Perhaps it’s inevitable Wisconsin and Baylor would meet in the Sweet 16 with the way the season has gone.
Both teams started on hot streaks — Wisconsin at 16-0 and Baylor at 12-1 — before falling apart early in conference play.
In the last month or so, both teams have rediscovered the magic from early in the season, powering the Badgers and Bears to a Sweet 16 game Thursday. Meanwhile, both have arrived here in unexpected ways: Wisconsin scoring 85 points in a win over Oregon, Baylor blowing out Creighton 85-55.
“You don't beat Creighton by 30, but it happened,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “That's a pretty formidable foe. But every team that's in it now has done some things during the year. They played well towards the end of the year. We think we have. So it's two teams that get a chance.”
Wisconsin vs. Baylor
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
Region: West (Anaheim)
Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: Wisconsin 74-71
Braden Gall: Wisconsin 79-76
Mitch Light: Baylor 78-72
Nathan Rush: Wisconsin 65-64
How Wisconsin got here:
This Wisconsin team is flipped from the typical Bo Ryan squad, ranking fourth in offensive efficiency and 55th on defense. The Badgers can score in a variety of ways, from Frank Kaminsky around the basket to Ben Brust and Josh Gasser on the outside. In Wisconsin’s 85-77 win over Oregon, the highest-scoring NCAA Tournament game, all five starters scored in double figures.
How Baylor got here:
Isaiah Austin is playing like a potential NBA Draft pick, and point guard Kenny Chery is expertly guiding the Baylor attack. Baylor has lost once in March — to Iowa State in the Big 12 title game — and drilled both of its NCAA Tournament opponents in Nebraska and Creighton by a combined 44 points.
Other Sweet 16 previews:
Key for Wisconsin to get to the Elite Eight: Shooting against the zone
Baylor handled Creighton, the nation’s best offensive team, with the zone defense. That will put pressure on Badgers guard Ben Brust, and to a lesser extent Sam Dekker and Josh Gasser, to hit 3-point shots. If Creighton couldn’t do it, Wisconsin might struggle, too.
Key for Baylor to get to the Elite Eight: Score from the perimeter
Chery’s return from a toe injury has been one of the keys to Baylor’s turnaround late in the season. The junior college transfer will try to take advantage of Wisconsin’s poor perimeter defense. Against Oregon, guard Jason Calliste scored 20 points, partly due to an 11-for-11 performance from the free throw line.
Player to watch: Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
Baylor’s Isaiah Austin has been one of the most improved players in the country in the last few weeks. The 7-foot-1 center anchored Baylor’s zone against Creighton. The 7-foot Kaminsky may be able to challenge Austin in a way the Bluejays could not.