West Plays True to Form
The top 2 seeds have advanced to the NCAA Tournament West Regional Final on Saturday when the Wisconsin Badgers square off with the Arizona Wildcats. The game will take place at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California with the opening tip coming at 8:45 PM ET. According to NCAA basketball odds Arizona is a 3.0 points favorite and the posted total is 130.0. These teams haven't met since 2009 in Madison, Wisconsin with the Badgers prevailing by a score of 65-61.
How they Arrived Here
Wisconsin sandwiched a scintillating 2nd half comeback win over Arizona between a pair of lopsided dominating performances in the NCAA Tournament. In their opening game they hammered American by 40-points. They followed that up by overcoming a 12.0 point halftime deficit to knock off Oregon by 8. Then in the West Regional Semifinals on Thursday they soundly defeated a red-hot Baylor teamby 17-points.
Arizona opened the tournament with a lackluster 9-point win over the #16 seed Weber Sate. They quickly put any of the concerns regarding that performance to rest after routing Gonzaga by 23. Then they survived their first bout with adversity of the tournament when they overcame a halftime deficit, and defeated the 4th seeded San Diego State Aztecs in the West Regional Semifinals on Thursday.
Badgers Playing at an
The Badgers have been clicking on all cylinders offensively over their last 5-games averaging 77.4 points per game, shooting a torrid 49.8% from the field! and converting on a superb 40% of their three-point attempts. The Badgers are also at a +23 rebounding advantage in their trio of NCAA Tournament wins. Wisconsin just doesn't beat themselves as they committed 11 turnovers or less in each of their last 12-games. An often overlooked factor at this time of the year is free throw shooting. The Badgers are a solid 73.9% from the charity stripe on the year.
Arizona has some legitimate concerns heading into the Regional Final. The Wildcats are -20 in the rebounding department during their first 3-games of the "Big Dance". They entered the "Sweet 16" as the worst free throw shooting team of the bunch at 65.5%. They've done nothing to alleviate those concerns over their last 5- games going a dismal 63.7% from the free throw line. One thing which isn't a concern is their stellar defensive play. They're allowing a paltry 58-points per game on the season, and have held their previous 5 opponents to a combined 36% shooting from the field.
Based on the fact that Wisconsin has looked much better in their 3 tournament games than Arizona has, the general public is almost assuredly going to side with the underdog in this contest. Don't overlook the fact that the game will be played in Anaheim which is a short drive from the Arizona campus, and an area with a plethora of Wildcats alumni. In what is an otherwise close call, the overwhelming Arizona fan support will be enough for me to side with the top seed In this spot.
Free Pick: Arizona -3.0 over Wisconsin