On Sunday, Wisconsin fans will be treated to a similar sight. The Badgers will tip-off with a shot at the Sweet Sixteen against the Oregon Ducks. Last season, the two teams met in the Round of 32 and this season, the two teams will meet at the same spot. On paper, not much has changed as Wisconsin is solidly favored before tip-off like last year, but Oregon appears to be playing much better coming into this game. The question will be whether Wisconsin can bring the same intensity they brought last year and continue their drive for a second straight Final Four appearance.
When Wisconsin Has The Ball
All previews on this year's Wisconsin team begin and end with Frank Kaminsky and there will be no change here. The Badger big man has been electric this season and has likely lined himself up for the Wooden Award thanks to his outstanding play this season. Not only can he do damage down low, but he also has the ability to handle the ball, shoot from long range, beat defenders in one-on-one situations, and get teammates involved with his passing. He is the reason that Wisconsin's offense is rated #1 on KenPom not only for this year, but for every team since the 2001-02 season. Along with Kaminsky, Wisconsin does a great job of limiting turnovers (#1 nationally), hitting from 2PT range (#7 nationally), and doing the little things like hitting their free throws (#12 nationally). This is a well oiled machine. Kaminsky draws the attention, but not only can he do damage, but Sam Dekker does a great job of playing around the hoop and Nigel Hayes can not only create his own shot, but also shoots 40.5% from 3PT range.
Oregon does not have a great defense (rated #123 nationally). They do not create a lot of turnovers defensively and primarily play man defense. The big issue for Oregon is going to be how they defend inside against Wisconsin. Jordan Bell, Dwayne Benjamin, and Elgin Cook are the primary contributors inside and not a single one of these players are over 6'7". Wisconsin plays three starters that are above 6'8." The Badgers are not necessarily a team that is going to go inside and beat you physically, but this is a game where they might have to do just that on offense as that is likely where the looks are going to come. Along with this, Kaminsky has shown the ability to beat any type of defensive look, but Oregon is a pretty athletic team and matching up athletic players who can stay with him on the perimeter and rotating during the game might be Oregon's one shot at slowing down Kaminsky.
When Oregon Has The Ball
The Ducks are one of the best offensive teams in the nation. They are rated as the #16 in the offense according to KenPom, avoid turnovers (#52 nationally) and are a well distributed offense that does not rely entirely on perimeter or interior shots. The key contributor on this team is Joseph Young who has an offensive rating of 112.8 and is coming off a 27 point game against Oklahoma State earlier this week. He has actually scored double-digits in 32 of his 34 games this season and scored at least 20 in three of his last four games. Young is also the best passer on the team with a 21.0 assist rate, the primary offensive option (30.1% of the team's shots), and will play just about every minute in the game on Sunday.
For Wisconsin, the key to stopping Oregon has to be to slow down Young. Yes, the Badgers could try and shut down his teammates and let him go off, but Young is such a diverse player that he can get his teammates involved. The best method might be to try and put Josh Gasser on Young and hope he can hold his own. The issue with bringing help is that Young is good enough at creating opportunities for teammates that you worry about giving up uncontested shots and/or dunks if you bring too much help. The defense will likely hinge on the play of whoever opts to guard Young when the two teams matchup.
What To Expect
Both teams pride themselves on offense and you are likely to see some "pretty" basketball on Sunday. However, Wisconsin is going to have a solid size advantage in this one and clearly just has more horses than Oregon. If Oregon was a more balanced team, maybe they would be a trendy upset pick, but it's tough to see them slowing down Wisconsin unless Kaminsky cannot convert on his post looks, which seems unlikely. Look for the Ducks to be with Wisconsin when they get a big run, but overall, Wisconsin just looks like too much here. If Wisconsin is able to score the win, they will advance to their second straight Sweet Sixteen and will matchup with North Carolina next week.