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Elite 8 Preview: No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 2 Wisconsin

Mar 29, 2014, 7:00 AM EST

source: Getty Images

Getty Images

On Saturday and Sunday, we will be breaking down all eight of the Elite 8 matchups. Here is our look at No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 2 Wisconsin:

RELATED: Sweet 16 Power Rankings | Top 16 Players | Eight Critical Individual Matchups

WHEN: Saturday, 8:49 p.m. (TBS)

WHERE: Honda Center, Anaheim (West Region)

MAJOR STORY LINES: Bo Ryan has long been considered one of the best coaches in college basketball. Sean Miller is relatively new to the big time, but he’s shot his way into the conversation as one of the nation’s elite. The other thing they have in common? Neither coach has ever made a Final Four at the Division I level. (Ryan has won four Division III national titles.) That will change on Saturday night.

KEY STATS: Arizona’s defense leads the country in adjusted efficiency, according to KenPom. Wisconsin is fourth in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency. Strength on strength. Something’s got to give.

KEY PLAYERS: It wasn’t a secret before the Sweet 16, but it became painfully obvious on Thursday night: Arizona’s front court depth is non-existent. Kaleb Tarczewski is the only post player that Sean Miller feels comfortable using at this point in the season, and he spent much of Thursday night strapped to the bench with foul trouble. Wisconsin, on the other hand, has a pair of talented front court scorers. Frank Kaminsky is as versatile of a five as you will find in the country, and Nigel Hayes is a year away from being an all-Big Ten player. Can they get Zeus into foul trouble?

POINT SPREAD: Arizona (-3)

THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. Arizona’s transition game: If San Diego State proved anything on Thursday night it’s that Arizona can be beaten if you force them to up against a set defense in the half court. The Aztecs did that by avoiding turnovers and crashing the offensive glass, forcing Sean Miller to rebound with all five players on the court. Wisconsin doesn’t go after offensive rebounds like that, but they’ll drop three or four guys back on defense to protect against the fast break.

2. Wisconsin’s threes: Wisconsin shoots 37.6% from beyond the arc. They get almost two-thirds of their scoring on three-pointers. Arizona is as good as anyone in the country at chasing shooters off of the three-point line, but since they do it out of the pack-line defense, it can be difficult for opponents to take advantage of that by pounding the ball inside. The Badgers need to shoot well.

3. Will Wisconsin have to go big?: The most exploitable mismatch that Arizona will have will be whoever ends up guarding Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. He’s a explosive, 6-foot-7 small forward that will be guarded by one of Ryan’s little guards.

CBT PREDICTION: Arizona

  1. barkleyblows - Mar 29, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    I guess I don’t understand how Bo is such a great coach when the guy has never even reached a final four. Unreal.

  2. blarry21 - Mar 29, 2014 at 8:14 AM

    Being a great coach isn’t always tied to Final Fours. He coaches at Wisconsin. UW doesn’t draw the same kind of recruits like some the elite. He gets the most out of what he has, every year. That’s what makes a great coach.

  3. wick0926 - Mar 29, 2014 at 8:50 AM

    Really it goes to the argument of what your expectations of your program are. Wisconsin is a type of program under Bo that has been a consistent winner and made the tourney all 13 seasons but only one Elite 8 until this year. A lot of Wisconsin fans are extremely happy with this because there was not a lot of basketball tradition before (minus the 2000 season).

    Now this would never fly at a true blue blood basketball program like UK or Duke where its all about championships, but when a coach can take a team to the tourney all 13 years of his tenure and never finish worst than 4th in a pretty good conference I think it says something. I am not saying that we in WI do not want championships but we appreciate what Bo has done

  4. maxximus02 - Mar 29, 2014 at 8:57 AM

    Also, he lists Kaleb T. as the only big AZ has compared to UWs better depth, then has the 3rd point where he states “will UW have to go big” to contend with AZ. Which is it? Lol

  5. packersgreenbay - Mar 29, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    On Wisconsin!

  6. tigershen23 - Mar 29, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    Nick Johnson is crazy. This Arizona team, even without Ashley, is in really good shape right now. I don’t think Wisconsin will put up too much of a fight.
    One thing that I’m interested in is the fact that Dayton can be NATIONAL CHAMPIONS. This guy’s analysis is pretty convincing:

    http://www.bracketbusterbusiness.com/2014/03/28/march-madness-2014/dayton-national-champions/

    • rkrieghoff3 - Mar 29, 2014 at 12:50 PM

      Clearly, tigershen23 hasn’t watched Wisconsin play. Not surprised some fans would underestimate Bucky. Will Arizona overlook Wisconsin? Don’t think we’ll be that lucky. All that said, the Badgers should win. We’ve beaten all the top teams we’ve faced this year. Time to add Zona to the list…..

      • tigershen23 - Mar 29, 2014 at 1:41 PM

        I respect the Badgers’ body of work bro, but I dont think anyone is athletic enough to run with Gordon, and Nick Johnson will get his own.

        Wisconsin’s offense is good. Arizona’s D is GREAT.

    • spartyownsyou - Mar 29, 2014 at 5:32 PM

      Hey tigershen23 are you, by any chance, interested in the fact that Dayton can be NATIONAL CHAMPIONS?

      • tigershen23 - Mar 29, 2014 at 5:36 PM

        Um…yes?

  7. rkrieghoff3 - Mar 29, 2014 at 12:52 PM

    BTW, I don’t think anyone is going to beat MSU…they’re better than some NBA teams….

  8. jj871 - Mar 29, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    Should be a great game. The key for Wisconsin is to get Tarczewski in foul trouble. Arizona have very little front court depth, and outside of Tarczewski, they don’t really have anyone capable of slowing down Kaminsky. Key for Arizona is to get Johnson going. They go as he goes. Expect Arizona to win a close one.

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