If it feels like Wisconsin and Arizona just played each other for a berth in the Final Four, it’s because they did. The Badgers and Wildcats meet in the Elite Eight for the second straight year Saturday when they face off in Los Angeles in the West Regional final. Frank Kaminsky scored 28 points – six in overtime – and added 11 rebounds as Wisconsin won last year’s matchup 64-63 to lift the Badgers to their first Final Four since 2000.
That Wisconsin team was seeded No. 2 while this year’s top-seeded Badgers return many of the same faces, including Kaminsky – the potential National Player of the Year – and versatile forwards Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes. Arizona was the No. 1 seed a year ago, while the current crop of second-seeded Wildcats is led by a new face in freshman swingman Stanley Johnson, who is surrounded by a familiar group of veterans. Arizona has not been to the Final Four since 2001, losing each of its last four trips by a total of seven points.
TV: 6:09 p.m. ET, TBS
LINE HISTORY: Books opened Wisconsin between +1 and +2, with a total of 134.
ABOUT ARIZONA (34-3 SU, 23-14 ATS, 16-21 O/U): The Wildcats carry a 14-game winning streak into Saturday as they look to build off Thursday’s 68-60 triumph versus Xavier in which T.J. McConnell posted 17 points and Kaleb Tarczewski added 12 points and 12 rebounds. “The next step is a big one,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said after his team shot 17-of-19 from the foul line while committing only eight turnovers. “The fact that we’re playing Wisconsin … it’s almost as if we had a summer to think about it, and we have to somehow make that to our advantage.” The Wildcats could benefit from more production from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who is 4-of-16 from the field over the last two games and managed only two rebounds against Xavier after averaging 10.3 boards in the previous four contests.
ABOUT WISCONSIN (34-3 SU, 19-17-1 ATS, 17-20 O/U): The Badgers outlasted North Carolina 79-72 on Thursday as Dekker scored a career-high 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. Kaminsky contributed 19 points and averages team highs of 18.4 points and 8.1 rebounds for a Wisconsin team that has scored at least 70 points in eight straight games. “These guys have been through a lot. They’ve seen the good runs. They’ve seen the bad runs,” Badgers coach Bo Ryan said to the media. “But this group never gets discouraged to the point where they get down on themselves or their teammates, and that’s what’s fun.”
*Wildcats are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 NCAA Tournament games.
*Badgers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 vs. Pacific-12.
*Under is 6-1 in Wildcats last 7 neutral site games.
*Under is 6-2 in Badgers last 8 Saturday games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Per Covers Consensus, 62 percent of wagers are on the Badgers.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Kentucky Wildcats (-11.5, 137)
If Kentucky didn’t make a big enough statement during the first 4 1/2 months of the season, Thursday’s performance put Notre Dame – and the rest of the NCAA Tournament field – on high alert. The top-seeded and undefeated Wildcats are coming off one of the most impressive wins in recent NCAA Tournament history and hope to follow up that performance when they face the Fighting Irish in Saturday’s Midwest Regional final from Cleveland. The winner of this game heads to the Final Four – a concept that is much more familiar for the Wildcats than the Irish.
Kentucky went to the Final Four in 2011, won the NCAA Tournament in 2012 and finished as the national runner-up in 2014, while Notre Dame has not reached the Final Four since 1978. The third-seeded Irish shot 75 percent in the second half in Thursday’s 81-70 victory over Wichita State – their eighth straight win. The Wildcats, of course, have won every game they have played since losing to Connecticut in last year’s title game, but few of those wins have been more impressive than Thursday’s 78-39 rout of West Virginia.
TV: 8:49 p.m. ET, TBS
LINE HISTORY: Kentucky opened at 11-point favorites before quickly moving to 11.5. The opening total of 137 has yet to move.
ABOUT NOTRE DAME (32-5 SU, 16-13 ATS, 14-13 O/U): The Irish placed four players in double figures on Thursday, led by Zach Auguste (20 points), while All-American candidate Jerian Grant chipped in nine points and 11 assists. Notre Dame is the second-best shooting team in the nation (51 percent), while five players on the team – paced by Pat Connaughton (92) – have drained at least 40 3-pointers. “I’m sure whenever it ends I’ll be able to look back and (say) it’s been an amazing season for us,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey told reporters, adding “I don’t know if we’ve had a more special season in the history of our basketball program.”
ABOUT KENTUCKY (37-0 SU, 19-16-2 ATS, 15-22 O/U): The Wildcats became the first team to ever double-up an opponent this late in the NCAA Tournament, while their 39-point margin of victory matched a Sweet 16 record and their 39 points allowed marked the fewest given up in the Sweet 16 since 1975. Trey Lyles (14 points) and Andrew Harrison (13) led five players in double figures for Kentucky, which limited West Virginia to 24.1 percent shooting. “They were what I thought they were,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins told reporters. “That’s the best defensive team I think that I’ve ever coached against. And when they’re making shots, there’s nobody going to beat them.”
*Fighting Irish are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games following a ATS win.
*Wildcats are 12-3-2 ATS in their last 17 neutral site games.
*Under is 13-3-1 in Fighting Irish last 17 NCAA Tournament games.
*Favorite is 7-0 ATS in the last 7 meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Fifty-eight percent of Covers Consensus players are on the underdog Fighting Irish.