Wisconsin has gotten this far into the tournament because of Sam Dekker, who's been dominant in the first two rounds of the tournament. He's had 37 points in the two games, fueled by shooting 7 of 16 from three. He's a tough matchup at the power forward position for any player because of his ability to score from inside and shoot from three. He's also been getting huge rebounds so far, always keeping plays and possessions alive. But when it gets down to the best 16 teams in the nation, the All-Americans need to prove their title.
That All-American is senior center Frank Kaminsky, who has had a pretty good NCAA Tournament himself. He scored 27 points against #16 Coastal Carolina and 16 points against #8 Oregon. He also pulled down 19 rebounds over the weekend and shot 59% from the field. And if history is any indication, he will only get better going forward. Last year Kaminsky scored 13.5 PPG in the first weekend of the tournament, and jumped to 23.5 PPG in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8, including a 28 point outing against the #1 seeded Arizona Wildcats (who happen to be in Wisconsin's region as the 2 seed this year.) This year, the road to the Final Four for Wisconsin goes through the North Carolina Tar Heels at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Roy Williams has the Tar Heels in their 31st Sweet 16. They are once again full of top level talent, including third team All-ACC player Brice Johnson. Johnson is the starting center for the Tar Heels who is averaging 13 PPG and 8 RPG on the season. Brice Johnson was hurt by foul trouble in the first two rounds of the tournament which hurt him as he only scored 7 points in each game. But he was still a monster on the boards as he pulled down 20 rebounds on the weekend. Johnson has had some of his best games against top centers, including projected #1 NBA draft pick Jahlil Okafor. In the two games against Okafor, Johnson scored 35 points and pulled down 19 rebounds while Okafor only scored 28 and had 17 rebounds.
Kaminsky and Johnson play very different styles when out on the court, so it'll interesting to see which one wins out on Thursday. Kaminsky is a European style center that can step out and shoot the three at an effective 41% clip. He also has fantastic footwork inside the paint and can score with his back to the basket. Meanwhile, Johnson is more like a traditional center. He generally doesn't shoot more that 12-14 feet away from the basket and he hasn't attempted a three pointer this season.
Kaminsky is bigger than Johnson as he is listed at 7'0" and 234 lbs, while Johnson is at 6'9" and 210 lbs. Kaminsky will have the size advantage inside, and with his skills he can post up anyone smaller than him. Johnson will have to play him tight inside and let his team help him inside. Johnson won't have to score a whole lot for North Carolina to win, but he does need to out rebound Kaminsky, especially on North Carolina's side of the court to get North Carolina extra possessions. Johnson had four offensive rebounds against Arkansas and he will have to come to close to that number Thursday.
These two players will have a lot to say when it comes to which team will make it to the Elite Eight.