So first thing’s first… My NCAA Tournament bracket… Done.
I still have my champ with Ohio State, but the other half of my title game (Notre Dame) is gone. Half of my final four is gone (Notre Dame and Kansas St.) The Southeast region… I have no teams left. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Not good. Not good at all. Meanwhile the Yankees Loving Fiance still has her title game of Ohio State and BYU in tact. Sure she lost Texas and Notre Dame, but still it looks like im headed for another loss.
I was all set to write an article about BYU star Jimmer Fredette. Then I realized that about 95% of the country is probably running with articles about Jimmer Fredette and all that is Jimmer Fever. Instead I’m simply posting a link to another blog that did a very good job explaining everything that I myself probably would have said. You can read Chris Ross’s take on Jimmer Mania at the following link
Now let’s move on to another player making a name for himself in the NCAA Tournament. Arizona sophomore forward Derrick Williams.
Derrick Williams, who possess the most NBA ready body of any prospect and has the look of an NBA’er, has had an amazing year for the Wildcats and almost no one knows about it. All he did was lead Arizona back to the national stage. A year after missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in what seems like forever, Williams helped guide the Wildcats to a 29-7 record, the regular season Pac 10 title, a #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and if not for a game winning shot by Washington guard Isaiah Thomas they would have also won the Pac 10 Tournament as well.
In addition to leading the success Arizona accomplished as a team, Derrick Williams did just as much individually. He increased his averages in ever major statistical category, provided a healthy dose of leadership despite the fact he is only a 19 year old sophomore, and was rewarded with the Pac 10 player of the year award. The only problem is that literally no one in the country knows about him or what he was accomplishing. That includes myself.
Yes, I did include Williams in my NBA Draft Lottery board article two months ago, you can read it here, but it was only because I had stumbled upon him on NBA Draft websites. Up until that morning I had never heard of him. Part of that is my fault for not paying attention to the Pac 10 and part of that is ESPN and other media for focusing heavily on the ACC, Big 10, Big East, and Big 12. All season long while we were force-fed heavy doses of Harrison Barnes, Kyrie Irving, and Jared Sullinger. It’s not their fault. Each is a great player in their own right, but not once was Williams featured at any point on any ESPN telecast. How does that happen? How does a player having such a great season get so little of the spotlight? Regardless, Williams got his chance to shine over the weekend on a national stage and he did not disappoint.
In the first round against Memphis he led the way with 22 points, 10 rebounds, 9 for 9 from the free throw line and one well-timed, crucially important block to win the game. With time running out, Memphis Forward Wesley Witherspoon put up a desperation rebound attempt. Williams shifted over from the opposite block, elevated, and sent the shot back as the buzzer sounded. That was a big time play for someone who has become a big time player. Turns out Williams wasn’t done impressing.
Sunday against #4 seed Texas, Williams got off to a slow start. He shot 1-7 in the first half and was only able to put up 3 points. However, like any great player Williams pressed on finding new ways to get himself involved keeping active on the defensive end and on the boards. Credit also has to go to Arizona head coach Sean Miller. In the second half he put Williams in numerous pick and roll situations in order to get him easy scoring chances. It worked. Williams converted dunks and lay ups and got himself to the free throw line. Then when it was time for Williams to step up and make the play his team needed, he did just that. After getting the ball back after a 5 second call and the Wildcats down 2, Williams received the ball on another pick and roll, drove to the basket and was undercut on the lay up attempt. The shot went in to tie the game and Williams made the subsequent free throw to put Zona up 1 with 8 seconds left. For good measure, Williams would block Texas’s final attempt as the buzzer sounded.
So now the Wildcats are in the Sweet Sixteen and will take on the defending champion Duke Blue Devils and their star freshman point guard Kyrie Irving. Williams will get his chance to shine on the big stage against the premier program in the nation. A solid performance against Duke could finally place him the national spotlight he deserves. Granted, I don’t think there’s any chance in hell Arizona pulls off the upset, but they can keep it close if, and only if, Williams does what he has done all year… be the most efficient basketball player in the country.
I’m excited about the matchup. It will give us a chance to see what Williams can do against elite competition on the biggest stage. Not to take anything away from Memphis or Texas, but they are not Duke. Duke is on a level all to itself. They have the size to matchup with Williams’ 6’8″ 245 Lbs. frame and athletes that can keep up with his absurd quickness. Despite that I still believe he has a few tricks left up his sleeve.
So while the rest of the nation focuses in on Jimmer Mania and the #1 overall seed Ohio State Buckeyes, take some time to watch Derrick Williams play. After all, the Cavs own what are sure to be two very high draft picks. One of those could very well turn into Williams. In fact, we could be watching both of our draft picks on Friday between Williams and Duke guard Kyrie Irving. Let’s just hope the ping-pong balls bounce the right way.
And oh yeah… What number does Derrick Williams wear?
23… Thinks about that Cavs fans…