Representing the # 1 and # 2 seeds of the West bracket, the 34-3 Wisconsin Badgers will take on the 34-3 Arizona Wildcats on Saturday night in the Elite Eight. Both of these teams are coming off wins against higher seeded teams where they had to make late runs in the second half to pull out the victory. Wisconsin overcame a 7 point second half deficit against the North Carolina Tar Heels to win 79-72. The Wildcats ended the game on 19-7 run to hold off a very good Xavier team 68-60.
The Wisconsin Badgers simply made more plays when it counted than UNC did which is why they are moving on and the Tar Heels are going home. Junior Forward Sam Dekker set a career high with 23 points but also grabbed 10 rebounds which is double his season average. Senior forward Frank Kaminsky had 19 points and 8 rebounds. He has been very consistent all season with averages of 18 points and 8 rebounds. Kaminsky made all 8 of his free throw attempts and as a team the Badgers were 20-23 from the free throw line. They actually made more foul shots that the Tar Heels even attempted. They do a great job of hanging on to the ball as they only committed 5 turnovers against UNC, and have only 20 turnovers so far in the tournament. If there was a negative for the Badgers it was their 3 point shooting and 3 point defense. North Carolina made 8 of their 13 3 point attempts while Wisconsin made 7 out of their 21 attempts.
Arizona made the adjustments they needed to beat Xavier and move on. The game was tied at 28 at Halftime and T.J. McConnell came alive in the second half and defensively they were able to slow down Xavier’s Matt Stainbrook who was playing great in the first half. Stainbrook finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds but was limited to only 1 field goal in the second half. McConnell scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half including a huge 3 pointer with 4 minutes to go to give them some breathing room. He missed his first 5 three point attempts but made the 6th and most important one. Unlike Wisconsin, their 3 point defense was great as Xavier shot 17 % from behind the arc making 3 out of their 17 attempts. Like Wisconsin, they are an excellent free throw shooting team and made 17 of their 19 attempts versus Xavier.
Arizona was much better against the spread this season with a 22-13 record as Wisconsin is just 19-17-1. Even though Arizona is the higher seed, Las Vegas has deemed them as slight favorites to win this game. These two teams met last year in the Elite Eight with Wisconsin pulling out a thrilling 64-63 victory over Arizona to punch their ticket to the Final Four. Kaminsky had a huge game with 28 points and 11 rebounds and if Arizona doesn’t want history to repeat itself, they will need to figure out a way to slow down the 7 footer.
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