Arizona Wildcats vs. Duke Blue Devils

The Duke Blue Devils are 9-point favorites against the Arizona Wildcats in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.  The over/under total for the game is set at 145.  The defending champion Duke Blue Devils handed Coach Krzyzewski his 900th win in a 73-71 victory over Michigan while the Arizona Wildcats needed a late three-point play and a little help from officials to get past Texas, 70-69.

Arizona has actually survived twice to get to this point, and sophomore Derrick Williams has been the savior both times.  The team’s leading scorer and rebounder, Williams blocked Memphis’ final shot to give Arizona a 77-75 win in Tulsa last Friday.  The Wildcats were 6-point favorites against Memphis and failed to cover. Williams’ late block aside, it was a game Arizona won at the free throw line with the team going 24-of-31, while Memphis scored seven fewer points on seven fewer attempts. Sunday’s win over Texas also came at the free throw line with Williams hitting a late layup to tie the game 69-69 before his subsequent foul shot went in to break the deadlock.  But it was the quick 5-second call by the refs on the ensuing inbounds play by Texas with nine seconds left that will always be remembered. J’Covan Brown gave the Longhorns one more chance but his late layup attempt didn’t go in.  Arizona was 5-point underdogs to Texas also winning against the spread. Derrick Williams led the Wildcats in both games with 22 and 17 points.

Duke’s close game getting past the Wolverines followed an easy 87-45 tune-up versus Hampton in the Blue Devils’ tourney opener.  Krzyzewski was able to get 12 players into the game, including freshman Kyrie Irving who was playing for the first time since the Butler game in early-December when he suffered a toe injury.  The freshman was all over the stat sheet in Friday’s victory over the Pirates, leading the Devils with 14 points, hitting both of his three-pointers, grabbing four boards, stealing two balls and blocking another.  Irving once again came off the bench in the Michigan game, scoring 11 points with most of them from the free-throw line where he made good on 9-of-10 attempts. Iving managed to play 20 and 21 minutes in the two games.  Krzyzewski has said he once again plans to bring the freshman off the bench, but that Irving’s playing time would be increased for the matchup with Arizona.

The two schools have split six regular season meetings over the years, with Duke owning the victory the only time the teams faced off at the NCAA Tournament. That lone tourney encounter happened to be the 2001 NCAA Championship game.  I have a feeling that todays game will be a toss-up and that either team could win.  That is why I decided to wager on the Arizona Wildcats and take the 9-points.


Arizona Wildcats +9 Duke Blue Devils

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