This is the one region where the seeding has held to form and it should provide the most competitive game of the Elite 8. Wisconsin couldn’t be to sure what to expect from a strong Baylor team who had dominated Creighton in the 3rd round and whose hybrid zone defense could provide an issue for the Badgers. Instead they completely shut down Baylor in the half court, took away any and all fast breaks. They also carved up the Baylor zone with ball movement and patience to the tune of a 29-16 halftime lead that ended up in a 69-52 game that was never close. After all of the pregame talk about the Baylor Zone, the defensive that dominated was Wisconsin’s who held Baylor to 31% from the field and allowed them to convert just 2-15 from three point range. The Arizona vs. San Diego State game was much more competitive and featured outstanding performances from both teams. Overall it was the relentless pressure of the Arizona defense that was the biggest difference. They held San Diego State to below 40% shooting from the field. They also took advantage of their obvious size advantage and outscored The Aztecs 20-10 in the paint in the second half.
Arizona is a deep team and is able to stay in games when their star guard Nick Johnson misses his first 10 shots in the first 37:15. Then when the time for stars to rise to the occasion Johnson scored all of his 15 points in the games final 2:45 and led his team to victory. He had a layup, a three-pointer and 10 free throws to cement the victory. Aaron Gordon played all but 1 minute of the game and contributed 15 points and 6 rebounds. Point Guard T.J McConnell had a sub par game for him but still had 11 points to go with 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Rondae Hollis –Jefferson came off the bench for 15 big points and 6 rebounds. All of these contributions were needed to overcome a tough Aztec team.
The Badgers are the most talented group that Bo Ryan has had during his tenure at Wisconsin and that is saying a lot. This is the first team that can play more than one style and is able to keep pace with the more athletic teams with athletes of their own. Frank Kaminsky had a dominant performance with 19 points and 6 blocks. Guard Ben Brust had 14 points and 6 rebounds. Forward Nigel Hayes came off the bench for 10 points and 6 rebounds.
This game should be one for a true basketball purist. Wisconsin will be a patient team that will look to exploit an aggressive Wildcat defense. Arizona will try and speed the game up and get points in transition. These are two excellent teams that are very well coached. It is likely to come down the stretch and depend upon which team eliminates turnovers and makes the necessary plays in the clutch moments.
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