Mar 26, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
On Wednesday and Thursday, we will be breaking down all eight of the Sweet 16 matchups. Here is our look at No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Baylor:
WHEN: Thursday, 7:47 p.m.
WHERE: Honda Center, Anaheim (West Region)
MAJOR STORY LINES: Scott Drew in a running joke in basketball circles. The majority of basketball fans out there believe that he is nothing more than a recruiter, a guy that reins in tons of talent and can only do so much with it. Bo Ryan, on the other hand, in universally lauded as being one of college basketball’s most brilliant minds, an exceptional talent evaluator that develops players to fit his system. Here’s something to think about, however: If Drew wins, he’ll lead Baylor to their third Elite 8 in the last five years, and he’ll have done it with a team whose three leading scorers are a pair of three-star recruits, one of whom is a fifth-year senior, and a JuCo point guard that couldn’t get a scholarship coming out of high school. Bo Ryan has been to one Elite 8 in his 13 seasons as the head coach at Wisconsin.
KEY STATS: Baylor ranks third nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, grabbing 40.6% of their misses while 10.1% of their offensive possessions end with a putback around the rim, according to Synergy. That ranks in the top ten nationally. In layman’s terms, Baylor typically feasts on the offensive glass. Wisconsin ranked 11th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage, allowing opponents to grab just 27.0% of their missed shots. Something’s gotta give.
KEY PLAYERS: Wisconsin’s front line of Sam Dekker, Nigel Hayes and Frank Kaminsky will be the key to breaking down Baylor’s zone from the inside, especially if the Bears defend the three-point line the same way they did against Creighton (more on that below). Offensively for Baylor, their sparkplug the past month has been Kenny Chery. He averaged 15.2 points and 5.6 assists the 11 games prior to the NCAA tournament and, after battling foul trouble in the opener against Nebraska, had 14 points and hit four early threes to help spark the rout of Creighton.
POINT SPREAD: Wisconsin (-3.5)
THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:
1. Baylor’s zone: The Bears shut down Creighton in the Round of 32 thanks to a small tweak in their zone. They didn’t slough off of the three-point line whatsoever, allowing Creighton into the paint and daring them to try to score over 7-foot-1 Isaiah Austin. Wisconsin has an offense reliant on the three-ball, and while it’s not as skewed as Creighton’s was, keep an eye on how the Bears defend.
2. Does Wisconsin go big?: Ben Brust, Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser all average at least 31 minutes for Wisconsin, and all three are guards 6-foot-3 or shorter. Add in Dekker, a small forward that stands 6-foot-7, and the Badgers have four perimeter players that play the majority of the minutes. Will the Bears force the Badgers to use Hayes and Kaminsky at the same time to deal with their front court?
3. Baylor’s shooters: The Bears are one of the best three-point shooting teams left in the tournament, hitting 38.6% from beyond the arc. One of the keys to Wisconsin’s defense is to chase shooters off of the three-point line. How many open looks will Brady Heslip and company get?
CBT PREDICTION: Wisconsin
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