(3) UConn vs. (5) Arizona
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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(3) Connecticut Huskies
Everyone in the country thought that it was Kemba Walker time when the UConn Huskies led the San Diego State Aztecs by just one with less than two minutes to play. Turns out it was Jeremy Lamb time. The freshmen swingman scored seven points in the final 1:39 to cap off a 74-67 victory. Lamb tied a career-high in points with 24 while only missing three shots total all night. Of course, Walker was spectacular himself. The Huskies’ leader knocked down 4-8 from deep and scored a game-high 36 points while grabbing three rebounds and dishing out three assists. Those two really carried the Huskies as no one else scored more than five points. Meanwhile the Aztecs had four players notch double-figures and outrebounded UConn, but it wasn’t enough to outduel their sizzling-hot backcourt duo. In the Elite Eight against Arizona UConn will need someone else other than Lamb to step up while finding a way to slow down Derrick Williams, which really seems like the impossible right now.
(5) Arizona Wildcats
The Arizona Wildcats are officially back in the national championship contending conversation and they’re there thanks to top-ranked prospect Derrick Williams. Williams had his way with the Duke Blue Devils’ frontline, going off for a career-high 32 points (11-17 FGM, 5-6 3PM) and 13 rebounds as he led his team to the 93-77 upset in dominating fashion. Arizona was actually down by six at the end of the first half, but outscored Duke by 22 in the second half to earn their ticket to the Elite Eight. As a team they shot the ball extremely well from both the field (34-63, 54%) and deep (9-15, 60%) to help withstand solid outings from Kyle Singler and Kyrie Irving, who had a team-high 28 points along with three assists. Nolan Smith was a non-factor for Duke. The Wildcats won the battle of the boards by nine and simply outclassed Duke in the second half to earn a matchup with the UConn Huskies. If they execute like they did on Thursday night they’ll be hard to beat, but their defense against the point guard position has to improve.
HOOPSWORLD’s Pick: UConn. This is an extremely difficult pick to make because while UConn has come through for us every game so far, Arizona has also proven us wrong round-by-round. We’d almost like to see Derrick Williams and Kemba Walker just start going one-on-one like that old Jermaine O’Neal-Paul Pierce commercial from several years back. They’re arguably the two best players left in this tournament and it’s hard to pick against either one of them, but we’re going to stick with Kemba.