The Baylor Bears will play the Wisconsin Badgers in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament on Sunday. Here is a preview of the game.
No. 1 Baylor (23-2) vs. No. 9 Wisconsin (18-12), 1:40 p.m. CT, Sunday, TV: CBS
Location: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
National rankings: Baylor: No. 3 (AP), No. 3 (USA Today); Wisconsin: Not ranked.
Path to March Madness: Baylor: At-large berth (lost in Big 12 Tournament semifinals); Wisconsin: at-large berth (lost in the Big Ten Conference Tournament quarterfinals).
NCAA Tournament history: Baylor and Wisconsin met in the 2014 Sweet 16, with the Badgers winning, 69-52, on their way to the Final Four.
2021 NCAA Tournament Results: Baylor: def. Hartford, 79-55; Wisconsin: def. North Carolina, 85-62.
Winner faces: North Texas or Villanova in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament next week.
Projected starting lineups
Baylor: G Jared Butler, G Davion Mitchell, G MaCio Teague, G Mark Vital, F Flo Thamba.
Wisconsin: G D’Mitrick Trice, G Aleem Ford, F Tyler Wahl, G Brad Davison, F Nate Reuvers.
Player to watch
Baylor: MaCio Teague. Teague has been overshadowed the past four to six weeks of this season, thanks to Jared Butler’s push for national player of the year and the rise of Davion Mitchell, who was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. But ignore Teague at your own peril. Against Hartford he led the Bears with 22 points, along with four rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot. He was 4-of-8 from the 3-point line. Teague has put up big numbers lately, scoring 35 points against Texas Tech on March 7 and 24 points against Kansas State on March 11. As evidenced by his 10-of-12 shooting from the 3-point line against Tech, Teague is capable of getting hot at a moment’s notice. He’s also a quality defender and he’s peaking at the right time.
Wisconsin: Brent Davison. He is one of the most experienced Badgers on the roster, and part of six seniors on the roster. He took over against North Carolina in the first round. He scored 29 points on 10-of-15 shooting (including five 3-pointers), in that runaway victory. Davison will be playing in his 128th game for the Badgers on Sunday, and he’s played in every single game he’s been eligible to play in (and he’s played in 123 straight). Entering the Tournament, Davison was averaging 9.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.3 assists. But he picked a great time to put up his season high in points.
Right now in the NCAA Tournament
Baylor: The Bears have now won six of their last eight games since they returned from their long COVID-19 pause, and are past the first round of the NCAA Tournament for their third straight appearance. I think the Hartford game helped Baylor wipe the taste of that loss to Oklahoma State out of its collective mouths. They played well overall, they made sure Hartford didn’t get much hope after the first 10 minutes, and the starters got plenty of rest (and it may be the only time head coach Scott Drew has that luxury in this tournament). Davion Mitchell (12 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals) and Jared Butler (13 points, four rebounds, nine assists, five steals) had great overall games. Adam Flagler (12 points, three 3-pointers) was a sparkplug off the bench, as was Matthew Mayer (eight points, nine rebounds). I mean, this is what we expect from Baylor at this point. And this sets them up for a potentially deep run.
Wisconsin: The Badgers finished in a tie for sixth place in the Big Ten regular season standing and couldn’t get out of the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. And, entering the Big Ten Tournament the Badgers had no momentum, as they had lost five of their last six games. But, to be fair, all five of those losses came to ranked teams in the Big Ten — Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Purdue, and Iowa. So the win over North Carolina was telling. The Badgers’ last win over a ranked team came on Dec. 31 against then-No. 21 Minnesota. Since then, the Badgers’ nine wins have come against unranked teams (including UNC). Despite that, the Badgers are in the Top 35 in both offensive and defensive efficiency in the KenPom rankings, and the roster is incredibly experienced. Trice was the only starter averaging double figures going into the Tournament, with 13.7 points per game to earn Third-Team All-Big Ten honors. Against the Tar Heels, the Badgers shot 50 percent from the floor and 48 percent from the 3-point line, so they’re capable of overwhelming an opponent offensively.
Baylor. The fact that the Badgers haven’t beaten a ranked team since Dec. 31, especially in a conference as deep as the Big Ten in terms of ranked teams, is telling to me that there’s a gap between the Bears and Badgers. Wisconsin’s experience overall will help. The Badgers aren’t going to get rattled by an early barrage of scoring by the Bears. The Bears were playing a No. 16 seed, but they played a quality game and looked like themselves. This will naturally be a much closer game, but the Bears should take this win and move on to the Sweet 16.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard
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