The West regional semifinals will give us an opening game of Big 12 vs Big Ten as Baylor take on Wisconsin, while later on comes the number one seed in the region, Arizona, playing against San Diego State.
Baylor got to play two Nebraska schools to open the tournament, beating the Cornhuskers and Creighton by double digits, with the Creighton game being incredibly brutal, winning by 30 points. Wisconsin humiliated poor American, winning 75-35 in the round of 64, followed by a tough win against a very good Oregon team, 85-77.
Both teams have been to this stage quite a lot in recent years. It’s surprising that Bo Ryan, after 13 years in Wisconsin, making the NCAA Tournament in each season, still hasn’t tasted the Final Four. This year has been just as tough as the others, with a brutal schedule in which the Badgers beat five top 25 opponents. They like to play slow basketball with what might be the most intense and best defense in the nation, and prove to be quite a contrast in terms of style to Baylor.
Scott Drew and his players are dreaming about going back to Texas and playing only 100 miles from campus in the final four at Arlington. There’s a lot less discipline to this team, relying more on talent and their size, but they showed some interesting defensive looks in the win over Creighton, doing a great job with their matchup zone and limiting Doug McDermott.
The key for Baylor will be to try and not let the Wisconsin pressure get to them. The Badgers can play quick basketball and be deadly in transition if rushed to it; it’s not a matter of points in the game benefiting one of the sides. But not letting Wisconsin’s press dictate the pace of the game would come in real handy for the Bears.
Later on, it’s another great defensive team in Arizona, with the Aztecs not far behind. Both teams allow very low shooting percentages, with San Diego State being extremely difficult to shoot 3’s against. It comes down to both teams being long and looking for turnovers, only Arizona is probably more talented on offense thanks to Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon.
The two teams met early in the season with the Wildcats winning 69-60, most of their points coming from their top duo. There’s no doubt Arizona’s win over Gonzaga has been more impressive than what we’ve seen from San Diego State, obviously looking to Xavier Thames to carry them offensively.
With two teams who play similarly on defense, it’ll be a game of turnovers, and the team that is able to force more will probably come away with the win. Arizona have the best defensive efficiency in the nation, but they’re slightly more vulnerable now than they were a few months ago, making the Aztecs feel like it’s their shot to make it into the Elite Eight for the first time.