All previews: click here for the full 2015 NCAA tournament schedule
Conference: Big Ten
Date: Saturday, March 28
Time: 6:09 pm Eastern
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Arizona is the 2-seed, but they're playing the Badgers in their own backyard.
SportsRatings Power Ratings
Strength: #3 Strength: #2
Median play: #6 Median play: #3
Other Power Ratings
Sagarin(predictor):#3 Sagarin: #2
Pomeroy: #3 Pomeroy: #2
Offense: #1 Offense: #7
Defense: #50 Defense: #3
LRMC: #5* LRMC: #2*
BPI: #2 BPI: #3
Power Rating Derivatives
2nd half/season: #4 2nd half/season: #2
Last 6 games: #7 Last 6 games: #4
Injury correction: #6 / #2 Injury correction: #3
Consistency: #205 Consistency: #217
The Badgers' #1 offense just played North Carolina's #53 defense, but now they face the #3 defense. Arizona played Xavier (#57 defense), and now face Wisconsin's #50 defense. Obviously this is a bigger step up for the Badgers than the Wildcats. Both teams are 34-3 and Arizona gets the nod in almost every power rating—the exception being the BPI, which doesn't look kindly on Arizona's 3 losses to non-tourney teams. In terms of recent play the Wildcats are just a smidge ahead, too, but note the Injury Correction numbers, which rate Wisconsin #2 when they had Traevon Jackson. He played 9 minutes against North Carolina, is that enough to call him "back"? Maybe 50%? It could be the difference in the game.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (16): Boise St.+24, =UAB+29, =Georgetown+3, =Oklahoma+13, Buffalo+12, Purdue+7, Iowa+32, @Iowa+11, Indiana+14, Michigan St.+7, @Ohio St.+24, =Purdue+20, =Michigan St.+OT, =Coastal Carolina+14, =Oregon+7, =North Carolina+7
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (4): =Oklahoma+13, Michigan St.+7, =Michigan St.+OT, =North Carolina+7
- Losses to tournament teams (2): Duke-10, @Maryland-6
- Other losses (1): @Rutgers-5
Key Info: It's hard to pinpoint Wisconsin's most dominant win of the year. Was it early on, when they beat Chattanooga by 44 points, almost doubling the Mocs' score (game 2)? Or beating Milwaukee by 39 on the road (game 10)? Those had big margins but not the best of competition—what about beating 7-seed Iowa, 82-50, in game 19? Or maybe it was beating 10-seed Ohio State on the road, 72-48 (game 31)? On the other hand, it's easy to find their worst loss, since there are only 3 to choose from. It wasn't the loss to 1-seed Duke, even if it was by double digits and at home. Nor was it the late loss at 4-seed Maryland. Clearly it was the 67-62 loss at Rutgers, ranked #219 by Pomeroy. The Badgers were without star 7-footer Frank Kaminsky (18.2 ppg, 8.0 rebounds) that game and lost #4 scorer Traevon Jackson during it. Jackson returned against North Carolina and scored 4 points, playing 9 minutes. Is he close to 100%?
Kaminsky had a Wooden-award level performance with 27 points and 12 rebounds against Coastal Carolina. Forward Sam Dekker led with 17 against Oregon, then scored a career-high 23 against North Carolina.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (13): UC Irvine+17, =San Diego St.+2, Gonzaga+OT, @Oregon+18, Utah+18, Oregon+34, UCLA+10, @Utah+6, =UCLA+6, =Oregon+28, =Texas Southern+21, =Ohio St.+15, =Xavier+8
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (6): Gonzaga+OT, Utah+18, UCLA+10, @Utah+6, =UCLA+6, =Xavier+8
- Losses to tournament teams (0): none
- Other losses (3): @UNLV-4, @Oregon St.-2, @Arizona St.-3
Key Info: Arizona went 10-0 against tournament-bound foes, pretty impressive. But they had three losses against non-tourney opponents, all three on the road and against teams that ranked 92, 105, and 62 in Strength. Since the last loss the Wildcats have been on a roll, winning every game by double digits except for 6-points wins at Utah and vs. UCLA—both of whom made the Sweet Sixteen along with the Wildcats.
Freshman Stanley Johnson leads four key scorers at 14.1 points and adds 6.6 rebounds, while Brandon Ashley, who missed the 2nd half of last season, is #2 with 12.3 points. But against Texas Southern it was Rondae Hollis-Jefferson leading with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while #4 scorer TJ McConnell and reserve Gabe York were the key players vs. Ohio State, scoring 19 apiece. McConnell then led with 17 points against Xavier.
Game Analysis: The tempo clash isn't quite as great as Wisconsin vs. UNC, but it's close, at least as far as offensive pace goes, where UW is #349 and Arizona is #36. One of the teams that beat Arizona, Oregon State, can be classified as a slow-paced team, while all 3 teams that beat Wisconsin were mid-tempo teams, not extra-fast.
Last year Wisconsin beat Arizona to make the Final Four, and they're looking to do it again. In that game Frank Kaminsky had 28 points and 11 rebounds. This year, Arizona has added another 7-footer, Dusan Ristic, who can at least give Kaleb Tarczewski a breather now and then. Whether they will have a defensive answer for Kaminsky this time around, we'll have to see.
But Arizona has to be a lot more fired up for the rematch than Wisconsin. The Badgers' goal is a rematch with the team that beat them last year, Kentucky. This is Arizona's destination game. It came down to the wire last year, so it's pretty clear the teams are evenly matched.
Will the return of Traevon Jackson make a difference? When the Badgers had him, they were slightly better than the Wildcats. Is he really "back" enough to count? He averaged 26 minutes during the season but played just 9 against the Tar Heels.
Arizona by 1
Power rating: spread
Arizona by 0.4
Game-comparisons: % Chance to win
The oddsmakers are going with Arizona in a very close game—just like almost every power rating, including our Strength rating, which makes the Wildcats about a 1/2 point favorite. The teams' game ratings for the year pan out to favor Arizona in a very small majority of cases.
Bottom line: Any tiny change can tilt this game one way or another. Jackson's reappearance could do it, or Arizona having two big men to put on Kaminsky. Basically a coin flip, we go with Arizona to have the extra edge in the rematch looking for revenge, and if playing close to home is worth a point, maybe those are the deciding factors.
Final prediction: Arizona 66, Wisconsin 65
More previews: click here for the full 2015 NCAA tournament schedule.