Following the announcement that Kyrie Irving had been cleared to return to action, I kept hearing the words of Dennis Green echoing in my head. You know the speech very well. Something about crowns and such …
Well, brackets are burning all across the country following the Arizona Wildcats’ beatdown of Coach K’s squad on Thursday night. The Blue Devils took a six-point lead into halftime, but the Wildcats backed up star Derrick Williams’ huge first half with a dominant second half performance. Duke fans were left stunned, shocked and despondent following the defeat. The Twitter-verse and Facebook universes were white-hot with the spicy language that flowed from alums, front-runner and junior bracketologists.
Williams scored 25 of his 32 points in the first half, and his teammates carried the squad the rest of the way. The Wildcats out-scored the Blue Devils by 22 points to reach the Elite 8. In the second half, the energized Wildcats made all of the plays that epitomize the Duke program. They out-hustled the Blue Devils. They snagged every loose ball.
Williams, “The Whole Enchilada from La Mirada,” as dubbed by my colleague Petros Papadakis from FOX Sports Radio and FOXSports.com, added 13 rebounds for the Wildcats.
Kyle Singler scored 18 points, while Irving logged 28 points on 9-for-15 shotting with eight free throws. The Wildcats did a fantastic job in corralling Nolan Smith, who averaged 21 points per game during the regular season. Smith converted 3-of-14 shots and finished with eight points and six turnovers.
Arizona out-rebounded the Blue Devils by nine (35 total) and recorded 13 offensive rebounds.
It was a mixed day for the sentimental favorites.
Jimmer Fredette had a terrible shooting day (11-of-29, including 3-of-15 from three-point range) as BYU was ousted by the Florida Gators in overtime.
San Diego State played UCONN tough, but the final couple minutes of the first half did them in. It wasn’t the birthday present that Steve Fisher had anticipated.
Butler continued its fantastic run with a victory over Wisconsin (one of the sleeper options out of the Southeast). The Bulldogs dominated the Badgers for much of this game and held off a frantic charge down the stretch.
The first two games were excited and got everybody excited. In the second halves of the late games, I’m sure more than a few television sets were tuned to “American Idol,” “The Office,” or any myriad offerings (“Billy Madison” or “Happy Gilmore,” anyone?). Still, the love/hate relationship that fans have with Duke surely had ample eyes fixed for the glorious or bitter end.
Who’s ready for Florida State and VCU on Friday?