Here it is, the moment the Arizona Wildcats have been waiting for.
Nevermind clinching another Pac-12 title and becoming one of this NCAA tournament’s most talked about teams. This season has come down to one thing for the No.2 seed: Another crack at Wisconsin in the Elite 8.
It wasn’t even first tip of 2015’s March Madness when the possibility of a redemption run at the Badgers came up as a storyline. No massacre in Round 3 over OSU or Sweet 16 victory over Xavier was going to drown out the chance to avenge the 64-63 OT loss that Arizona suffered at the hands of Wisconsin last year.
So now the bracket junkies get their penciled-in bout, and the broadcasters get to drool over the storybook perfection of calling such a rematch. Now, Arizona has to show up, dig deep, and get the ending they want so badly down in LA on Saturday.
There’s also all that jazz about how this is the first time in over 40 years that two schools have rematched in the Elite 8 in consecutive years, but we’ll save that for the screen writers who give this the proper sports flick treatment it might deserve some day.
One piece that could work to the Wildcats’ advantage is that the Badgers haven’t exactly been winning easily since Round 2 of tourney play. The No.1 seed allowed both Oregon and UNC, respectively, to get in their kitchen and make Wisco work late to put points on the board. It’s a bit reminiscent of last year’s Elite 8 matchup–as ESPN reminds us, big man Frank Kaminsky literally carried the offense in last year’s game versus ‘zona. (Something the stud senior is surely looking to capitalize on.) Likewise, returning Wildcats Gabe York and the “shimmy master” Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will no doubt be looking to put on the show they did last year–with a different outcome, no doubt.
Now keep in mind, Arizona isn’t exactly made up of the same components as they were when they last played Wisconsin. Enter the Wildcats’ secret weapon: Stanley Johnson. The score-happy freshman and projected lottery pick could give a Badgers backcourt–that has gotten sleepy during the last couple of games–a good run for their money.
Keeping things simple and clean up front while maintaining a stout backcourt has gotten Arizona through the latter part of the regular season all the way into the NCAA tournament. No reason that can’tcontinue down at Staples Center on Saturday right?
Tip off between No.1 Wisconsin and No.2 Arizona is scheduled for 3:09pm Pacific time.
*Section Photo credit to Ethan Miller, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports