Oregon takes on Wisconsin Saturday in what is going to be one of the most highly-anticipated games of the weekend in the 2014 NCAA basketball tournament. Oregon is the seventh seed and Wisconsin is a number two-seed in this West Regional match that will be like a home game for the Badgers in Milwaukee.
Both teams are coming off of relatively easy openers. Oregon, from the Pac-12, eased by BYU 87-68 while Big 10 power Wisconsin beat down American University 75-35. Both teams are looking to move on to the Sweet 16 next week in Anaheim, California.
The Oregon Ducks are now 9-1 in their last 10 games, losing only to UCLA in the Pac-10 conference tournament in Las Vegas. They are not shy about shooting the ball, ranking no. 11 in the nation in scoring at almost 82 points per game. The Ducks are 24-9 on the season and finished 10-8 in a conference that placed six teams in the NCAA tournament this year. At least one of the Ducks will feel at home in Milwaukee on Saturday. Sophomore forward Elgin Cook, who scored 23 points off the bench against BYU, was City Conference Player of the Year in Milwaukee in 2010. His dad is former NBA star Alvin Robertson who played for the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1990s. Oregon is looking to make their second straight Sweet 16 appearance.
For the Wisconsin Badgers, going deep into the NCAA basketball tournament is becoming a tradition. They have reached the Sweet 16 six times in the past 16 years and made it as far as the Final Four in 2000, losing to fellow Big 10 member Michigan State in the semi-finals. The Badgers do have one national championship, beating Washington State 39-34 in 1941. In their opening game on Thursday, the Badgers spotted American a 17-10 lead early in the first half only to limit the Eagles to 18 points the rest of the game and win going away. The team was 12-2 in their last 14 games and finished second in the Big 10 standings at 12-6. They are 27-7 overall. Like the Pac-12, the Big 10 also had six teams receive bids to the tournament.
When looking at this game, there are so many things to ponder. Oregon likes to push the ball down the floor while Wisconsin likes to play a control game. The Badgers will run with the ball if the opportunity presents itself, but most of all they like to get it into a half-court game and run their offense. The Ducks scored 36 points in the lane on Thursday and that has been a vulnerability of the Badgers this season. There is an interesting anomaly in the “points scored” statistics for these teams. The Badgers are averaging 73.5 points per game while the Ducks are giving up an average of 73.8. On the other side of the coin, Oregon scores an average of over 81 while Wisconsin allows less than 64. The game is being played in the state that is famous for its cheese, and the outcome of the game will depend on the variety produced by the Badgers’ defense. The Ducks would prefer a soft swiss, while the Badger faithful have their hearts set on a solid wheel of Cheddar. The pick here is strictly Pac-12 over Big 10. It will be the Oregon Ducks advancing to the next round of the NCAA West Regional basketball tournament.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky