Three Reasons Why Wisconsin Will Beat ArizonaPosted by Deepak Jayanti on March 29th, 2014
Nine years ago, as a clear underdog, Bo Ryan’s Badgers, led by Mike Wilkinson, almost took down Sean May’s North Carolina Tar Heels in the Elite Eight. Few expected the Badgers to hang in there against an athletic UNC team, but the Badgers proved to be a matchup nightmare for most of the game. At the end, pure talent won out against a disciplined team. As Ryan heads into the second Elite Eight game during his tenure, he faces a similar challenge – Arizona is arguably the most athletic team in the country, led by freshman Aarno Gordon. Overlooking the Badgers in this matchup is not a good idea especially after their offensive performances against Baylor and Oregon. Currently, the oddsmakers have the Wildcats as a three-point favorite, but let’s dig deeper to understand why the Badgers can win the game on Saturday:
- Frank Kaminsky’s spin moves in the paint will get Kaleb Tarzcewski into foul trouble. Lack of height or length is not an issue for the Wildcats, but their lateral movement on defense will be challenged by Kaminsky. While it is clear that Kaminsky can shoot the three effectively, his ability to drive into the paint off the pump-fake has been overlooked over the past few weeks. Against Baylor, he repeatedly faked the ball at the top of the key and was able to drive very easily against Isaiah Austin and if he continues to do that against Arizona, Brandon Ashley’s presence will be sorely missed because Sean Miller will have to dig deeper into the bench. Arizona is extremely stingy on defense, giving up just 0.9 points per possession in the PAC-12, but it hasn’t defended a talent like Kaminsky. As we look back to the Badgers’ game Elite Eight game in 2005, Wilkinson’s ability to hit the deep shot against UNC was extremely important. Along those lines, Kaminsky can definitely put up 20 points against the depleted Arizona frontline. Miller will have to consider assigning Aaron Gordon to guard the Wisconsin big man, but that’ll create a hole on the other side of the wing because Sam Dekker will have an easier matchup.
- Speaking of Dekker, he is due for a big game. As a top high school prospect, when Dekker picked to play in Madison, you knew that Ryan was getting arguably the most talented offensive player during his tenure. It just so happened that Kaminsky ended up being extremely effective this season, which moved Dekker into the complimentary role, but let’s not forget that the sophomore is just as talented and dangerous from the field. Over the past month, while Kaminsky has dominated, Dekker has averaged just over 8 PPG, which is definitely sub-par for his talent. It is only a matter of time before he proves that he can light it up from beyond the arc and create several match-up issues with his size and the Elite Eight game could be his opportunity. Some combination of Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will be used by Miller to defend Dekker but if the sophomore is consistently on the move in the half-court sets, it’ll be tough for the Wildcats to keep up with him.
- The Badgers backcourt will force the Wildcats to score in the half-court. If you take away the transition game, the Wildcats offense struggles in the half-court. Now it is easier said than done because T.J.McConnell always seems to find a way to lob passes to Gordon or Hollis-Jefferson, but historically, the Josh Gasser-Ben Brust-Traevon Jackson trio is known to defend well, especially if they know the opponents’ strengths. When the Aztecs weren’t pressing, they forced Miller’s team to score in the half-court and tried to take Nick Johnson out of the equation – he had no points until the final three minutes of the game. Ryan won’t go with the full-court press, but he has enough guards at his disposal to cut Johnson’s looks from beyond the arc, which will put the pressure on Gordon to score a bulk of the points. This strategy doesn’t have to work for the whole game, but as long as it throws Gordon and Johnson into a drought for even a few minutes in the game, it’ll be enough for Wisconsin to keep up. A close game with five minutes left can go either way and maybe for once, the luck might favor Ryan, who deserves a Final Four after an accomplished career in Madison.