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Arizona vs. Wisconsin: Previewing the Badgers with Bucky's 5th Quarter

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Let's get to know Wisconsin better from Wisconsin people

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Chances are, if you are a fan of the Arizona Wildcats, you are vaguely familiar with the Wisconsin Badgers, because, well, you know.

But let's get to know the Badgers a little better before Saturday afternoon's game from someone who watches them all the time, Phil Mitten of Bucky's 5th Quarter.

1. What's the biggest difference between last year's Wisconsin team and this year's?

Phil: The team is very similar, but the maturation of the sophomores has been huge. Six-foot-8 forward Nigel Hayes has added a deadly three-point shot and improved his free throw shooting dramatically, and by this point in the season, those two things have really filled the void left by Ben Brust. With Hayes playing more minutes, it makes Wisconsin much more imposing inside physically and strategically. The reliance on Bronson Koenig's development was more of a surprise, but he has been very efficient and shows the same tenacity in big moments that Traevon Jackson did.

Finally, Sam Dekker wilted a bit in March last year, but he is getting his alpha dog legs under him right now. With all the attention on Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin now boasts a second guy that can will himself to a good look when the defense is clamping down.

2. Is there any chance Wisconsin throws a zone at Arizona?

Phil: Absolutely zero chance. It's not in Bo Ryan's DNA.

3. How do you think Brandon Ashley's presence in this year's meeting impacts what Wisconsin tries to do on both ends?

Phil: I'm no expert on the Wildcats, but the perception is that Aaron Gordon was a much better defender than Ashley and the combination of Gordon and Kaleb Tarczewski could not contain Frank Kaminsky very well last time. So defensively, Ashley is a bit of a wild card. He does have the athleticism and length to follow Kaminsky anywhere on the court; the tricky part is when Frank gets his man moving on the dribble and starts spinning and shot-faking on the move. Can Ashley anticipate that and use his physical gifts to stonewall him? Offensively, Ashley is a good, high-usage scorer inside that brings balance to Arizona's offense, but I don't think he forces the Badgers to do anything differently.

4. Who's one of the guys that doesn't put up all the numbers that Arizona fans should watch out for?

Phil: Josh Gasser would be the ultimate "player who doesn't put up numbers." He's a fifth-year senior, the heart and soul of the team, who is capable of hitting timely daggers (37.7% on threes this season, 39.7% for his career). Gasser had a great game defensively against Marcus Paige and he's a guy who would be equally excited to guard T.J. McConnell or take a stab at Stanley Johnson. Neutralizing McConnell in particular could be huge.

Opponents don't fear Gasser, but he's the guy that you come away from the game shaking your head about that one shot (or the perfect pass for someone's key shot) and that loose ball where Gasser made a play. With such a classic matchup across the respective frontlines of these two teams, guard play could be the difference.

5. Prediction?

Phil: To be honest, I have Arizona advancing in my bracket and that is still my gut feeling. It's hard to shake the feeling that Wisconsin was a Final Four team of destiny last year and this super-talented Arizona team might be a tad hungrier this year. It could just be the Wildcats' year. But it would be foolish to underestimate those players in Wisconsin's locker room. It's been hard to watch the Badgers' will to win late in games and think they are not supremely driven to get that dream rematch with Kentucky. In a close game, the Badgers have so many "outs" -- like a good hand in poker. So, as a guest in the desert, I'm going with my heart, not my gut: Wisconsin "upsets" Arizona, 65-63.

Thanks to Phil for the time, and be sure to check out Bucky's 5th Quarter for all your Wisconsin needs!