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NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Preview: Wisconsin vs. Arizona

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My power ratings have Arizona as the second-best team in the nation followed immediately by Wisconsin. My proprietary power numbers also have this game rated close to the existing point spread:

Oskeim Sports Power Ratings:

Arizona: 101.4
Wisconsin: 100.3

The interesting thing about the Badgers is the fact that they remain underrated and undervalued by the betting market. Indeed, Wisconsin is 20-7-1 ATS in its last 28 non-conference games, 8-3-1 ATS in its last twelve NCAA Tournament games and 13-5-1 ATS in its last nineteen neutral site games. Conversely, the Wildcats are just 1-4 ATS in their last five NCAA Tournament appearances and 1-4 ATS their last five non-conference affairs.

The most compelling example of Wisconsin’s strength is how the Badgers manhandled Michigan State this season, the 9th best team in the country pursuant to my power ratings. Specifically, Wisconsin won both games by a combined 18 points (68-61; 80-69).

Wisconsin’s success is predicated upon a suffocating defense that is allowing 57.2 points per game to teams that would combine to average 69.4 points per game against a mediocre defensive squad. Moreover, the Badgers are 19-2 on the road this season where they are limiting opponents to a mere 58.3 points per game.

Overall, the Badgers are 12.2 points per game better than average defensively, which is certainly good enough to slow down an explosive Arizona attack that is 10.4 points per game better than average (76.6 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 66.2 points per game). Consider Wisconsin’s national rankings at the defensive end of the floor:

  • 9th is scoring defense
  • 1st in personal fouls per game
  • 6th in scoring margin

The fact that Wisconsin’s stifling defense does not result in personal fouls is significant in that the Wildcats lead the nation in free throw attempts with 944. Wisconsin commits 12.1 fouls per game, the lowest total in the nation, but matched a season-high with 18 against North Carolina on Thursday night.

Meanwhile, Arizona was 17-of-19 from the charity stripe in its win over Xavier on Thursday (and shoot 71.2% from the line as a team). Keeping Arizona from the foul line is extremely important, and the fact that Frank Kaminsky hasn’t committed more than three fouls in a game this season is a good start.

Wisconsin Wisconsin’s deliberate and efficient offense (ranks 346th in the country in possessions per game) is averaging 77.6 points on 48.0% shooting from field and 38.7% from beyond the arc over the last five games. Wisconsin ranks second nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.71), second in fewest turnovers (267), 17th in offensive field goal percentage (48.0%), 12th in free throw percentage (76.5%), 6th in scoring margin (+15.5) and 1st in turnovers per game (7.4).

The Badgers take excellent care of the ball and preserve and protect leads by having one of the best free throw shooting teams in the country.  Grab the points with Wisconsin and invest with confidence.

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