After top-seeded Duke and ninth-seeded Central Florida each took care of business in the round of 64 on Friday night, the Blue Devils and Knights will play Sunday at 5:15 p.m. with a Sweet 16 birth on the line. The Blue Zone looks at a key player for each team:
Duke: Forward Zion Williamson
In Duke’s 85-62 beat down of North Dakota State, the Spartanburg, S.C., native shined in his tournament debut, scoring 25 points on 75 percent shooting in his home state. Williamson catalyzed a sluggish Duke offense, scoring 13 points in the first six minutes of the second half to extend the Blue Devil lead.
All season long, Williamson has been unstoppable on the offensive end, particularly in the paint. No opponent has been able to provide any resistance to his athleticism and finishing abilities within the paint, but Sunday’s matchup with UCF could be a different story.
With 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall manning the middle for the Knights, Williamson will be up against a new challenge. He may need to find more creative finishes around the rim, and Williamson will also have to help on the inside more on defense to prevent the easy buckets Fall has been able to score against undermatched opponents.
But if the ACC Player of the Year has proven anything this season, it’s that he plays the same way against any opponent, putting his heart on the line regardless of the situation. Come Sunday, the Blue Devils will need the same production and tenacity that Williamson has provided all year long to minimize any possibilities of an upset.
UCF: Center Tacko Fall
The behemoth center from Senegal has made a name for himself this season. Aside from the benefits that come from being one of the tallest collegiate players to ever step on a basketball court, Fall has shown improvements in his mobility and post game over the past few years. In UCF’s win against VCU Friday, Fall racked up thirteen points, eighteen rebounds, and five blocks, leading the Knights to a 73-58 victory.
Fall will likely face a swarming interior defense in an effort to stop the big man from easy scores. If Fall proves himself in the paint, the Knights' guards, including star B.J. Taylor, will be freed up for open shots and drives.
On the defensive end, Fall will have the responsibility of blocking shots and preventing easy finishes around the rim. If Fall can put himself in the right spots at the right times, he could make it hard for Williamson and R.J. Barrett to get things going.
The senioe recently made headlines after UCF's first round victory by asserting that he won’t allow Williamson to dunk on him. Perhaps a block on a Williamson dunk attempt will be what sparks this team to an upset.
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