Two college basketball teams on impressive runs clash Saturday night when No. 1-seeded Wisconsin (34-3; 16-2) meets No. 2-seeded Arizona (34-3; 16-2) in the West Region Elite Eight at Staples Center in Los Angeles. It will also be a rematch of last year's wild overtime Elite Eight game in which the Badgers outlasted the Wildcats, 64-63.
Wisconsin, winners of 19 of their last 20 games, advanced to the Elite Eight again with a 79-72 win over North Carolina on Thursday. The Badgers had some problems scoring against the Tar Heels, trailing for much of the contest, before surging ahead late in the game.
"These guys have been through a lot. They've seen the good runs. They've seen the bad runs," head coach Bo Ryan said in a press conference. "But this group never gets discouraged to the point where they get down on themselves or their teammates, and that's what's fun."
While the Wisconsin offense has struggled at times to convert on easy opportunities, the defense has remained strong. The Badgers allow an average of 57.2 points per game, good for 10th in the NCAA. Ryan’s squad scores 71.9 points per game (67th in NCAA) but makes their shots count with 48 percent shooting (21st). Center Frank Kaminsky is the centerpiece of the squad, averaging 18.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He’s upped those averages to 20.7 points and 9 rebounds per game in the NCAA tournament while attempting to lead the Badgers to a second straight Final Four appearance.
It’s been 14 years since the Wildcats earned a Final Four berth. Coach Sean Miller has made three Elite Eight appearances, including last year’s loss to Wisconsin.
“It’s obviously a heck of a story,” Miller said in a press conference about the rematch.
Arizona, winners of 20 of their last 21 games, plays stellar defense, but will have to deal with a methodical Badgers offense. The Wildcats have allowed just 59 points per game. They advanced to the Elite Eight after wearing down Ohio State and Xavier.
Senior guard T.J. McConnell, an emotional leader for the Wildcats, converted just two of his 10 shot attempts against the Badgers last year, and missed the final shot of the game, which would have put Arizona ahead with 13 seconds remaining.
This season, McConnell has averaged 10.3 points and 6.3 assists a game while shooting an efficient 49.8 percent from the field. He has been the spark for the Arizona tournament run, upping his scoring to 16 points per game. McConnell has shot the ball well too, converting 14 of his 27 shot attempts against Ohio State and Xavier.
Start Time: 6:09 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Live Stream: Watch online at March Madness Live
Betting Odds: Arizona is the slight favorite at -1, according to bovada.lv.
Prediction: As the line indicates it should be a close matchup. Wisconsin will defend hard, as will Arizona. In the end the Wildcats will get a bit more out of stars like McConnell and Stanley Johnson and squeak out the victory.
Arizona over Wisconsin, 64-62