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Badgers, Wildcats collide

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Wisconsin (29-7) vs. Arizona (33-4)

NCAA Tournament: West Regional Final - Elite Eight
Venue: Honda Center
Location: Anaheim, CA
Tip-off:Saturday, 8:45 p.m. ET
Sportsbook.ag Line: Arizona -3.5, Total: 130

A Final Four berth is on the line Saturday night, as No. 2 seed Wisconsin takes on top-seeded Arizona in the NCAA Tournament Regional Final in Anaheim.

The Badgers have been clicking as of late, winning 12 of their past 14 games (8-6 ATS), They had to rally against Oregon in the third-round game last weekend, but were in complete control from the very beginning of the Sweet 16 matchup against Baylor. Wisconsin (18-16-2 ATS overall, 6-1-1 ATS on neutral courts) was able to overcome the tremendous length of the Bears, and built an early lead that was never in doubt.

The Wildcats are also hot, going 10-2 SU (7-5 ATS) in their past 12 contests. While Arizona (21-15 ATS overall, 4-4 ATS on neutral courts) will not have the same height as Baylor, the club's defense is as good as there is in the country. The Wildcats were in trouble on Thursday night against San Diego State, trailing most of the game before rallying for the victory. SG Nick Johnson missed his first 10 FG attempts of the game, but made some big hoops late to finish with 15 points (10-of-10 FT).

Both clubs have favorable betting trends in this matchup, as Arizona is 20-8 ATS (71%) in non-conference games in the past two seasons, while Wisconsin is 99-64 ATS (61%) after a non-conference game under Bo Ryan. These teams have met three times since 2000, all on a neutral court with Wisconsin going 2-1 SU and Arizona going 2-1 ATS. In the last meeting on Nov. 23, 2009, both teams shot 36% FG in a 65-61 Badgers win.

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Wisconsin has a stronger offense than in seasons' past, pouring in 73.8 PPG (88th in nation) on 46.1% FG (78th in Div. I) and 37.6% threes (53rd in nation). Despite these solid numbers, the Badgers still have the fewest turnovers among all Division I teams with 8.1 TOPG, and commit the second-fewest personal fouls (15.0 per game). Defensively, they hold teams to 63.8 PPG (39th in nation) on 42.8% FG and 33.8% threes. The biggest weakness for Wisconsin is its ability to rebound the ball, holding a slim +1.7 RPG advantage this season (131st in Div. I).

In the game against Baylor, the Badgers got a huge performance from C Frank Kaminsky (13.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG). The 7-footer finished the game with 19 points while shooting 8-of-11 from the field. The Bears were a tough matchup for Kaminsky because they had the size and athleticism to match up with Kaminsky, but he still did a great job of attacking the rim and finishing. While Arizona is a terrific defensive team, Kaminsky will be the biggest player on the court.

SG Ben Brust (13.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG) was the other starter to reach double-figures in the Sweet 16 win against Baylor, finishing with 14 points and six rebounds. Brust is a great three-point shooter (39.3%), but will have to do it against elite defensive pressure. SG Josh Gasser (9.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG) was unable to score against Baylor, but he still had a solid game finishing with eight rebounds.

Forward Sam Dekker (12.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG) is the guy that must have a big game for the Badgers. At 6-foot-8, he has the size to create serious mismatches against the Wildcats defenders. If he is able to attack the basket, he will draw in the defenders, which will open up some great shooting opportunities for his teammates. PG Traevon Jackson (10.7 PPG, 4.0 APG, 3.8 RPG) has been solid all season for the Badgers, and can get things rolling on the offensive end.

The Wildcats come into this game ranked fifth in the country in defense (58.3 PPG), holding opponents to a mere 38.0% FG (4th in Div. I) and 31.9% threes. They do not have a ton of terrific offensive players, so a lot of their points come because of their defense. The club averages only 73.1 PPG (101st in nation), but shoots solid percentages of 47.1% FG (37th in Div. I) and 36.2% threes (86th in nation). This is also a superb rebounding team with a +7.2 RPG margin (9th in Div. I).

SG Nick Johnson (16.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.2 SPG) is the leader of this team who has put up strong numbers in the NCAA Tournament (17.5 PPG, 60% threes, 3.5 RPG) despite his cold shooting on Thursday. He is a big-time athlete that does a great job of getting to the rim. If the Wildcats are able to get into the transition game, Johnson becomes very difficult to slow down.

SF Aaron Gordon (12.5 PPG, 7.7 RPG) played a huge role in Thursday's comeback, as his alley-oop dunk help sparked the momentum back into the Wildcats favor. So far in the NCAA Tournament, he is scoring 17.0 PPG (71% FG) with 7.0 RPG.

Two other key frontcourt players include 7-foot C Kaleb Tarczewski (9.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG) and PF Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (9.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG), who are most needed for rebounding and interior defense. Wisconsin will play the type of defense that is necessary to slow down Arizona, as it rarely allows easy baskets.

The key will be if the Badgers can limit its turnovers. They do a great job of hanging on to the ball, which will limit the Wildcats from getting into transition. However, if Arizona’s defense can force some turnovers, it could be a difficult game for Wisconsin.

  
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