NCAA Free Pick & Prediction Badgers vs. Wildcats
#2 Wisconsin Badgers (29-7) @ #1 Arizona Wildcats (33-4) 03/29- 8:49PM EST- Honda Center, Anaheim CA
Line: ARI -3.0
With a spot for the Final Four up for grabs on Saturday night, No. 2 seed Wisconsin and No. 1 seed Arizona will take to the court at the Honda Center in Anaheim with the winner of the West Final punching their ticket to next weeks Final Four.
“It’s hard to go to the Final Four,” said Arizona Wildcat coach Sean Miller, who began his coaching career as the Wisconsin Badgers assistant coach way back in 1992. “You can be really good and not make it, both as a coach, a team and a player.”
That will be the challenge for this Arizona team that is looking to advance out of the West Regional for the first time since 1998. The Wildcats (33-4) have failed the previous three times when playing in Anaheim, but this years team who was ranked No. 1 in the polls for eight weeks and went on a 21-game win streak have to be feeling good about their chances.
The Arizona program has gone the last five years going unnoticed, but now want to deliver for coach Miller who has restored this once proud basketball program back to prominence this season.
“What we have done during the season has validated how good we are,” said 7-foot center Kaleb Tarczewski.
Tarczewski hopes to have a more productive game after struggling with foul trouble in Thursday’s night semifinal game in which they staged a comeback against the San Diego Aztecs.
For Wisconsin (29-7), they haven’t tasted the Final Four since 2000 and reached the regional final just once in 13 straight trips in the NCAA tournament under long-time coach Bo Ryan. Ryan turned 69 earlier this week and his team feels they need to finally deliver for their coach who became was an assistant for the Wisconsin program from 1976-85.
Badger guard Josh Gasser had this to say about his coach… “He deserves it. We all want it and we all want it for him.”
These two teams are similar in their defensive approach and go after it when it comes to rebounding.
“We are tough, nasty and relentless,” said Arizona freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
Expect a good battle between both 7-foot centers, Arizona’s Tarczewski and Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, who had 19 points and six blocks in helping to lead the Badgers to their semifinal win over the Baylor Bears.
“We’re looking to draw fouls and throw them off-balance a little bit with early foul trouble,” said Wisconsin’s three-point specialist Ben Brust.
The Badgers are a slightly better team from beyond the arc shooting 38 percent to Arizona’s 36, so containing any damage done from 3point range will be a priority for both teams.
“We have to close out the high ends and keep them off line,” said Hollis-Jefferson. “They’re going to play tough in guarding us too.”
One person the Badgers will need to guard closely will be Nick Johnson, the Pac-12 Player of the Year.
“It still makes you say, ‘Wow,’ every time you see them,” says Badger’s Sam Dekker on Johnson and his high-flying teammates. “Dunks aside, they are a very solid team that can go out there and defend. They get after people and make you work.”
Both teams enter averaging 73 points per contest while limiting opponents to 42 percent shooting or less and with that, oddsmakers are expecting a tightly close played game making the Wildcats a slight (minus -3.0) point favorite with an O/U of just 131.0, so stay up to date on the latest spread up until tipoff right here at Wonder Punter.
I expect the same… a close game from beginning to end but will have to predict the slightly stronger Arizona Wildcats doing just enough to punch their ticket to the Final Four next weekend.
By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter