Date/Time -Thursday, March 27, 6:47 p.m. Central
Arena –Honda Center (18,336)
Television -TBS (Marv Albert, Steve Kerr and Craig Sager)
Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
Series – First Meeting
Wisconsin Probable Starters
1 Ben Brust (6-1 Senior Guard, 13.0 ppg)
12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Junior Guard, 10.8 ppg)
15 Sam Dekker (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 12.7 ppg)
21 Josh Gasser (6-3 Junior Guard, 9.2 ppg)
44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Junior Forward, 13.6 ppg)
Off the Bench
10 Nigel Hayes (6-7 Freshman Forward, 7.9 ppg)
13 Duje Dukan (6-9 Junior Forward, 2.7 ppg)
24 Bronson Koenig (6-3 Freshman Guard, 3.3 ppg)
Baylor Probable Starters
0 Royce O'Neale (6-6 Junior Forward, 7.2 ppg)
1 Kenny Chery (5-11 Junior Guard, 11.5 ppg)
5 Brady Heslip (6-2 Senior Guard, 11.9 ppg)
21 Isaiah Austin (7-1 Sophomore Center, 11.2 ppg)
34 Cory Jefferson (6-9 Senior Forward, 13.6 ppg)
Off the Bench
2 Rico Gathers (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 6.6 ppg)
4 Gary Franklin (6-2 Senior Guard, 5.4 ppg)
35 Taurean Prince (6-7 Sophomore Forward, 6.3 ppg)
Last Time Out
MILWAUKEE - Battered and beaten by Oregon's style in the first 20 minutes, second-seeded Wisconsin recovered in the nick of time for an 85-77 victory at the Bradley Center Saturday night, its biggest comeback win of the season.
Kaminsky (19 points), Traevon Jackson (16), Josh Gasser (13), Ben Brust (12) and Sam Dekker (12) were all in double figures for Wisconsin (28-7), who shot 48.4 percent in the second half and 43.8 percent (7-16) from 3-point range.
Those numbers were built up by the foundation the Badgers created in the first 6:30, scoring on their first seven possessions and pounding the paint. It started with Jackson registered the old-fashioned three-point play and continued with Kaminsky on consecutive possessions, a two-pointer from Gasser and then a three from Gasser after Dekker drove into the lane.
Once lifeless and out-of-sorts, Wisconsin was within 55-54 and the energy was back in the building, which Gasser helped ignite with one simple emphatic point to some of the 18,206 fans in the partisan crowd screaming in the upper deck rafters as he raced toward the timeout huddle.
"The crowd was awesome," said Gasser. "At that moment, you know, we were obviously struggling then, down by double digits. Just to see the will of the crowd had, the energy they had for us, doing whatever they could to help us out."
Wisconsin associate head coach Greg Gard crunched the numbers in the jubilant locker room and could only smile. The Badgers – long known as a plodding, deliberant offense – scored 24 points on its first 11 possessions of the second half and 48 on 30 second-half possessions altogether.
Those points couldn't have been more timely. UW's outburst out of the locker orchestrating a 17-6 run to cut the lead to one by the first media timeout, and scored 27 points on 13 possessions to eventually play with a lead for long stretches of the second half.
- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com
Sweet 16 Notes
Wisconsin has advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third time in the last four years and the sixth time under Bo Ryan. Overall, UW is making its seventh visit to the regional semifinals.
UW is one of just nine teams to appear in three Sweet 16s in the last four years. Florida is the only school to appear all four years.
Wisconsin is 20-17 all-time against members of the Big 12. The Badgers defeated West Virginia 70-62 on Nov. 27 as part of the Cancun Challenge. Baylor split 2 contests with the Mountaineers, losing 66-64 at home and winning 88-75 at WVU.
The Badgers have faced a Big 12 team in the NCAA tournament twice recently, defeating Kansas State in the Round of 32 in both 2008 and 2011.
In its victory over Oregon, the 12-point halftime deficit matched the largest the Badgers have ever overcome to win an NCAA tournament game. UW also came back from 12 points down to beat Florida State in 2009. It is the 9th time Wisconsin has overcome a halftime deficit to win an NCAA tournament game.
Jackson is 56.3% from the field overall and has gone 3-for-6 from 3-point range and 13-for-15 at the free throw line during the tournament.
Brust has scored in double figures in each of the 2 games, averaging 14.5 ppg. Brust is shooting 53.3% (8-for-15) from 3-point range. Brust hit 4 triples in each of the 2 wins, and his final 3-pointer of the weekend gave UW the lead for good against Oregon with 1:07 left and made him UW's all-time leader in career 3-pointers made with 228. Brust's 17 3-pointers in NCAA tournament play trails only Jordan Taylor (23) and Jon Bryant (19) in UW history.
True freshmen Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes are averaging 19.0 and 16.0 minutes per game, respectively. Hayes has produced 6.0 ppg and 3.0 rpg, while Koenig is scoring 4.0 ppg.
Baylor has played 13 teams in the 68-team NCAA Tournament field, and the Bears are 13-9 against those teams this season — Colorado (1-0), Creighton (1-0), Dayton (1-0), Iowa State (1-2), Kansas (0-2), Kansas State (2-0), Kentucky (1-0), Louisiana-Lafayette (1-0), Nebraska (1-0), Oklahoma (1-2), Oklahoma State (2-0), Syracuse (0-1) and Texas (1-2).
Baylor is one of 10 teams to play in two Elite Eights in the last four seasons entering this year's tournament. The Bears lost to the eventual national champions both times — 2010 vs. Duke and 2012 vs. Kentucky.
Baylor has out-shot 27 of 37 opponents this season and has been out-rebounded only eight times in 37 games.
Baylor has won 94% of its games when leading at the half since 2011-12. The Bears are 61-4 when leading through the first 20 minutes in that stretch, including 18-2 this season, 17-1 in 2012-13 and 26-1 in 2011-12. BU has won 38% of games in which its been tied or trailing at the half since 2011-12, going 18-29 in those.
Baylor has seven previous NCAA Championship appearances, and the Bears have lost to the eventual national champion four times (1946, 1948, 2010 and 2012).
With each new stop on the NCAA tour, new members of the national media get their first up-close look at the University of Wisconsin. And with that, the usual questions tend to pop up: why are the Badgers so different this season? What's changed? How has Bo Ryan adapted to this group making another Sweet 16 appearance?
The facts are obvious: Wisconsin is enjoying its best offense of the Ryan era, averaging 73.9 ppg while ranking 5th in the nation in offensive efficiency (1.20 points per possession). In two tournament games, Wisconsin is scoring an average of 80 points per game.
But while the offense is clipping along at levels not seen in Madison in 19 years, Wisconsin's foundation remains the same with defense (fourth in the Big Ten in scoring at 64.1 points per game), ball security (first in the nation in fewest turnovers at 8.0 a game) and second in the country in fewest fouls (15.0 per game).
The numbers would suggest Wisconsin is not the stingy defensive team it has been in past seasons. Of the remaining 16 teams in the field, Wisconsin is in the lower half in terms of KenPom's defensive efficiency. In the last 22 games, Wisconsin has allowed an opponent to score at least 70 points 11 times, including three games that started that January skid.
"We've got a fairly young group of guys from earlier in the year kind of filling in to their roles," said Gasser. "The more work we've gotten in practice, the more work we've gotten in the film room, the better we've gotten, and that's great to see. Coach Ryan's attacked the film room this year, and shown us what we need to improve on. We've had guys who've listened, who've gotten better and improved and I think it's shown towards end of year."
That change could be seen last weekend. Giving up 83 points to Michigan State in its Big Ten tournament loss in Indianapolis, Wisconsin limited American to just 35 points in the second round, the fewest for a UW opponent in the NCAA tournament in the modern era and the lowest total since 1941.
After Oregon shot 55.6 percent in the first half, Wisconsin limited the Ducks to 40 percent shooting and only nine second-half field goals.
"Oregon shoots the heck out of the ball, they hit lots of tough shots, props to them for playing well," said Dekker. "But, when we're disciplined, when we're playing good defense, we're a much better team, and that translates well in to our offense. When we give up easy drives to the paint, easy kick outs, that's going to kill us. A lot of times we get in to a cycle of letting them get in to the paint, when get like that we lose ball games...and I think people have seen that. In our seven losses it's because we didn't play good defense. When we're winning it's because we're playing good defense. As of late, we've been a little tighter, more together and when we play together as unit we're much better."
If Wisconsin wants to break its Sweet 16 hex, togetherness on both ends of the floor will be vital. Baylor has trailed for only 7:24 of game time out of 240 minutes played in six games this postseason and have won its two NCAA games in different ways; one by making 38 free throws against Nebraska and the other by shooting over 60 percent against Creighton.
Kenny Chery is the Traevon Jackson of Baylor in the sense that the Bears's failure and success depends on how he plays, which was evident during the 2-8 start to conference play when he was battling a turf toe injury. In the 14 games since returning full time, Chery is averaging 13.7 points, 5.2 assists and 3.2 rebounds in 32-plus minutes per game.
"He's just the leader of their team," Jackson said of Chery. "He controls the ball a lot and gets the guys into the spots that they need to be in to score. He scores when he needs to, so that's a good point guard."
As tough as Baylor can be offensively, the Bears' 1-3-1 zone will likely be the biggest test the Badgers. Not only is the zone unique to what UW had seen this year, Baylor has two massive shot blockers in the middle of its lineup in Austin and Jefferson, who rank third and fifth, respectively, on the school's all-time shot block list.
"What makes Baylor's different is obviously their length," said Kaminsky. "They've got Isaiah Austin in the middle. He's one of the longest players we'll play all year. So just the athletes and the length combined in their zone is going to be tough to go against. But hopefully we'll be able to be successful against it."
The key for Wisconsin will be touching the post, hitting open jump shots and utilizing pump fakes, a talented trait of Ryan's teams that could make a difference to take advantage of some aggressive Bears.
I think these two teams are very even and this is a coin-flip game, but I believe Wisconsin is the better overall team and should win by five.
Worgull's Record: 24-11
Points off Prediction: 329 (9.4 per game)