Breakdown: No.4 North Carolina vs. No.1 UW

Back in southern California for the second consecutive year with its eyes on the Final Four, top-seed Wisconsin looks to continue its roll against fourth-seed North Carolina, a roster full of talent, athleticism and depth. BadgerNation breaks down the matchup and where the game will likely be won or loss.

No.4 North Carolina (26-11, 11-7 ACC) vs. No.1 Wisconsin (33-3, 16-2 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Thursday, March 26, 6:47 p.m. Central

Arena – Staples Center (19,079) – Los Angeles

Television - TBS (Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner and Rachel Nichols)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

National Radio - Westwood One

Series – North Carolina leads 2-0 (North Carolina leads 1-0 on neutral court)

Last Meeting – North Carolina won, 60-57, on November 30, 2011 in Chapel Hill

Wisconsin Probable Starters

10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 12.6 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-9 Junior Forward, 13.3 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-4 Senior Guard, 6.8 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 8.6 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Senior Forward, 18.4 ppg)

Off the Bench

3 Zak Showalter (6-2 Sophomore Guard, 2.1 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-3 Senior Guard, 9.4 ppg)

13 Duje Dukan (6-10 Senior Forward, 4.9 ppg)

30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 1.9 ppg)

North Carolina Probable Starters

3 Kennedy Meeks (6-9 Sophomore Forward, 11.6 ppg)

5 Marcus Paige (6-1 Junior Guard, 14.1 ppg)

11 Brice Johnson (6-9 Junior Forward, 12.9 ppg)

13 J.P. Tokoto (6-6 Junior Forward, 8.4 ppg)

44 Justin Jackson (6-8 Freshman Forward, 10.6 ppg)

Off the Bench

0 Nate Britt (6-1 Sophomore Guard, 5.5 ppg)

1 Theo Pinson (6-6 Freshman Forward, 2.9 ppg)

2 Joel Berry Jr. (6-0 Freshman Guard, 4.0 ppg)

22 Isaiah Hicks (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 6.6 ppg)

42 Joel James (6-10 Junior Forward, 2.5 ppg)

Last Meeting

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - With Wisconsin up 36-31 with 11:58 remaining in the game, the PA system at the Dean Dome piped in the Mission: Impossible theme for a game on the JumboTron. It could accurately describe what many felt was No.9 Wisconsin’s mission in one of the most intimidating environments in college basketball.

Impossible? No, but the Badgers knew to do the impossible it needed to be spot on for 40 minutes and get a little bit of luck in the process. It was mission accomplished … until a heated timeout conversation in the North Carolina huddle certainly lit a match.

The Tar Heels broke out of their game long shooting slump with a decisive 18-5 run, engineered by All-American Harrison Barnes scoring 10 of his game-high 20 points, to help North Carolina stave off Wisconsin to a hard-fought 60-57 victory in front of 21,750 that extended its home court winning streak to 19 games.

It wasn’t easy, not by a long shot.

Wisconsin – denied its first 7-0 start since the 1993-94 season - was doing everything it wanted to do in order to beat a team like North Carolina. Entering the under 12 media timeout, Wisconsin controlled the pace, had shut down the Tar Heels’ perimeter game, limited fast-break opportunities and even outmuscled the fifth-ranked team in the country in their baby blue backyard.

Problem was that it’s hard to keep a good team, or a good player for the fact, down for too long.

Barnes, who was a game-time decision after tweaking his right ankle in Saturday’s 90-80 loss to UNLV, simply exercised his will against a Wisconsin frontcourt not used to his size. He used his teammates to create screens and hit 3-pointers from the perimeter, he used his length to score inside and he used his size to draw fouls and make free throws.

But the Badgers were denied their first victory over a top 5 team on the road since beating No.4 Ohio State, 72-71, on Jan. 26 1980, a span of 16 straight games, because the basket wasn’t kind to them.

Entering the night shooting 47.2 percent from three-point range (second best in the nation) and 49.4 percent overall, Wisconsin was cold from the start and never truly heated up, finishing 8 of 28 from three-point range (28.6 percent), 35.9 percent overall (23 of 64) and made just 3 of 6 free-throw attempts.

Senior guard Jordan Taylor was the biggest culprit. He scored 18 points to lead UW, but missed 14 of 20 field-goal attempts, including 8 of his 11 from three-point range. Taylor was 2-for-5 in the final six minutes, including an open 3-pointer with 17 seconds left that could have cut the score to 59-57. He also missed 3 of his 6 free-throw attempts, the only UW player to attempt a free throw.

In a hyped match-up of premier point guards, neither Taylor nor UNC sophomore Kendall Marshall (four points) blew the top off the Dome, but it was a bigger detriment to Wisconsin considering the importance of its senior.

Juniors Jared Berggren (14 points) and Ryan Evans (10 points, 7 rebounds) were big contributors, but couldn’t Taylor and Wisconsin extend the game in the final minute second. Even though UW scored buckets on four of its final five possessions, the Tar Heels cashed in by going 16-18 from the free throw line in the second half.

- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Last Time Out

OMAHA, Neb. - Sam Dekker was limited to three points in the first half Sunday against Oregon and admitted he didn’t feel like himself.

The fact that he was more Dekker-like in the second half, however, is a big reason why top-seed Wisconsin is moving on to face North Carolina next week in the Sweet 16 in Los Angeles.

Dekker scored 14 of his game-high 17 points in the second half, including nine in the final 10 minutes, as Wisconsin never trailed in a 72-65 victory over eighth-seed Oregon in an NCAA tournament third round game at the CenturyLink Arena in Omaha.

Wisconsin (33-3) extended its winning streak to eight games and is in the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in the past five years.

“I got out of sync and started trying to force some stuff,’’ Dekker said. “My teammates told me, ‘That half is over. Be yourself.’’’

Dekker was more like himself in the second half. He hit 5-of-8 shots from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers.Frank Kaminsky added 16 for the Badgers, Nigel Hayes had 14 and Bronson Koenig added 12.

Wisconsin led by as many as 11 midway through the first half before settling for a three-point halftime advantage, 31-28.

Oregon (26-10) continued to scrap in the second half and eventually pulled even at 52 on a 3-pointer by Dwayne Benjamin with 5:54 to play. But Wisconsin responded with a 6-0 run that extended to 10-2 as the Badgers were able to regain control of the game. In that run Koenig made a free throw, Dekker scored on a reverse layup and had a 3-pointer, Kaminsky scored inside and Koenig hit two more free throws.

“Coach just told us to settle in,’’ Dekker said. “We have guys that aren’t going to get too riled up. We’re just going to stay the course and play our basketball, and we got a big 6-0 run there, opened the lead and got a few stops and held it down from there.

“It’s a game of runs and you just have to be able to respond at the right times.’’

It was the second year in a row that Wisconsin knocked Oregon out of the NCAA tournament in the third round. Last year in the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, the Badgers won 85-77.

Wisconsin made 21 of 29 free throws, including 16 of 22 in the second half. Koenig was 7 of 8 at the line. The Badgers made 8-of-10 free throws in the final 63 seconds.

Oregon senior guard Joseph Young, who was averaging 20.4 points per game, ended his career with another big effort against the Badgers. After scoring 29 points on 10 of 19 shooting in Milwaukee, Young had 30 on 12 of 25 shooting from the field.

- Terry Hutchens, Special to BadgerNation.com

Series Notes

Wisconsin is 38-39 against teams currently in the ACC.

Wisconsin and North Carolina met in the 2005 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight as the Tar Heels claimed an 88-82 win in Syracuse, N.Y.

Sam Dekker, Bronson Koenig and J.P. Tokoto were AAU teammates with the Playground Warriors.

Marcus Paige’s sister, Morgan, played basketball at Wisconsin from 2011-14.

Among active Div. 1 coaches, Roy Williams and Bo Ryan rank fourth and fifth, respectively on the all-time wins list. Williams is 750-201 (.789) and Ryan is 737- 227 (.765).

UNC is 13-5 against Big Ten teams in the NCAA Tournament and has won five in a row against the Big Ten in the Tournament (wins over Wisconsin, Michigan State and Illinois in 2005, Michigan State in 2007 and Michigan State in 2009). Carolina's last loss to a Big Ten team came in the 2001 second round to Penn State.

Only two Badgers currently on the roster played against North Carolina four years ago: Gasser was held scoreless on three starters in 35 minutes and Kaminsky scored three points off the bench in 12 minutes.

Wisconsin Notes

Wisconsin is averaging 79.0 ppg in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Among Sweet 16 teams, only Gonzaga (86.5), Arizona (83.0) and Wichita State (79.5) are scoring more.

With 149 career rejections, Kaminsky is the all-time blocks leader at UW, surpassing the previous mark led by Jared Berggren (144).

Wisconsin has only trailed in the second half of 8 games all season, and only twice during Big Ten play (at Rutgers and at Maryland). On the season, the Badgers’ only second-half deficits were in their three losses as well as wins over Buffalo and Georgetown and all three Big Ten Tournament wins.

Wisconsin is 20-2 against the NCAA’s official RPI top 100 this season, including 10 wins over the top 50. Only Kentucky (23) has more wins over teams ranked in the top 100. UW is also 15-2 against the NCAA tournament field.

Wisconsin is allowing just 56.8 points per game, the top mark in the Big Ten and 10th nationally. UW has led the Big Ten in scoring defense in 8 of the past 12 seasons and finished among the nation’s top 10 in 9 of the past 12 years.

North Carolina Notes

The NCAA record book lists Sweet 16 appearances only since 1975 (when all teams have needed to win at least one game to reach the regional semis). Carolina has advanced to the Sweet 16 an NCAA-record 26 times since 1975. Kentucky and Duke are second with 24.

UNC has an all-time record of 25-6 in NCAA Tournament regional semifinal games, including a 19-6 mark since the NCAA field expanded in 1975.

Carolina is 7-4 all-time against NCAA Tournament No. 1 seeds. Most recently, the Tar Heels lost in the 2013 third round to No. 1 seed Kansas in Kansas City, Mo. Carolina’s last win over a No. 1 seed was in the 2005 NCAA title game against Illinois in St. Louis.

Carolina has shot 50.0 percent or better in the second half in nine consecutive games. The Arkansas game was the 19th time in 37 games in 2014-15 the Tar Heels shot 50 percent or better in the second half.

UNC is 22-4 this season when leading at halftime but 2-7 when trailing at the half (and 2-0 when tied at the break). Carolina is 271-30 all-time under Roy Williams when leading at the half.

Prediction

Simply put, I believe this game comes down to which team wins the low post, which is the strength of both of these teams. Wisconsin averages just under 30 points per game. The Tar Heels averages 37.5 points per game, including scoring at least 50 points four times. North Carolina can score those points by getting the ball to its bigs or letting its guard slash to the rim. To drive home that point: UNC registered 18 offensive rebounds when it played against the size, length and athleticism of Kentucky.

Against Arkansas, the Tar Heels pulled down 17 offensive rebounds. On the flip side, Arkansas pulled down 20 offensive boards, and the Razorbacks have nowhere near the talent in the frontcourt that the Badgers do in Dekker, Hayes and Kaminsky. Whichever frontcourt performs better will give that team a significant leg up.

Speaking of a leg up, Trae Jackson says he’s playing tonight, but the question is how many minutes will the senior bring after going through limited possessions this week and being sidelined the past two months with a broken bone in his foot? I wouldn’t imagine much, but Ryan said he’ll play if Jackson is ready because he’s earned it with the amount of work the point guard has put into his rehab.

Jackson’s return will also help Wisconsin’s bench, considering the Badgers have basically shorten their rotation to seven players as the postseason has gone on. Without question having Jackson will be a lift again a deep Tar Heels team. Starting tonight, these games will get a little bit tougher and a little bit tighter and having a veteran presence on the court certainly isn’t going to hurt.

Wisconsin will need to play its pace and get North Carolina out of rhythm, which Paige said he’ll try to establish early with tempo and pushing the pace. If the Badgers play their brand of basketball (get the ball in the paint, balance out their offense, be sound defensively, doing their fundamentals), they are going to win.

In the past two meetings, North Carolina has had the more athletic team and yet Wisconsin has given them fits. This time the Badgers are the more athletic team, which makes me believe UW advances to the Elite Eight with an 11-point win.

Worgull's Record: 34-2

Points off Prediction: 256 (7.1 per game)



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