NCAA Tournament West Regional Championship
#3 Connecticut Huskies vs #5 Arizona Wildcats
Honda Center, Anaheim, California
Saturday, March 26, 2011, 6:55 pm Eastern, TV: CBS
Opening Line: Connecticut -3
Current Total: Connecticut -2 1/2
Opening Total: 144
Current Total: 145
Money Line: UConn -145 / Arizona +125
Arizona has never beaten Connecticut in four tries. The last time the two teams met was in the 2005 Maui Invitational with the Huskies winning 79-70. This is the first ever meeting between the teams in the NCAA tournament. With a spot in next week’s Final Four in Houston on the line, Arizona would love to reverse the trend against UConn. Each of the teams is led by a super star and All-American. UConn junior guard Kemba Walker is a first team All-American and Big East Player of the year. Arizona sophomore forward Derrick Williams is a second team All-American and Pac-10 player of the year. Though the two superstars get most of the publicity, as they should, these are two very deep and talented teams that have been ranked in the top 25 for most of the season. Arizona won the Pac-10 regular season title with a 30-7 overall record and 14-4 in conference. The Wildcats have gone 15-3 in their last 18 games. In the NCAA Tournament, Arizona escaped with two victories by a total of 3 points in the first two rounds. They beat Memphis 77-75, and Texas 70-69. In the regional semifinals, the Wildcats were down early to Duke 31-20, before crushing the Blue Devils 55-33 in the second half. Arizona won 93-77 behind 32 points and 13 rebounds from Williams.
Connecticut is 29-9 overall and finished 9th in the Big East. Everyone has heard about their remarkable run in the Big East tournament where they won 5 games in 5 days to claim the title, including wins against ranked teams Georgetown, Pitt, Syracuse, and Louisville. With their win earlier in the season at the Maui Invitational and their runs in the Big East and NCAA tournaments this season, Connecticut is an astounding 11-0 straight up and ATS in neutral site or tournament games this season. The Huskies beat Bucknell in the first round 81-52, Cincinnati 69-58 in the second round, and held off a tough San Diego St team 74-67 in the Sweet 16. Walker had 36 points and Jeremy lamb added 24 in the Huskies’ victory.
As mentioned, UConn leads the overall series 4-0 against Arizona. The Huskies are 21-11 ATS in all games this season. Connecticut is 8-2 ATS when playing with one day or fewer rest this season, and 8-0 ATS in non-conference games this season. UConn is 19-9 ATS versus teams with winning records this season. Arizona is 10-3 ATS after a non-conference game this season.
Arizona has no significant injuries right now. Arizona sophomore forward Derrick Williams leads the Wildcats in almost every statistical category except assists. He is averaging 19.5 points a game, 8.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1 steal and 0.7 blocks a game. Though he doesn’t shoot a lot of 3-pointers he is shooting 60.3% from behind the arc. Guard Lamont Jones averages 9.7 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists a game. Guard Kyle Fogg is averaging 8.1 points, 1.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists to lead the team and 0.8 steals a game. Forward Solomon Hill averages 8.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 0.9 steals a game. Arizona is outscoring opponents 77-68 this season. The Wildcats are shooting 47.2% from the field and 40.3% from 3-point range. Arizona opponents are shooting 44.5% from the field. The ‘Cats make 74.7% of their free throws. Arizona averages 34.5 rebounds a game and has a rebounding margin of +3.8. Arizona averages 14.1 assists and 12.8 turnovers a game. They force 12.7 turnovers a game on defense. Arizona averages 2.6 blocks and 5.2 steals a game.
Connecticut has no significant injuries right The 6’1″ Kemba Walker is averaging 24 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.9 steals a game. He leads the team in scoring, assists, and steals. Guard/forward Jeremy Lamb averages 10.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists a game. Forward/center Alex Oriakhi averages 9.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks a game. He leads the team in rebounds and blocks. Guard Shabazz Napier averages 7.9 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.6 steals a game. UConn is outscoring opponents 74-66 on the year. The Huskies are shooting 43.5% from the field and 33.8% from 3-point range. Husky opponents are shooting 40% from the field. The Huskies shoot 75.9% from the free throw line. UConn averages 39.6 rebounds a game and have a rebounding margin of +4.7. UConn averages 13.2 assists and 11.4 turnovers a game. They force 11.8 turnovers a game on defense. They average 6.4 steals and 5.5 blocks a game.
Though Williams and Walker are superb players who will be stars at the next level someday, they play different positions so they won’t be guarding each other. They will have to depend on their teammates to try to contain the other one. I don’t know if you can completely shut down either one. The winner of this game will take on either Kentucky or North Carolina in the Final Four. I think Walker is the slightly hotter hand right now and it should be enough to get the Huskies through.
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