The Wildcats defeated one of the most storied basketball programs on Thursday, and did so in convincing fashion. After trailing by six points at halftime, in the midst of one of Derrick Williams' best performances - 25 points and 5 of 6 from deep – many Arizona fans were unsure what to expect come the final twenty minutes. It is doubtful that many expected to see the clinic that Sean Miller's group put on against one of the most sound and disciplined teams in the country.
By the 15-minute mark, even Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski looked puzzled. Was Arizona really challenging the top-seeded Blue Devils for a chance to play in the Elite 8? Was there really more to this Pac-10 team than Derrick Williams? Was Duke really going to give up more points in a tournament than it had allowed since 1997? As Duke fans across the nation quickly realized, the answer to all of these questions was: Yes.
As surprised as the Cameron Crazies were to see their team suffer a blowout, Arizona fans were even more surprised to hear the things Coach Krzyzewski had to say following the loss.
"Lute is one of the top coaches to ever coach in college and that brand never went away even though there were some not-so-good things happening [at Arizona], and then Sean is just a heck of a coach," Krzyzewski said.
"He's a really good guy, but he's a great coach and he had his team so well prepared. The name Arizona has always been a big part of this tournament, and now for this year they're in the Elite Eight with a chance of going to the Final Four. I want to congratulate them. We lost to an outstanding team and outstanding coach, and really a good program tonight."
Once the final horn sounded and coach Olson finished signing autographs, Wildcat fans expected to hear national praise that echoed the words of Coach K.
However, the outcome brought mixed reviews, as ESPN and CBS analysts debated and over a million tweets flooded Twitter regarding the surreal storyline of the Sweet-16 game.
Some thought the performance was a remarkable showing of how good Arizona is, or can be.
ESPN analyst, and former Duke player, Jay Bilas tweeted, "Just off the air. Couldn't be more impressed with Arizona. Williams: un-guardable; MoMo Jones: his best game. Cats dominated glass. Wow."
TNT commentator, Kenny Smith, who had ridiculed Charles Barkley for picking Arizona to win, said after the game that Arizona "mentally and physically abused Duke."
But not all the comments carried a pro-Arizona tune.
Skip Bayless of ESPN said that Arizona played the best twenty minutes he has seen all year in college basketball, but he went on to add, "Arizona took advantage of a chemical imbalance between Kyrie Irving and Nolan Smith. It's just madness. I'm sorry I can't be ‘sold' on that [performance by Arizona]."
Jeff Goodman, an Arizona alum, of FOX Sports said following the game, "I did have Duke losing in this game - just not to Arizona."
It may not have been quite the reaction that Arizona fans were looking forward to after knocking off such a perennial program like Duke. However, that doesn't discount what happened on Thursday evening in Anaheim. The Wildcats withstood an early surge from the Blue Devils and then led a war campaign of their own. Arizona didn't just beat the top-seed, it demolished it.
Now Arizona will have a chance at its first Elite-8 since 2005. It comes as no surprise that the Wildcats will enter this game as the underdog yet again, with a majority of those in the basketball community picking against Sean Miller's squad.
But, if recent events are any indication, it seems to be a position these Wildcats are all too familiar with. And, it's worked out great so far.