As sweet as making it to the Sweet 16 may have tasted and felt right after Wisconsin was able to pull away from the Ducks of Oregon on Sunday night, the Badgers got a taste of the Final Four last year and they are hungry for that and much more right now. Wisconsin has already passed the first two check points along their way to a National Championship, after defeating Coastal Carolina and Oregon in two games that caught some people by surprise with closer final scores than predicted. Next check point along the way, North Carolina.
Wisconsin Badgers vs. North Carolina Tar Heels 7:47ET on TBS
North Carolina recently has started to look like well.. The North Carolina that we have all grown accustomed to watching during March Madness. Roy Williams has his team rolling in all areas of the game after winning 7 of their last 9 games and only having their last 4 losses come against Sweet 16 teams (Notre Dame, Duke (Twice), and North Carolina State).
So what makes North Carolina so dangerous you ask?
It all comes from two different areas of the game that work together to produce wins. First area would be rebounding the basketball. North Carolina averages just under 12 offensive rebounds per game, which leads to more scoring, and more forced fouls on their opponents. On the defensive end they are just as good on the glass, averaging over 25 per game, which is 6th in the nation. Not only does the rebounding not allow their opponents to get second chance opportunities, it also allows them the opportunity to get out and run in transition, leading me into their second area of where they are able to produce so well.
Scoring has always been a positive area when it comes to Roy Williams' teams, and this season is no different. The Tar Heels are 12th in nation scoring an average of 77.9 points per game. North Carolina is led in scoring by Marcus Paige at 14.1 points per game, but have a handful of guys who can score including Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, and Justin Jackson all of which average double digits. When you are able to mix rebounding together with great transition offense including the best assist team in the country, you tend to find easy ways to score points and that's where the Tar Heels find their self.
Keys to the Game:
As I mentioned earlier with how well North Carolina rebounds the ball, Wisconsin is going to have to attack the glass with all 5 guys to limit the Tar Heels second chance opportunities. Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes will be called upon often to pull down rebounds, but the Badgers as a whole will have to grabbing rebounds.
Wisconsin will have to continue to stick with their fundamentals like they have all season with hustling back on defense to slow down North Carolina's transition game. Along with hustling back on defense not allowing the Tar Heels to get to the free throw line will play a major role.
Finally the biggest key to this game, is for Wisconsin to play their style of game and not allow North Carolina to turn this into a track meet. The Badgers have excelled at slowing the game down on offense and making sure they get the best opportunity to score as possible. I look for Bo Ryan to challenge Meeks early and often to see how comfortable he feels playing on an injured sprained knee, and for the Badgers to take advantage down low, especially if Meeks is bothered by the knee injury.