Pick – Analysis
The rematch is here and it’s not really a surprise. These teams met in the same spot last year with No. 2 Wisconsin winning in overtime over No. 1 Arizona. The seeds are flipped this time around, but much like last year’s Game, it will be played out west in California. Surprisingly, also like last year’s Game, the Wildcats are favored, this time by -1.5 points as seen at 5Dimes.
These teams had close calls in their Sweet 16 wins, but eventually prevailed with free-throw shooting and killer defense. These teams are in the same mold of each other, playing tight defense, and also efficient on the offensive end. The difference, which showed last year, was Wisconsin’s shooting.
Frank Kaminsky dominated last year’s matchup with 28 points, 11 rebounds and three treys. Kaleb Tarczewski was simply not used to guarding a big man from the three-point line and when he did step up, Kaminsky’s ability to drive was another advantage. Kaminsky also had seven offensive boards in that Game.
Comparing last year’s teams to this year’s, the Badgers have most of their studs back and are even better. They only lost Ben Brust from that Final 4 squad and he wasn’t anything to write home about. The Wildcats lost lottery pick Aaron Gordon and their best scorer Nick Johnson. They picked up Stanley Johnson and Brandon Ashley is healthy, but replacing Nick Johnson was never going to be a possibility.
Wisconsin’s main advantage again will be their shooting and Kaminsky’s offensive advantage over Tarczewski. Tarczewski played a huge role against Xavier, but he also got beat up a bit by Matt Stainbrook. Nigel Hayes is an equally big threat now that he can shoot threes, but also work in the post, and he’ll be guarded by Brandon Ashley. Sam Dekker was a monster against North Carolina (23 points, 10 rebounds), but it’s going to be much harder for him with Stanley Johnson or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on him. Wisconsin’s best defender Josh Gasser will probably be on T.J. McConnell, although that isn’t for certain as Bronson Koenig will have trouble against the bigger Johnson or Hollis-Jefferson.
The Wildcats have played against a zone in their last two Games and it works for the most part considering they aren’t a great shooting team. It’s hard to see Bo Ryan doing that, though. Arizona will have an edge with Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson when they’re both out there, but when Gabe York is on the cOurt, these teams are almost a mirror image of each other size wise.
Gabe York is the main guy to watch from three-point distance, but if Wisconsin doesn’t defend with a zone, he’s going to have a harder time finding open looks. The same goes for Stanley Johnson after he hit a couple Thursday night. That’s not really Arizona’s Game, so it shouldn’t be a problem. McConnell has been huge in the last couple Games for the Wildcats, but if he gets Gasser on him, will be in for a test. Gasser was on Marcus Paige all night Thursday and he stopped him for the most part (11 points) until a couple late threes. If Gasser bottles up McConnell, that means Johnson, Hollis-Jefferson and Ashley will need to pick up their Games. However, the three of them have kind of struggled in the last two Games. But going against a man defense, it might be a different case.
Neither team has much of a bench to worry about. York is a sharpshooter and that’s his main threat, while Duje Dukan and Traevon Jackson can give worthwhile minutes for the Badgers. Jackson’s first Game back from a foot injury was actually against UNC and he played an OK nine minutes.
Arizona will need to play its best Game yet to beat the Badgers and that’s why Wisconsin has the edge. Even if Kaminsky has a mediocre Game, Nigel Hayes has become huge for this team and will have an edge against Ashley.
The Wildcats may be looking for revenge, but the Badgers have the better offense and shooters. What will be the deciding edge?