Evaluating the Big Ten Teams in the West Region

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on March 19th, 2014

Is the West region really up for grabs because Arizona might have a match-up against a dangerous Oklahoma State team? While Marcus Smart will cherish the challenge to prove that he can compete with the best teams on the national stage, the Wildcats are still the favorite out of this region because they have figured out how to play without Brandon Ashley. Under the assumption that Arizona makes it to the Elite Eight, is there a Big Ten team that can challenge them out west? Nebraska and Wisconsin could end up playing each other in the Sweet Sixteen, if both teams make it that far, meaning the one left standing could be poised for a shot at the Wildcats. The following are a few thoughts about both teams’ chances in this region.

Terran Petteway can't have an off-night against Baylor. (HallUniversity.com)

Terran Petteway can’t have an off-night against Baylor. (HallUniversity.com)

  • Can the Huskers keep up with Baylor? The Bears’ game plan is fairly straightforward: outscore the opponent using a dribble-drive offense that consists of athletic players such as Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson. Averaging 1.11 points per possession on the offensive end shows that they will challenge the Huskers to outscore them. Terran Petteway will need some help because he can’t win the game by himself. Shavon Shields will need to be that guy but all of the Huskers’ wings will be busy chasing around the Bears on defense. Austin should be able to dominate the paint because Tim Miles doesn’t have another big guy beyond Walter Pitchford who can hang with the future NBA center. Having said that, Miles may have a slight edge over the Bears in that his squad is a much more disciplined team after going through the rigors of the Big Ten. Haphazard offense has been an occasional issue for Drew’s team over the years and the Bears could find a tough time scoring when Nebraska cuts off the driving lanes and force the guards to beat them from distance. That gamble could ultimately pay off, but this is a tough first round match-up for the Huskers.
  • Wisconsin will have to lock down the Oregon Ducks. When was the last time that you expected the Badgers to win in a shootout? Under the assumption that Wisconsin will romp Wofford in the first round, the Badgers could very well get involved in a track meet against the Ducks in the next round. Mike Moser, a senior forward who can run the court very well, will match up with Frank Kaminsky or Sam Dekker, a pair of Badgers who could one up him in that category. Lack of horsepower is not an issue for Bo Ryan’s team this season, but Wisconsin needs to pull a few defensive stops because Oregon is the type of explosive team that could ride the momentum of their offense to an upset. The loss to Ole Miss a year ago may still linger for these Badgers, which should force them to be ready for this second round match-up. Expect them to win a close game and move onto the Sweet Sixteen.
  • What is Wisconsin’s ceiling in this region? Elite Eight. In the Sweet Sixteen, it’s likely that they would play either Baylor or Creighton, two excellent offensive teams that are weak defensively, but other than Arizona and Oklahoma State, there are no teams that match up well against the Badgers in this region. The bracket lays out for the Badgers to have a clear path to the Elite Eight, but don’t expect them to give the Wildcats a run for their money. The Arizona front line would dominate Wisconsin in the paint, so unless there is an upset in the top half of this region, Ryan is unlikely to take his first trip to the Final Four this season. Given Wisconsin’s talent and the possible match-ups, though, anything less than a trip to the Sweet Sixteen would certainly be considered a disappointment.
Deepak Jayanti (270 Posts)

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