No.2 Wisconsin and No.6 Baylor have the largest margins of victory among teams that reached the Sweet Sixteen. On Thursday night, they will square off in the semifinals of the West Region.
No team was more dominant than Wisconsin in the Round of 64. They easily handled No.15 American, 75-35, allowing just 13 points in the second half. The Badgers’ second game was much more difficult, as they overcame a 14-point point deficit to move past No.7 Oregon.
Baylor might have the most impressive victory of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, thus far. After taking care of No.11 Nebraska 74-60, the Bears blew out No.3 Creighton, 88-55, in the field of 32. The Bluejays entered the contest ranked 16th in the latest top 25 polls, led by the fifth-leading scorer in college basketball history. The upset was never in doubt, as Baylor led by 20 points at halftime and never looked back.
As the higher seed, Wisconsin enters the game as the favorite. The betting line at most Las Vegas casinos has them giving Baylor 3.5 points. Neither team has done particularly well against the point spread.
Despite the difference in seeds, the Badgers might not have much of an edge. Baylor’s zone defense has given both of their opponents trouble in the tournament. Creighton entered their matchup as the No.1 three-point shooting team in the country. The Bears held them to 5-24 from downtown. Doug McDermott scored just 15 points and had little impact on the game.
Much like Creighton, Wisconsin is also reliant upon three's. They’re tied for 32nd in the nation in three-point attempts. If Baylor can limit Wisconsin from behind the arc, like they did to Creighton, the Bears will be headed to the Elite Eight.
Fortunately for the Badgers, they have more of an inside presence than the Bluejays. Seven-footer Frank Kaminsky can shoot from long range, but he can also have an impact in the paint. He’s the team’s leading scorer and rebounder.
Kaminsky has led a Wisconsin team that has been one of the best in college basketball for much of the year. The Badgers stumbled at the start of 2014, losing five of six, but quickly recovered to win eight straight, including three victories against top 15 opponents. On the season, they have seven wins against tournament teams, two of which came against No.1 seeds Florida and Virginia.
A month and a half ago, it looked like Baylor might miss out on the tournament. From Jan. 7 to Feb. 8, the Bears went 2-8. Since then, though, the club has been one of the best in the NCAA, losing two games. Even during their losing streak, Baylor mostly fell to top competition. Of their 11 defeats, only two came against teams that weren’t named to the tournament.
During March Madness, the Bears have won with a balanced scoring attack. Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson averaged 15 points each, this past weekend, while Brady Heslip put up 14.5 points per game.
The winner of Thursday’s contest will go on to face whomever comes out on top in the No.1 Arizona vs. No.4 San Diego State matchup.
Prediction: Baylor 64, Wisconsin 62