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TALE OF THE TAPE

Round Of 8 Matchup: #1 Arizona Vs. #2 Wisconsin

By Shawn S. Lealos

In the West bracket of the 2014 March Madness college basketball tournament, everything ended up according to expectations. While teams like North Dakota State, Baylor and Gonzaga made it interesting, the top two teams will play in the Elite Eight to determine who moves on to the Final Four next weekend.

#1 Arizona
#2 Wisconsin
(credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
(credit: Harry How/Getty Images)
(credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
(credit: Harry How/Getty Images)
Coaching
Winner Sean Miller took over the leadership reins of the Arizona Wildcats in 2009 from legendary coach Lute Olson. Under Olson, the Wildcats were one of college basketball’s elite programs as he led his team to the Elite Eight six times in his 24-year career. In his five years at Arizona, Sean Miller has his team in the Elite Eight for the second time, his third overall appearance there in his coaching career. In 10 years, Miller has become one of college basketball’s elite head coaches.
Wisconsin Badgers head coach Bo Ryan is more like Lute Olson than Sean Miller when it comes to longevity. He has been with Wisconsin for 13 seasons, while coaching for 20 overall. In that time, he won four Division III titles before coming to the Badgers, and since moving into Division I ball, he has made it to the March Madness tournament every season. However, this is only his second trip to the Elite Eight.
Offense
The Wildcats came into this game with some concerns on offense. They ranked 113th in the nation in the regular season but dominated their first two wins. Against Wisconsin, they crashed back down to earth. They trailed by four but rallied in the second half to take the six-point win, led by three 15-point shooters. It wasn’t easy, but they got the job done.
Winner The Badgers came into the Sweet 16 against a very hot Baylor team and then beat them down. The Bears’ very good defense couldn’t seem to stop a total team effort by Wisconsin, who took a big 13-point lead into halftime and never let off the throttle. Frank Kaminsky led the way with 19 points while Ben Brust added 14.
Defense
Winner The Wildcats finished the regular season with the fifth ranked defense in the nation, but they struggled pretty hard against San Diego State. The Aztecs had not played well offensively in the March Madness tournament in their two wins, but jumped out to a big lead on the Wildcats early on. Xavier Thames scored 25 points against the normally solid defense. However, Arizona locked things down in the second half and San Diego State only hit 38.9 percent from the field for the game.
Arguably, the hottest team coming into the Sweet 16 was the Baylor Bears, who have looked almost unstoppable since February. However, the Wisconsin defense limited them to 16 points in the first half on 21 percent shooting. Wisconsin beat up Baylor 69-52 and looks much stronger heading into the Elite Eight than they did after their first two games.
Bench Depth
The Widcats only played three players from their bench, but their star was still Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who scored 15 points with five rebounds. There isn’t much else there, but the Wildcats don’t need much more than him.
Winner Nigel Hayes continues his strong play as the team’s sixth man, scoring 10 points with six rebounds in the game. Bronson Koenig and Duje Dukan both contributed double-digit minutes as well, helping keep the starters fresh.

We'll Just Call it a Tie

(credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images) (credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

The teams look pretty well matched up heading into the Elite Eight. Wisconsin has a coach with many more years experience, but Sean Miller has more experience in the late stages of the NCAA tournament. The Wisconsin offense will have to play strong and hard early on if they want to get past the Arizona defense, but the odds are in the favor of the Wildcats to make the Final Four as a No. 1 seed with a four point win.

Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer with more than 15 years of experience in the media He covers all things college basketball. Find his work at Examiner.com.

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