Representing the #1 and #4 seeds of the west bracket, the 33-3 Wisconsin Badgers will take on the 26-11 North Carolina Tar heels in the round of 16. Both teams advanced after winning their previous games and both teams could improve on their performance. Wisconsin was actually tied with Oregon late in the second half before pulling away and North Carolina started slow and committed 17 turnovers against Arkansas. Fouls can be an issue for the Tar Heels as Forward Kennedy Meeks committed his 4th foul early in the second half and needed to go to the bench.
North Carolina is led by guard Marcus Paige who is capable of carrying a team on his back this time of year. In their win over Arkansas, Paige played great on both sides of the ball. He scored 22 points, 20 coming in the second half when Arkansas tried to make a run and had 5 steals. As a team they are ranked 5th in the nation in offensive rebounding which is important as no player on the roster shoots above 40% from 3 point rage. Forward Brice Johnson has been consistent all year as he has averaged 13 points and 8 rebounds per game. Even on off offensive nights, he is capable of a little bit of everything as his stat sheet against Arkansas showed as he put up 7 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Freshman Justin Jackson has been clutch in the tournament so far making the game winning shot in the first round win over Harvard and scoring 6 straight points in the second half against Arkansas when they were making a run.
Wisconsin had some trouble with Oregon because the Ducks were able to slow down player of the year candidate Frank Kaminsky and forced Wisconsin as a team to shoot only 43% which is their worst performance in over a month. They were able to slow Kaminsky down by constantly throwing a double team at him whenever he got the ball. Oregon executed their game plan perfectly but still lost due to other players stepping up for Wisconsin which they have done all year. Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes combined for 31 points and 10 rebounds while point guard Bronson Koenig added 12 points. If there was a negative in this game for the Badgers, it was allowing Oregon guard Joseph Young to score 30 points. Marcus Paige is capable of carrying a team like that and the Badgers need to be careful they don’t let him take over.
North Carolina would be smart to follow the blue print that Oregon left but it might not matter as Wisconsin is a legit # 1 seed and has several players who can take over a game. As we have seen historically, 1 player getting hot at the right time can lead a team all the way, and North Carolina has a player like that in Marcus Paige.
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