Preview: Wisconsin vs. Arizona
Either Arizona or Wisconsin is going to end a lengthy Final Four drought when the two programs square off in Saturday's West regional final in Anaheim, Calif. The top-seeded Wildcats haven't reached the national semifinals since 2001, when famed coach Lute Olson was still at the top of the profession. Second-seeded Wisconsin's last appearance was one year earlier when Dick Bennett surprisingly guided the eighth-seeded Badgers into the Final Four.
Wildcats coach Sean Miller has received attention this month as perhaps the best active coach to not reach the Final Four but Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan also should be part of that discussion. The Badgers have only reached this stage once previously in his 13-season tenure - in 2005 before losing to North Carolina - and his players have become well aware he hasn't reached the Final Four. "Yeah, that would be a very special thing to do," guard Ben Brust told reporters after Thursday's convincing victory over Baylor, "but we also know that he's not going to let us look too far ahead."
TV: 7:49 p.m., TBS
ABOUT WISCONSIN (29-7)
The Badgers are much more prolific offensively than they typically are and have good balance, led by center Frank Kaminsky (13.7 points per game), guard Ben Brust (13) and forward Sam Dekker (12.5). But the trademark defensive tenacity Ryan preaches has certainly been on display in the tournament as the Badgers are allowing 54.7 points per game and totally shut down a red-hot Baylor squad (31.6 percent from the field) in Thursday's 69-52 victory. Wisconsin's win total is third-best in school history - two shy of the school mark set by the 2007-08 squad.
ABOUT ARIZONA (33-4)
Pac-12 Player of the Year Nick Johnson was scoreless on 0-of-10 shooting over the first 37 minutes of Thursday's victory against San Diego State before scoring 15 points in the final 2:46 to help the Wildcats secure a 70-64 victory. "I've had a few games like this this year," a relieved Johnson said afterward. "It's unfortunately been our losses, so I just try to stay with it." The Wildcats will need a more consistent effort from Johnson (16.3) against the Badgers and will also continue to rely on the inside duo of Aaron Gordon (12.5 points) and rising Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (9.1).
1. Wisconsin has won three of the previous five meetings, the most recent a 65-61 victory in the opening round of the 2009 Maui Invitational.
2. Gordon is averaging 16.3 points on 22-of-30 shooting and Hollis-Jefferson is averaging 15.3 points and is 14-of-20 from the field during Arizona's three NCAA tournament games.
3. Brust is 11-of-20 from 3-point range during the NCAA tournament and has made at least three in each of the past five games.
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 66, Arizona 65