NCAA Elite Eight: Wisconsin Badgers vs Arizona Wildcats

NCAA Arizona WisconsinThe Wisconsin Badgers and Arizona Wildcats meet Saturday in Anaheim, CA in the West Regional finals for the right to move on to Dallas for the 2014 NCAA Final Four. As it happens, the West Region has gone according to the rankings, with Arizona the top seed Wisconsin number-two.

It has been a similar journey to the Elite 8 for both of these teams, having two relatively easy wins and being pushed to the limit in one other. Arizona dispensed of Weber State 68-59 in a game that was not as close as it appears, as Weber State trimmed a 21-point deficit down to 9 in the closing minutes. The Wildcats had a surprisingly easy time with Gonzaga in an 84-61 third round victory, before gutting out a 6-point win Thursday night over San Diego State 70-64.

Wisconsin took advantage of a near-home court advantage as they played their first two games in Milwaukee, just 80 miles from their campus in Madison. They simply outclassed American University 75-35, but then needed a second-half comeback to get by Oregon 85-77 to move on to the regional semi-finals. On Thursday night it seemed like they were still playing on their home floor, jumping out to a 14-point lead in the first half and cruising to 69-52 win over a hot Baylor team.

Arizona has the better history in the NCAA tournament, appearing in the post-season pageantry 30 times, with four Final Four berths and a 48-29 record. The Wildcats won the national championship in 1997.  Wisconsin has 2 Final Four appearances in 19 tries in the tournament, compiling a 25-18 record. They also have one championship—in 1941.

There does not seem to be an Elite 8 matchup this year that will be played by two teams more alike than Wisconsin and Arizona. They are both hard-nosed, gutty teams that will do whatever it takes to win the game. They can both execute their half-court offenses to perfection, but can push the ball down the court when the opportunity arises. Both teams can score inside when they need to, but have the shooters to make the opposing defense respect their perimeters. Their defensive statistics speak for themselves, with Wisconsin thirty-ninth in the nation in points allowed and the Wildcats fifth.  Strength of schedule is similar, with each team coming from a conference that placed 6 teams in the NCAA tournament.

It is fruitless to try and pick the “hot” team in this situation, as any team reaching the Elite 8 would certainly be on a roll. Arizona is 33-4 on the season, and all four of their losses came in the last 2 months. Similarly, the Badgers have three losses in February and March.

A clue to identifying the team with the advantage in this NCAA Elite 8 contest between Wisconsin and Arizona happened in the Wildcats’ game Thursday night against San Diego State. With Pac-12 Player of the Year Nick Johnson being held without a point until late in the second half, Arizona found enough scoring from the rest of their squad to stay close to, and then pull away from, a talented Aztec squad in the closing minutes. Johnson returns to form in the West Regional finals and the Wildcats back up their number-one seed with a surprisingly easy 85-71 win.

Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky

Sports Illustrated
Arizona Wildcats

6 Responses to "NCAA Elite Eight: Wisconsin Badgers vs Arizona Wildcats"

  1. Chuck Podhaisky   March 31, 2014 at 10:10 am

    I am thoroughly impressed with the Wisconsin team and especially Bo Ryan. I will have a preview of Wisconsin/Kentucky here soon. Do I dare pick against Bucky again?

  2. Alex Garcia   March 29, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Arizona Wildcats vs Wisconsin Badgers Live! as the game is going to be miller time! for wildcats and badgers…

  3. Chuck Podhaisky   March 29, 2014 at 11:10 am

    14 points might be a lot, but Bucky Badger finally runs out of gas. The Baylor team was road-weary, and the cheese heads got a gift of two “home” games to reach the Sweet 16.

  4. Scott   March 29, 2014 at 10:14 am

    Arizona blowing out the Badgers would be the shock of the tourney. Having spent a good part of 2 weeks reviewing just about everything printed regarding Wisconsin’s trip through march madness I have no doubt that they have little respect nationally. If The Badgers continue to come out and play their game that should change. Arizona is a tough team that can win in many ways, but their going to need a poor shooting day from the Badgers to pull this one out.

  5. Brian   March 28, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    I agree with the fact that it will not be a blowout. I have not watched a whole lot of Wisconsin play either, but I do know that they are a very tough team. With that being said, I do think that Arizona will win this game for a couple of reasons. The first reason is the fact that they have the better defensive team. Also, we have beaten Michigan at Michigan. Duke in a pro-Duke neutral court game. We beat San Diego State twice practically both road games. Finally, I think that they will have the advantage with the crowd in their favor and that they will wear down the Badgers late in the game. My prediction is Arizona will win by 6 points. BEAR DOWN ARIZONA!!!!

  6. Yusuf Ali   March 28, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    I’m guessing you haven’t watched too much Wisconsin Basketball. The Badgers have beaten the likes of Michigan State, Virginia (road), Michigan (road), and Florida. What makes you think that the Badgers will get blown out? That would be the largest defeat they have had all year! And 85 points scored by Arizona?!?! That would be the most points the Badgers have given up all year and Arizona’s offence is not there strong suit. I get picking Arizona but a blowout is not going to happen and 85 points won’t happen either.


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