(4) Wisconsin vs. (5) Vanderbilt: East Region
Wisconsin 25-9, 12-6 Big Ten (At large)
Vanderbilt 25-10, 10-6 SEC (Conference Tournament Champions)
Time: 6:10 p.m. Saturday
Location: The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M.
First round results
Wisconsin def. Montana, 73-49
Vanderbilt def. Harvard, 79-70
Winner will face: (1) Syracuse or (8) Kansas State, Thursday in Boston
Wisconsin No. 14 AP; No. 13 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Vanderbilt No. 20 AP; No. 24 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Line: Vanderbilt -1 (O/U 120)
Players to Watch
Wisconsin: G Jordan Taylor, 6-1 Sr. (14.7 ppg, 4 apg, 3.7 rpg); F Ryan Evans, 6-6 Jr. (10.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.6 apg); C Jared Berggren, 6-10 Jr. (10.5 ppg, 5 rpg, 36.9% 3s). Berggren blocked seven shots in Thursday’s win over Montana after a previous career-high of five. He also added five points and three rebounds.
Vanderbilt: G John Jenkins, 6-4 Jr. (19.9 ppg, 47.8% FG, 44.8% 3s); F Jeffery Taylor, 6-7 Sr. (16.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 49.9% FG); C Festus Ezeli, 6-11 Sr. (10 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2 bpg). Jenkins brought his A-game to the tournament. He had his best scoring outburst in almost a month with a 27-point outing Thursday. He hit 7-of-12 from the field, including 3-of-8 from 3, and he made 10 of his 13 free throw attempts.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Wisconsin: The Badgers were really impressive against the Big Sky champions Thursday. They allowed Montana only 20 second-half points, went 17-for-19 from the foul line, had a 32-19 rebound advantage, blocked eight shots and assisted on 15 of their 23 field goal attempts. Wisconsin had the nation’s best scoring defense, allowing 52.9 points per game and holding opponents to 29.8 percent and only 3.5 makes from behind the 3-point line. That will be vital against the hot-shooting Commodores. The Badgers’ nine turnovers per game is second-fewest in the country.
Vanderbilt: Since struggling early, the Commodores have won eight of their last 10 games and they knocked off No. 1 Kentucky to win the SEC championship. On Thursday, Vandy hit 25 of its 46 field goal attempts, including 8-of-10 from 3. The Commodores also out-rebounded Harvard 35-22, including 10 offensive boards. For the season, they made 294 3-pointers, the fourth-best rate in the country and made 38.9 percent of them, which is 25th-best nationally. Vandy scores 35.6 percent of its points from behind the 3-point and scores 1.1 points per possession. Vandy also plays excellent field goal defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 41.8 percent overall and 30.7 from deep. The ‘Dores have held their last six opponents to 70 points or fewer.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Wisconsin: Wisconsin really struggles to score at times. The Badgers shoot just 42.4 percent from the floor. They have scored 62 points or fewer 16 times in 34 games and have shot 50 percent or better just four times in their last 30 games. Wisconsin is usually known for its rebounding, but this year’s team only out-rebounds its opponents by 2.2 per game.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores have had a tough time beating opponents’ pressure and taking care of the basketball in the halfcourt. They turn the ball over 13.2 times per game and have a negative assist-to-turnover ratio and just a plus-0.4 turnover margin. Despite having Ezeli inside, Vandy only out-rebounds opponents by 1.2 per game.
The Bottom Line: There’s not enough defense in the world to stop Jenkins, Taylor and Ezeli, and the Badgers don’t have the firepower to hang with them.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 67, Wisconsin 60
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 206-158-6 (Through Thursday, March 16)