The 9th-seeded Wisconsin basketball team opens up its NCAA Tournament with 8th-seed North Carolina. The game has been slated to take place in Mackey Area, yes that Mackey Arena where the Badgers are 4-42 all-time. Luckily for them, they don’t have to play Purdue there. So maybe it will give them an advantage having played there before?
The game will tip-off on Friday evening at 6:10 PM CT on CBS.
A quick look at North Carolina’s season
The Tar Heels enter the NCAA Tournament with an 18-10 record and made it to the ACC Tournament semifinals. The Tar Heels are 6-3, including losses to both Iowa (80-93) and Marquette (70-83), two teams the Wisconsin basketball team has also played and lost to. According to Keeping it Heel’s site expert, Blake Cockrum, the Tar Heels have had a very up and down season, like Wisconsin.
They started the season ranked 16th and moved up to as high as 14 before falling out of the polls by December 28th.
The Heels were 26th in strength of schedule a 3-9 record in Quad 1 games. The ACC may not be as deep or talented as the Big Ten, but there are still some tough opponents. The Heels also played Texas as a part of their non-conference schedule, losing to the Longhorns by just two points.
Since their surprising loss to Marquette, the Heels are 4-2 in their last six games, including wins over #11 Florida St. and #22 Virginia Tech. They also defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 101-59 in the ACC Tournament.
North Carolina lost to Florida St. by just three points in the ACC Tournament semifinals. It feels like this team is starting to heat up at the right time. Unfortunately for both the North Carolina and Wisconsin basketball teams, the winner will likely take on Baylor, who spent a majority of the season as the #2 team in the country.
What Wisconsin basketball must do to win
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard that North Carolina is the top offensive rebounding team in the country and one of the tops in rebounding overall. This is where the Wisconsin basketball team needs to start.
Despite having Potter and Reuvers, the Badgers give up 8.3 offensive boards per game. North Carolina averages 15.9 per game. They are going to crash the boards hard and the Badgers need to be able to box out give the Tar Heels one shot per possession.
It’s easy to feel like the Badgers have been bad shooting from three this season, but North Carolina has been much worse. Wisconsin is shooting 36% from deep, averaging 8.6 made threes per game on 23.8 attempts per game. North Carolina is shooting just 31.7% from long range, making 5.6 shots and attempting just 17.7 per game.
This is a team that would rather score on the inside rather than from the outside. For that Badgers, that could be bad news. Teams that score a lot on the inside with their bigs have given the Badgers fits this year. Luka Garza and Kofi Cockburn pretty much did whatever they wanted this year against the Badgers in the post. Defending the paint should be priority number one for the Badgers. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gard decides to pack the paint a little more and dare the Tar Heels to score from outside.
I think the big thing that North Carolina has on Wisconsin is their rebounding. I’m sure the Badgers have heard nonstop about the Tar Heels’ ability to get offensive boards. Micah Potter has already talked about it in interviews he has done, so I think it’s safe to assume Wisconsin will be focusing on getting defensive rebounds and not allowing second-chance points.
As bad as it feels Wisconsin has been shooting the ball this year from outside, North Carolina has been worse. I think if the Badgers can protect the paint and force North Carolina to shoot from the outside, they will have a good shot at winning this game.
I think Wisconsin controls the pace of the game and makes this one ugly, pulling out a win in the round of 64 and moving on to face Baylor in the round of 32.
Wisconsin 68 – North Carolina 63