March Madness is about a month away, but Wisconsin and Michigan, who played last Sunday at the Crisler Center, are assured of being in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, while Pittsburgh and North Carolina, who met at the Dean E. Smith Center on Saturday, should get in, but aren’t as certain.
The No. 21-ranked Badgers’ 75-62 win over the No. 15 Wolverines in a Big Ten encounter wasn’t a surprise given they are one of the most fundamentally sound teams in the nation.
Wisconsin turned the ball over only twice, shot 44.8 percent (26 of 58) from the field, and was fueled by junior power forward/center Frank Kaminsky’s 25 points and 11 rebounds.
The Wolverines (18-7 and 10-3 in conference) trailed at the intermission, 34-19, but rallied in the second half as they came within, 52-47, when sophomore small forward Glenn Robinson III (10 points and three caroms) nailed an 18-footer with 6:51 left.
That was Michigan’s last hurrah as Kaminsky scored the next seven points before Wisconsin’s junior combo guard Josh Gasser (13 points) drained a three-pointer to make it 62-51 with 3:51 showing.
From that point the Badgers (21-5 and 8-5 in conference) didn’t allow the Wolverines any big runs which they are capable of making.
“We wanted to do what we’ve been doing all year,’’ said Wisconsin Head Coach Bo Ryan at halftime. “We know what Michigan’s able to do offensively. They can score in spurts.”
The Wolverines are coming off a second-place finish to champion Louisville in the tourney and have a potent offense and stout defense, but are missing Trey Burke, who plays for the Utah Jazz and Tim Hardaway Jr., who is employed by the New York Knicks.
Michigan’s best player is sophomore shooting guard Caris LeVert, who dropped in 25 points with six rebounds, but his effort wasn’t enough.
Instead it was the Badgers who spurted to a 16-7 lead and 11:40 left, then outscored the Wolverines 10-7 over the next five-plus minutes, and 5-2 across the final three minutes and 54 seconds.
Wisconsin pulled ahead 42-26 with 15:45 remaining in the second half, but saw the Wolverines claw within 45-35 and 11:54 showing when senior power forward Jordan Morgan (five points and five boards) scored.
Unranked North Carolina’s 75-71 topping of the No. 25 Panthers in an ACC hookup came on the back of junior power forward James Michael McAdoo’s game-high 24 points and 12 rebounds.
A basket from McAdoo with 7:55 left in the opening half cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 22-21, and he later added a steal and breakaway dunk with 5:39 showing that tied it at 27-27.
The Tar Heels (17-7 and 7-4 in conference) finished with a 12-4 spurt and were led by McAdoo’s 12 points with five rebounds, while sophomore point guard Marcus Paige (18 points with four assists) had seven points.
Senior swingman Lamar Patterson tried to keep the Panthers (20-6 and 8-5 in conference) afloat as he poured in 16 points with four rebounds.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.