Bradley, but went through a 10-game funk going into the NCAA tournament in which he didn’t reach double figures and was shut out four times. Kelly, who ranked No. 9 in the ACC with 1.5 blocks per game, has none so far in two NCAA tournament games.
Duke guard Nolan Smith said Wednesday: “Having Kyrie is a huge benefit for our team because he is so talented. Even though he’s missed a lot of time, he was a great teammate while he was out. … Adding him back into the lineup and getting back into the swing of things here in the tournament has been very easy. We’ve had a lot of time before we headed out here to practice and he started to look more comfortable.”
What’s going right: The play of Arizona’s bench, especially in the first half against Texas, catapulted the Wildcats to victory over the Longhorns. The UA bench outscored Texas’ reserves 18-2 at one point. Jordin Mayes (16 points) and Brendon Lavender (8) scored more points combined vs. the Longhorns than they had since December. Mayes is fast becoming Arizona’s Mr. March, easily playing his best basketball of the season since the Pac-10 tournament started. He not only has made nine consecutive three-point attempts since the Pac-10 tourney, he is averaging 8.4 points and has only four turnovers in 75 postseason minutes. The sure-handed play of Arizona’s reserves in the postseason is overlooked. Kevin Parrom, Jamelle Horne, Kyryl Natyazhko, Mayes and Lavender have combined for 32 assists and only 15 turnovers in the five postseason games.
What’s going wrong: Parrom’s ankle sprain suffered against Texas kept him out of most workouts in a short week of practice. However, it appears the injury is not as serious as feared at first. Horne, who is playing potentially the last game of his career each time, is becoming too foul prone. In postseason games, Horne has more fouls (22) than field goals (19) in 16.7 minutes a game.
UA coach Sean Miller said Wednesday: “If you look at our team today, all are significant in their contributions and headlined by Derrick Williams and we were fortunate to add Mayes and (Jesse) Perry to that group. Now you’re talking about seven players and Kyle Fogg and Jamelle Horne and Brendon Lavender and Alex Jacobson, those four guys who were at Arizona before we came in, their attitude has been great and they’ve contributed as well.”
Who has the edge? Slight edge to Duke because of Irving’s talent and the question surrounding Parrom’s ankle. As a productive unit and what it means to a team’s success, Arizona’s bench rivals that of Duke, especially if Parrom is completely healthy. A good indication of how Arizona’s night will end is observing the performance of Parrom and Mayes. Obviously, a player’s stats are better in a team’s win as compare to win a loss occurs. But Parrom’s and Mayes’ contrast in a win vs. a loss is most pronounced. They shot 51.1 percent from the field (137 of 268) and a scorching 47 percent (63 of 134) from three-point range in the UA’s wins compared to 36.9 percent from the field (24 of 65) and 32.4 percent (12 of 37) from three-point range in the UA’s seven losses. Arizona fans should know by halftime how these guys are performing because Miller freely substitutes.
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