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Sweet 16 Preview: No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Baylor

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On Wednesday and Thursday, we will be breaking down all eight of the Sweet 16 matchups. Here is our look at No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Baylor:

RELATED: Sweet 16 Power Rankings | Top 16 Players | Eight Critical Individual Matchups

WHEN: Thursday, 7:47 p.m.

WHERE: Honda Center, Anaheim (West Region)

MAJOR STORY LINES: Scott Drew in a running joke in basketball circles. The majority of basketball fans out there believe that he is nothing more than a recruiter, a guy that reins in tons of talent and can only do so much with it. Bo Ryan, on the other hand, in universally lauded as being one of college basketball’s most brilliant minds, an exceptional talent evaluator that develops players to fit his system. Here’s something to think about, however: If Drew wins, he’ll lead Baylor to their third Elite 8 in the last five years, and he’ll have done it with a team whose three leading scorers are a pair of three-star recruits, one of whom is a fifth-year senior, and a JuCo point guard that couldn’t get a scholarship coming out of high school. Bo Ryan has been to one Elite 8 in his 13 seasons as the head coach at Wisconsin.

KEY STATS: Baylor ranks third nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, grabbing 40.6% of their misses while 10.1% of their offensive possessions end with a putback around the rim, according to Synergy. That ranks in the top ten nationally. In layman’s terms, Baylor typically feasts on the offensive glass. Wisconsin ranked 11th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage, allowing opponents to grab just 27.0% of their missed shots. Something’s gotta give.

SWEET 16 PREVIEWSDayton-Stanford | Florida-UCLA | Arizona-San Diego State

Iowa State-UConn | Michigan-Tennessee | Virginia-Michigan State | Louisville-Kentucky

KEY PLAYERS: Wisconsin’s front line of Sam Dekker, Nigel Hayes and Frank Kaminsky will be the key to breaking down Baylor’s zone from the inside, especially if the Bears defend the three-point line the same way they did against Creighton (more on that below). Offensively for Baylor, their sparkplug the past month has been Kenny Chery. He averaged 15.2 points and 5.6 assists the 11 games prior to the NCAA tournament and, after battling foul trouble in the opener against Nebraska, had 14 points and hit four early threes to help spark the rout of Creighton.

POINT SPREAD: Wisconsin (-3.5)


1. Baylor’s zone: The Bears shut down Creighton in the Round of 32 thanks to a small tweak in their zone. They didn’t slough off of the three-point line whatsoever, allowing Creighton into the paint and daring them to try to score over 7-foot-1 Isaiah Austin. Wisconsin has an offense reliant on the three-ball, and while it’s not as skewed as Creighton’s was, keep an eye on how the Bears defend.

2. Does Wisconsin go big?: Ben Brust, Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser all average at least 31 minutes for Wisconsin, and all three are guards 6-foot-3 or shorter. Add in Dekker, a small forward that stands 6-foot-7, and the Badgers have four perimeter players that play the majority of the minutes. Will the Bears force the Badgers to use Hayes and Kaminsky at the same time to deal with their front court?

3. Baylor’s shooters: The Bears are one of the best three-point shooting teams left in the tournament, hitting 38.6% from beyond the arc. One of the keys to Wisconsin’s defense is to chase shooters off of the three-point line. How many open looks will Brady Heslip and company get?


POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.