Daily Word: Challenges facing 1-seeds UF, Zona
Every day, Andy Katz leads a panel of our college hoops experts in a discussion of the biggest issues, trends and themes happening in and around college basketball.
1. Baylor is 24th in the nation in rebounding; Wisconsin is 261st. Can the Badgers handle the Bears' front line?
Andy Katz: That's the toughest chore for Wisconsin. Baylor has tremendous length and can disrupt an offense quite effectively. Keeping Baylor off the backboard or preventing alley-oops will be a tough task, but Wisconsin has a week to prep for Baylor's zone, and the Badgers should make it moot in stretches.
C.L. Brown: All rebounds are not equal. The Badgers don't generate a lot of points from putbacks, so they can still win the game if they don't get offensive rebounds. The key will come on defense. Wisconsin has to keep Baylor, especially Cory Jefferson, off the offensive boards.
Eamonn Brennan: Those numbers are a little bit deceptive. When we adjust for pace, the Bears are a great offensive rebounding team -- they grab more than 40 percent of their misses, third-highest in the country -- that doesn't check its own back line well in the 1-3-1 zone. Wisconsin holds opponents to just 27 percent on the offensive glass, 13th-best in the country. The Badgers might not be as far behind in this regard as the raw rebounding rankings show, but the point is still well-taken: The Bears' length is a nightmare in a variety of ways, and if they create second chances against Wisconsin, Bo Ryan's team could have a tough night.
2. Nobody has beaten Florida since UConn did it Dec. 2. What's the one vital area in which UCLA must succeed if it wants to snap the Gators' streak?
Katz: The Bruins must get the game going up and down. Florida can run and can finish, but running too much might play to UCLA's advantage. The Gators need to dictate tempo.
Brown: Get bench production. UCLA's top reserves -- freshmen Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford and sophomore Tony Parker -- have to provide solid minutes. LaVine and Alford, in particular, must stay poised handling the ball against the Gators' press.
Brennan: Simply put: UCLA has to make shots. The Bruins' offense is so good not because it forces contact or bangs down low but because it doesn't turn the ball over and it shoots high rates from everywhere. It will have to do both to hang with Florida for 40 minutes.
3. Arizona's Nick Johnson versus San Diego State's Xavier Thames: Who you got?
Katz: Thames can, and likely will, produce more than Johnson, but Johnson has better supporting talent and is likelier to be in a position to make a big shot. I'll lean Johnson with the win.
Brown: Both will put up numbers -- Johnson scored 23 in the first meeting, while Thames scored 19. The difference is Thames absolutely has to have a good game for San Diego State to win. Johnson does not. I'll stick with the guy who'll have the greater sense of urgency, and that's Thames.
Brennan: Can I take Thames individually and Arizona communally? Thames' individual shot-making and pick-and-roll ballhandling is insanely good, enough to carry the offensive load on a defense-first, three-loss Aztecs team. But Johnson is the better defender, and his team is better at smothering opposing guards as a group, which is why Arizona is the favorite.
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They've done it by getting out in transition, in which they outscored the Buckeyes by eight and Syracuse by five. They also like to do their damage outside the paint, which presents an interesting contrast to their next opponent, the Stanford Cardinal.
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Stanford's inside strength clashes with Dayton's transition game in Memphis. Stanford doesn't make things easy defensively. To this point, the Cardinal have allowed the lowest field goal percentage of any team in the tournament.
Wisconsin has been a second-half team, having started slow against both American and Oregon but bouncing back each time to outscore them by a combined 50 points in the second half. How will the Badgers handle Baylor's zone?
Florida has had UCLA's number in the tournament, compiling a 3-0 record. The Gators beat the Bruins in the 2006 national championship game, the 2007 national semifinal and the 2011 second round. Can Steve Alford change the Bruins' luck?
This is a rematch of a Nov. 14 game that Arizona narrowly won on the road. Arizona's stout defense held the Aztecs to 36 percent shooting. Expect more defense here, as both teams rank in the top five in fewest points allowed per 100 possessions.