In an NCAA Tournament that featured plenty of upsets throughout the early rounds, the West Regional featured very few. Only two lower seeded teams won throughout all of the regional play, resulting in the only region with the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds playing for an opportunity to go to the Final Four. In the process, Arizona and Wisconsin delivered yet another March Madness classic, with the Badgers knocking off the one-seeded Wildcats, 64-63 in overtime.
The catalyst for Wisconsin in the game was forward Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky picked up a foul less than 30 seconds into the game, which in college is potentially disastrous with five resulting in a disqualification. He was able to stay out of foul trouble for almost the rest of the half, scoring eight points and pulling down six rebounds until picking up his second foul with 1:34 left in the first half.
After halftime is when Kaminsky began to dominate. In the second half and overtime he poured in 20 points and grabbed another five rebounds. Kaminsky hurt them from the outside, connecting on 3-5 from behind the three point line. Arizona head coach Sean Miller then decided to switch to a smaller lineup, as 7-foot center Kaleb Tarczewski was unable to stay in front of the quicker Kaminsky.
With the change, Kaminsky took his domination to the paint. He kept possessions alive throughout the game with seven offensive rebounds, and was able to score easy baskets over smaller opponents. Kaminsky’s versatility on the offensive end was un-guardable for Arizona. He finished the game with 28 points and 11 rebounds. Wisconsin is now 12-1 on the season when Kaminsky scores at least 15 points in a game.
One of those smaller opponents that Kaminsky was able to pick apart in the interior was highly heralded freshman Aaron Gordon. Gordon was unable to match Kaminsky’s size and strength in the paint, and it appeared to frustrate him at times. Gordon shot poorly from the field, starting the game 0-9 before making his last three shots of the game. He was a monster on the glass however, pulling down 18 rebounds but his lack of a scoring punch hurt the Wildcats.
While Kaminsky raised his game to another level to carry his team to victory, the backcourt duo of T.J. McConnell and Nick Johnson were unable to do the same for their team. The tandem shot an ugly 8-27 combined from the field, making it difficult for Arizona’s big men to score inside with the Badgers able to slump off the struggling perimeter players.
For Wisconsin, this is the first trip they will be making with underrated head coach Bo Ryan to the Final Four. Ryan has changed the playing style of his Badgers team and it has paid off. They are still deliberate, but they playing with deadly precision and can still play lockdown defense. Ryan will be sure to have this team ready to play, even though no one involved has been apart of something with this magnitude.
Wisconsin matches up well with the remaining teams in the field, already defeating Florida, Michigan State and Michigan this season. They possess the type of defensive pressure that can cause problems for a young Kentucky team that is without a true point guard. Do not be surprised to see Wisconsin not only playing in the championship game, but taking home the championship trophy as well.