Preview: #2 Wisconsin battles #1 Arizona for the Final Four

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

Can the Badgers return to the Final Four for the first time since 2000? Or will the Wildcats finally put an end to the Badger machine?

By the Numbers:

Wisconsin

Team

Arizona

29-7

Record

33-4

B1G

Conference

Pac-12

12-6

Conf. Record

15-3

2

Seed

1

6

RPI

2

6

Kenpom

2

March 29, 2014 - Honda Center, Anaheim, CA

8:49 PM ET - TBS

Skinny:

Wisconsin enters the Elite 8 after a complete demolition of the red hot Baylor Bears 69-52. Arizona is coming off a slightly more difficult win against San Diego State 70-64. Baylor didn't have any answers for Frank Kaminsky or any of the Badgers really, but Arizona will no doubt be a much tougher test. Keep in mind that Arizona coach Sean Miller started his career as an assistant at Wisconsin in the early 90s.

Arizona has knocked off Weber State 68-59 and demolished Gonzaga 84-61 before taking down San Diego State two nights ago. They are led in scoring by junior Nick Johnson at 16.2 points per game followed by super freshman Aaron Gordon at 12.1 points and 7.8 boards a game. It seems pretty obvious this game is going to come down to Kaminsky versus Gordon, however, don't overlook the guard play with Johnson versus Ben Brust. Another interesting matchup is sophomore Sam Dekker versus freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (off the bench). And then of course every Wisconsin fan is wondering which Traevon Jackson will show up?

Projected Starting Lineups:

Wisconsin

Position

Arizona

Traevon Jackson

G

Nick Johnson

Ben Brust

G

T.J. McConnell

Josh Gasser

G

Gabe York

Sam Dekker

F

Aaron Gordon

Frank Kaminsky

C

Kaleb Tarczewski

Players to Watch:

Frank Kaminsky: Against Baylor - Kaminsky was dominant. He had 19 points, 6 blocks, 4 boards, and 3 assists. In addition, he altered several other shots throughout the game and was the key factor in the demolition of the Bears. If he can get the best of the Arizona bigs in this game - the Badgers will stand a great chance of advancing to the Final Four. He has to stay out of foul trouble though, as the Badgers do not have a ton of other size to come in and combat the Wildcats.

Traevon Jackson: There is no doubt that Jackson has had a rough and disappointing season. He was very good in the first two games of the tournament though before coming up with a mediocre performance against Baylor. Jackson is the type of player who could absolutely go off against a team like Arizona and carry the Badgers into the Final Four. He is also the type of player that could put up an absolutely horrid performance and cost his team the game. Every Wisconsin fan is waiting with baited breath to see which Jackson will show up in this one.

Aaron Gordon: While Gordon may not have lived up to the tremendous hype coming into the season, he has still been magnificent this year and has been great in the tournament so far. Against San Diego State, he was 7-9 from the field for 15 points and had 6 boards to go along with that. He will be a handful for Kaminsky, Dekker, and Nigel Hayes to handle. Similar to Kaminsky, he cannot afford to get into foul trouble as that would take a major weapon off the floor for the Wildcats against a very good offensive and defensive Badger team.

Nick Johnson: Johnson struggled shooting the ball against San Diego State as he was 2-12 from the field. However, he was able to get to the line often and converted all 10 attempts. He is the type of player who will be due for a huge night from the field after an off game and the Badgers will need to know where he is at all times which could open things up for Gordon down low.

Prediction:

I think Arizona is one of the weaker #1 seeds in the field, but that is not saying a whole lot because they certainly deserved a #1 seed and have / had a lot of good company on that line. At the same time, Wisconsin is really coming on strong. Most would have projected them in the Final Four midway through the season. Then they lost at Indiana and the wheels fell off for a while. They are back now and playing tremendous basketball. If Wisconsin continues to score the basketball at a high level, they have a great shot in this one.

Wisconsin 70, Arizona 65

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