If you trust Arizona at this point, then you’re probably already dedicated to backing them with your own Elite Eight picks but I’m just not so sure. All hope seemed lost for Arizona as San Diego State played a near perfect game…right until the very end. The Wildcats were tenacious in a comeback victory Thursday night, edging the Aztecs 70-64 in a game that only covered because of a useless foul to Nick Johnson at the very end.
Johnson was one of four double-digit scorers for Arizona, who also saw big games from Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and T.J. McConnell. All of their big guns are firing like canons and a rally against a strong defensive team like San Diego State showed that they have the guts to weather the storm which is something they hadn’t done in previous losses.
That’s probably why most handicappers will back them in their Elite Eight picks, and while I don’t agree, it’s not like the logic is flawed. Arizona is a long team with superior athletes that’s finally displaying the never-say-die attitude that you need to become a national champion. They’re also one of the best, outright defensive teams in the league. As has always been the case, there’s a lot to like with the Arizona Wildcats.
However, there is a ton to appreciate about the Wisconsin Badgers as well. Facing a talented and momentum churning squad from Baylor, Wisconsin proved that its top-notch defense was no outlier. They shut down Baylor and limited them to just 31.6 percent shooting. There is nothing that says they can’t do that against Arizona, whose backcourt struggled mightily against San Diego State on Thursday night.
Wisconsin’s big dog is Frank Kaminsky, who dominated the paint against Baylor’s Austin and Jefferson while scoring 19 points and hauling in 4 rebounds. He’s a hug reason why Wisconsin deserves your attention in Elite Eight picks. Kaminsky’s uncanny at effecting shots from the interior, and has tussled with lots of big men throughout the season. Aaron Gordon is undeniably great, but Kaminsky is vastly underrated for how he uses his big body to disrupt the opposition. I wouldn’t bet on Arizona just because of Aaron Gordon with Kaminsky in the picture.
If you haven’t seen Wisconsin coming, don’t feel bad. There’s really nothing from their season that says that they’d be this good. Sure, they demolished American by +40.0 points, but who cared about that, right? They withstood a fantastic performance from Oregon and won cleanly 85-77 and just throttled Baylor by +17 points. By now you should appreciate just how good Wisconsin actually is.
I am still petrified by Arizona’s apparent vulnerability to upsets. The difference between San Diego State and Wisconsin is on offence. Even while the Aztecs were doing a masterful job of containing Arizona’s attack, they couldn’t get away on the scoreboard. At the half, the Wildcats were down by just -4.0 points. That’s kind of ridiculous. Wisconsin won’t make that same type of error. They will milk each possession for whatever it’s worth and generate points just like they’ve done this entire NCAA Tournament.
If you need to understand just how amazing Wisconsin is, just look at the line. Arizona is one of the biggest public teams we’ve seen in March Madness. If they were really that much better than Wisconsin, it would show in the spread. The three points they’re currently getting is a likely market inflation stemming from their popularity. So go against the grain in your Elite Eight picks and read between the lines. Wisconsin is the play in the West Final.
And no, I can’t believe it either.
My Elite Eight Winning Pick is Wisconsin at +3.0 and the UNDER