ANAHEIM, Calif. - How will Duke defend Arizona senior forward Derrick Williams, who’s 6-foot-8 and the Pac-10 player of the year?
Here’s an educated guess. Coach Mike Krzyzewski can’t stand to give up 3-point shots, and Arizona is an extremely accurate (39.9 percent) team from 3-point range.
Part of the Wildcats’ success from 3-point range has come because opponents double team Williams (19.1 ppg) in the low post and he passes out to open teammates for easy shots on the perimeter.
So expect Krzyzewski to defend Williams with one low post player and encourage him not to foul in tonight's West Regional semifinal game (9:45 p.m., CBS). Krzyzewski has said Williams’ ability to get to the free throw line makes the entire Arizona team better because it puts the Wildcats in the bonus and double bonus quickly. So Duke probably won’t use the hack-a-Shaq game plan against Williams.
Guarding the 3-point arc first is a tried and true strategy for the Blue Devils and for other successful teams. Why did Duke have such good fortune against Herb Sendek and his Princeton-style offense? Because Krzyzewski was willing to give up an occasional backdoor layup and allow Cedric Simmons to go one-on-one in the post against Shelden Williams, as long as N.C. State didn’t make a bunch of threes.
How did Florida win back-to-back NCAA titles in 2006 and 2007? Because Billy Donovan’s teams attempted a lot of threes and guarded the 3-point arc ferociously. Ohio State center Greg Oden scored at will in the low post in the 2007 title game, but Florida didn’t double team him and instead prevented the Buckeyes from shooting threes.
Williams is a different player from Oden and Simmons in that he has 3-point shooting skills as well. Mason Plumlee and whoever else guards Williams will need help when Williams ventures out to the perimeter.
But in the low post, Plumlee probably will be on his own as Duke tries to prevent a 3-point barrage like the one Michigan used to keep Sunday’s game close in the first half in Charlotte.
David Scott has been with the Observer for 28 years and has written about ACC, SEC and other college sports in the Charlotte region. He covers Wake Forest, South Carolina and college soccer for the Observer and (Raleigh) News & Observer.
J.P. Giglio covers the ACC for the News & Observer, where he has worked since 1997, and the Observer.
Andrew Carter covers the North Carolina Tar Heels for the Observer and News & Observer.
Laura Keeley covers the Duke Blue Devils for the Observer and News & Observer. Follow her on Twitter.
Chip Alexander covers the Carolina Hurricanes and college football for the News & Observer, where he has worked since 1979, and the Observer.
Luke DeCock has worked for The News & Observer since 2000. He covered the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a sports columnist for the Observer and News & Observer in August 2008.
Tim Crothers is an author and former senior writer at Sports Illustrated who is joining the sports staff to write a regular column during the rest of the college basketball season.