Sweet 16: Starting frontcourt matchup Arizona Wildcats vs. Duke Blue Devilsby Javier Morales on Mar. 24, 2011, under Sports
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PREVIOUS MATCHUP ANALYSIS: THE STARTING PERIMETER PLAYERS
A look at what to expect from the starting frontcourt players 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: Few Duke players are as accomplished as Kyle Singler. The senior wing player has scored 607 points this season to join Art Heyman (1961-63) and Christian Laettner (1990-92) as the only other Blue Devils to reach the 600-point mark in three consecutive seasons. Singler has taken 18 charges this season. He ranks fourth at Duke with 54. More Singler: He is the only player in ACC history to record 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 300 offensive rebounds, 250 three-point field goals, 200 assists, 100 blocks and 100 steals. He currently has 2,374 points, 1,007 rebounds, 359 offensive rebounds, 265 three-point field goals, 291 assists, 106 blocks and 166 steals in his career. The 6-10 Plumlee brothers (sophomore Mason and junior Miles) start at the power forward and post positions. Mason has a team-high 59.2 field-goal percentage (109 of 184). Miles averaged 8.7 points and 6.7 rebounds to earn ACC All-Tournament second team honors.
What’s going wrong: The Plumlees start but they generally do not play an extended amount, especially Miles, who averages only 17.1 minutes a game. They are a combined 71 of 145 from the free-throw line, a dismal 48.9 percent, which precludes them from playing late in tight games. Singler is shooting a career-low 31.6 percent from three-point range (60 of 190), and although he’s in a position to be a distributor on the wing, he has 70 turnovers compared to 59 assists.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Wednesday: “I think (the Plumlee brothers are) both talented. They’re great kids. I’ve loved coaching them, but I also know they have a process to go through. As long as the people around them know — and they know that they have a process to go through then you get through that process better. Both Miles and Mason have grown as players. They’re playing very well, and they’re going to play even better as their career now goes forward because they’ve gotten it, they understand it better now.”
What’s going right: Derrick Williams, the Pac-10 Player of the Year and deserving of a first-team All-America honor according to Krzyzewski, leads Arizona in scoring (19.1 a game) and rebounding (8.2). He is shooting 60 percent (210 of 350) from the field and 58.1 percent (36 of 62) from three-point range. He’s attempted more free throws (313) than any player in the country, leads Arizona in blocks (25) and steals (35) and has 12 double-doubles. UA coach Sean Miller said starting wing Solomon Hill is the team’s most improved player from last year. He tallied career-best totals of seven field goals and 12 field goals attempted, finishing with 16 points against Texas on Sunday. He also had eight rebounds and two assists. Jesse Perry showed aggressiveness on the boards against Texas as well, yanking down an important offensive rebound with a putback against the Longhorns.
What’s going wrong: The fact Williams leads the team in steals may not be a good thing, because that stat is usually dominated by guards, and Williams’ perceived weakness is his defense. That means the Wildcats must improve with their on-the-ball defense and denying the passing lanes. While Hill has elevated his game this month, Perry has not found his stride. Against Memphis and Texas combined, he posted only four points and seven rebounds. Those kind of performances will not suffice against a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Williams said Wednesday: “I think that’s (versatility) why a lot of people have a tough time guarding me, the scouting report, just because I’m shooting so well from the 3, it’s hard to have one person guard me. Having multiple people guard me, even different defenses, box and ones, it opens up everything for my teammates. All eyes are basically on me, and it leaves Solomon and our shooters, Kyle Fogg and Brendon Lavender and even Jordin Mayes open, and it opens up everything for my teammates.”
Who has the edge? Arizona. Hill will have his hands full with Singler, but with the way Hill has played lately, Singler does not have it easy either. Will the feet of the Plumlees be fast enough to keep up with Williams and Perry, especially on isolation plays with Williams on the block? If Gary Johnson and Jordan Hamilton of Texas could not keep up with Williams, how will the Plumlees? This matchup is taking into account who is starting. Duke will likely go small at times to match the Wildcats’ athleticism. The main concern for Williams and Perry is to not get senseless over-the-back calls, failing to gain position against the more sizable Plumlees and then trying to reach over them for rebounds or loose balls.
NEXT BLOG: A MATCHUP PREVIEW OF THE BENCH PRODUCTION OF EACH TEAM