By Charlie Perry, @CharlieHPerry
(Omaha, NE) – No. 1 seed Wisconsin will take on No. 8 seed Oregon to determine who advances to the Sweet 16 this evening at the Centurylink Center downtown Omaha. Wisconsin handled (16) Coastal Carolina 86-72 in Round 1 and the Ducks downed Oklahoma State 79-73 in a close contest Friday night to set up a rematch of last year’s West region second round matchup where the Badgers overcame a double digit lead late to overcome the Ducks 85-77. This game looks to be different than last year’s match up however. There are 3 things to be aware of when you turn on the television tonight.
- Bronson Koenig VS. Joseph Young
Bronson Koenig (Ho-Chunk Nation) has had a very productive season after taking over for Traevon Jackson at the mid-season mark for Wisconsin. He will match up against Oregon’s star, senior point guard, Joseph Young who is hungry for redemption after last year’s loss to the Badgers.
Wisconsin center Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky is confident Koenig will rise to the occasion, “Bronson is a great basketball player; we all knew that when he first got there. We all knew what he was capable of. He showed us every day in practice, so when he was finally given that chance to go out there and start and play the majority of minutes, we all expected a lot out of him, and he answered every call we had for him. So we have a lot of faith in Bronson, and he’s done really well for us.
Badgers Head Coach Bo Ryan is confident Koenig will handle business as well, “What Bronson has done, I don’t think anyone could have expected. It has been remarkable, and I don’t know how much outside people understand what he’s accomplished at this point, but we certainly do. The guys believe in him. He hasn’t changed expression; he’s on a mission to help this team as much as he can. And, you know, Trae is one of those guys that talks to him, also, and helps him out, but he’s — Bronson Koenig is going to be a guard that the country, if they haven’t figured it out already, they will know in the next couple of years how good he is.
The Badgers are also very aware of the impact Joseph Young for Oregon is capable of having on this matchup. Coach Ryan predicts Wisconsin will have their hands full with Young, “If he comes out of his shoe; if he does something on his own, where he doesn’t play as well, but that’s not going to happen. So no, I mean, he’s going to get shots; he’s going to get points. He’s going to involve other people. He’s just a real, good player, a very good player, because he makes other people around him better, too.”
- The Rematch
Wisconsin played Oregon in the second round of last year’s NCAA tournament. The eventually downed the Ducks 85-77, leading to a victory that eventually helped propel them to a Final Four berth. Wisconsin feature a number of the same players from last year’s Final Four team. On the other hand Oregon comes into the contest with a predominately new group of players.
Joseph Young is confident in the Ducks ability to compete, “Look, we’re very confident. It’s a new team that’s coming in; and like I said, just us just getting together and being more focused and dialed in to what Coach got to say. We the vets; we played them last year. Great team, great players on that team, and they’re very smart. So we just got to listen to Coach and really be dialed in and be focused on what the game plan is.
Young went on to discusses the differences in this year’s Ducks team from the previous year, “From last year to this year, I feel like this team has a lot more toughness and a lot more heart, even though last year’s team was pretty good. Felt like we gave up on some plays last year; we didn’t play the whole 40 minutes. And I feel like this team is more active and more ready to play and ready to dive on the floor and make them extra plays and, you know, I really commend this team for really being the best we can be, you know.”
Wisconsin Center “Frank the Tank” Kaminsky knows a victory won’t come easy against the Ducks, “Well, we played them last year, and if you remember back to last year, we were fighting to get back into that game after giving them a pretty big lead, so we understand how good they are and we understand how good the players on their team can be when you let them go out there and play freely, so we understand that we have to come out and play our best basketball if we want to beat them.
Coach Ryan for Wisconsin has noticed a spark in Oregon’s play coming into Omaha, “Dana has worked some magic with the way he has ’em playing defense. They’re doing some things, doing more of one thing as opposed to another, and it seems like they’re lying on each other and picking up for one another. That’s when you know you got a pretty good team. That’s how they’re playing right now. The hot teams are continuing to play, and they didn’t back their way in here. They really came into the NCAA Tournament on fire. So offensively, they’ve got three, four guys that can score from a lot of different places and score on anybody. They have proven scorers besides Young and that makes ’em tough. If you only have one or two guys that are scoring, that’s one thing, but they have a lot of guys that can fill it up; and they had a lot of guys last year that could fill it up.”
- How does Oregon stop Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky?
Big Ten Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky can virtually do it all. At 7 feet Frank “The Tank” can; play inside, grab rebounds, and shoot the long ball. Young commented on Kaminsky’s game, “ He’s a great all-around player. He can really spread the floor, shoot the ball well, good inside, make the right plays, smart player. And we just got to do a good job on him. Really the game plan is for Coach whatever he has for us. We just got to be really confident in our coaching staff and in our team to get the job done; and really, he’s a good player.”
Coach Altman for Oregon is well aware of Kaminsky’s multifaceted game, “Frank definitely has made great strides, even from a year ago. Watching last year’s film and now watching him this year, he’s a unique player at 7-foot being able to shoot the three, put the ball on the floor. His footwork, his balance is really good for a 7-footer. I love the way he puts the ball on the floor and drives it. I’m sure Coach Ryan does also. He’s just a unique problem. He can post up, gets his baskets in a lot of different ways, so if you try going big with a defender, he just takes ’em outside. You put a smaller guy on him, he puts the ball on the floor and goes post-up and gives you problems there. So unique match-up, tough match-up. I guess that’s why he’s Player of the Year and been a tough match-up for everybody.
Altman went on to say, “Tomorrow’s game presents a great challenge for our team. Wisconsin probably the best offensive team that we have seen this year. Really impressed with their ball movement; their efficiency on the offensive end creates big challenge for us defensively. So we’ve got our work cut out for us, but our guys are excited about the challenge and the opportunity.”
(1)Wisconsin takes on (8) Oregon with both looking to advance to the Sweet 16 in Los Angeles. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:45 P.M. CDT. The game can be seen live on TruTV.