OMAHA, NE - MARCH 22:  Frank Kaminsky #44 of the Wisconsin Badgers is defended by Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks in the first half during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the CenturyLink Center on March 22, 2015 in Omaha, Nebraska.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Badgers Basketball Preview: Sweet 16 vs. North Carolina edition

The Matchup: #1 Wisconsin (33-3) vs. #5 North Carolina (26-9)
When: Thursday, March 26; 6:45pm CT
Where: Staples Center (19,079) - Los Angeles, Calif.
TV: TBS
Radio: Badgers Sports Network
Last Meeting: UNC won, 60-57 (11/30/11) in Chapel Hill, N.C.
All-Time Series: UNC leads, 2-0

North Carolina

G Marcus Paige - Jr. (14.1 ppg, 4.5 apg)
G/F J.P. Tokoto - Jr. (8.4 ppg, 4.3 apg)
F Justin Jackson - Fr. (10.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
F Brice Johnson - Jr. (12.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg)
F Isaiah Hicks - So. (6.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg)
or
C Joel James - Jr. (2.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg)

Wisconsin

G Bronson Koenig - So. (8.6 ppg, 2.4 apg)
G Josh Gasser - Sr. (6.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
F Sam Dekker - Jr. (13.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
F Nigel Hayes - So. (12.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg)
C Frank Kaminsky - Sr. (18.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg)

 

Biggest Matchup: Frank Kaminsky vs. Isaiah Hicks

OMAHA, NE - MARCH 22: Frank Kaminsky #44 of the Wisconsin Badgers reacts during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the CenturyLink Center on March 22, 2015 in Omaha, Nebraska  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

OMAHA, NE - MARCH 22: Frank Kaminsky #44 of the Wisconsin Badgers reacts during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at the CenturyLink Center on March 22, 2015 in Omaha, Nebraska (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Length is the thing that makes North Carolina so dangerous. How do you combat length? With a 7-foot center who can bring the ball outside and take a defender off the dribble all in the same possession. Frank Kaminsky is usually a good bet to be an important player for the Badgers, but in this matchup his role will be crucial.

If he can get Hicks away from the hoop from time to time and also become a facilitator the Badgers are going to be in business.

Defensively, Kaminsky needs to be more of a shot-blocking force down low against Hicks and that hasn’t been his strongest suit this season. The rebounding matchup between the two will also be telling about how this matchup will go.

 

3 Numbers to Know:

- 18.5: That’s junior forward Sam Dekker’s points per game average in the NCAA tournament. When the Badgers have needed him the most, aka this tournament season, he’s shown up in the way most would love to see from him night in and night out.

- 88-82: Wisconsin and North Carolina met in the 2005 Elite Eight, and the Tar Heels beat UW by a very narrow margin.

- 21.5: Dekker’s number is great, but Kaminsky is in the top 5 of scoring in the NCAA tournament with his 21.5 points per game average.

 

Prediction: Wisconsin 85, North Carolina 69

It’s tempting to think of the bubble bursting for the Badgers in this matchup, but there is one thing that will save Wisconsin — it’s physicality. Look for the Badgers to slow down UNC’s pace by getting to the line early, often and over and over again throughout the night. The ability to not allow the Tar Heels to get in to any rhythm will make all the difference.

Either Wisconsin flames out or they catch fire and this game won’t even be close. I’m betting on the latter happening and that sets Wisconsin up to #MakeEmBelieve.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10.com

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