Bo Ryan is a victory away from his first Final Four appearance. The only accomplishment yet for Bo to achieve is reaching the pinnacle of college basketball. 2014 seems to be the year that Ryan can do it; as long as history doesn’t repeat itself.
Wisconsin’s trip through the Western region will conclude tonight as the Badgers take on one-seed Arizona. Through seven weeks this season the Wildcats were ranked as the countries top team. The Cats were derailed midseason when forward Brandon Ashley broke his foot. Ashley’s loss was tremendous but is seems as if Arizona has regrouped.
The Wildcats are arguably the nation’s best defensive club. Not once have they allowed 80 points this season and only twice above 70. Buckets are hard to come by against the Cats. If you want to beat them, you’ll have to find a way to score.
Arizona gives up a mere 58 points per contest. Sean Miller has his team playing stout basketball which forces teams into their half court offense. Well that’s fine by Bo Ryan who’d rather play the game on a 57 foot court.
Ryan’s challenge is figuring out how the Badgers can put points. Top to bottom these Cats can defend. Guards Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell protect the three ball, forcing teams to shoot 31 percent from deep. Wisconsin only shot 6-16 against Baylor on the Thursday. If the Badgers use the shot clock and draw out long possessions, they should be able to come up with some open looks at the basket.
Of the two guards Nick Johnson is most to be worried about. Johnson is a 2014 All-American as well as the PAC-12’s player of the year. Nick has been the Wildcat’s primary scoring option this season, averaging 16.3 a game. Luckily for the Badgers, their best defender is Josh Gasser. All season long Gasser has locked down top scoring guards such as Nik Stauskas and Gary Harris.
On Thursday, San Diego State held Johnson scoreless through the first 37 minutes. With 2:46 remaining the Aztecs were up four, but sure enough Johnson rev’d it up, scoring 15 of the Wildcats final 16 points.
Nick single-handedly finishing off SDSU proves he is the heart of this Arizona team. Wisconsin will be in great shape if they can slow him down.
Arizona’s interior is held down by freshman phenom Aaron Gordon. Gordon’s athleticism creates a major disadvantage for Wisconsin. He is an incredible leaper who plays above the rim. Gordon’s awfully physical for being only 18. Wisconsin doesn’t mind that kind of nature, the problem drawn is deciding who to guard the six-foot-nine forward.
Sam Dekker will likely start on Gordon, since he’s only an inch shorter with a few less pounds. Dekker is a solid rebounder who also jumps well. If Sam can hang with Gordon the Badgers will be in great shape. Bo Ryan can also choose to get physical with Gordon by putting Nigel Hayes on him. Switching up styles may frustrate the freshman. Wisconsin wants Gordon to play outside the paint; eliminating rebounds as well as his crowd igniting jams.
Arizona is tough, athletic, and beatable. Their roster is very similar to that of the Badgers. I believe the deciding factor right now is momentum. Wisconsin’s thrilling victory over Oregon has given them an abundance of confidence. Crushing Baylor only added belief that UW can make it to Arlington.
It’s the best of the West with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Should be an exciting one in Anaheim.