South Region First Round Prediction & Free Pick: #5 Wisconsin vs. #12 Oregon

Date | AuthorJonathan Willis

Last Updated: 2019-03-21

Not a lot of people have faith in the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin is the No. 5 seed that many are picking to go down this year, and we have seen at least one No. 5 seed lose in nine of the last 11 seasons. There have been three seasons (2009, 2013, and 2014) where three No. 12 seeds rose up to knock off a No. 5 seed, so the potential is certainly there for the Madness to start early. The No. 12 Oregon Ducks will look to get it done in this South Region First Round tilt.

This is one of the lowest spreads we have seen in recent memory for a 5-12 match-up. #5 Wisconsin is only a two-point favorite over #12 Oregon, and the total is the lowest of any first round game with an over/under of 116.5. This South Region First Round game at the SAP Center in San Jose, California is the second game of the day and will tip off around 4:30 p.m. ET on TBS. The winner will face either Kansas State or UC Irvine on Sunday.

Tournament History

Wisconsin has won four national championships, but three of them were more than 100 years ago and the fourth was in the middle of World War II. The Badgers had a 47-year drought between tournament appearances from 1947 to 1994, but this program has been rejuvenated over the last quarter-century. Wisconsin went to back-to-back Final Fours in 2014 and 2015 and beat a previously undefeated Kentucky team in 2015 to reach the championship game. There, they lost to Duke, and they haven’t been further than the Sweet Sixteen since that loss.

Oregon doesn’t have the same number of successful seasons as Wisconsin, but its program has followed a very similar path. The Ducks won a national championship in 1939, yet they went 34 years between tournament appearances from 1961 to 1995. It took them a little longer to have real success at the NCAA Tournament, and they have now made the Elite Eight four times in the last two decades. Oregon reached the Final Four as a No. 3 seed in 2017 and almost beat eventual champion North Carolina in the National Semifinal before losing a 77-76 thriller.

How They Got Here

The only way that Oregon could have made it here after an up-and-down season in the dreadful PAC 12 was by winning the conference tournament. That’s exactly what the Ducks did. Oregon was 15-12 in late February, yet the Ducks went on a tear over the last month of the season by beating the Arizona schools and the Washington schools to close out the regular season. In the conference tournament, Oregon won four games and four days and beat both Arizona State and Washington again to punch their ticket.

The Badgers were in after they went on a six-game conference winning streak that included victories over Michigan, Maryland, and Minnesota over a three-week stretch. They weren’t too impressive down the stretch though, with just one double-digit victory to their credit (albeit over Iowa), and they could have lost to Illinois, Northwestern, Penn State, and Nebraska.

Preview

Defense. Defense. Defense. If you’re watching this one, that’s what you are going to notice the most. Wisconsin has the third-best defense in the country according to Ken Pomeroy. The Badgers’ effective field goal percentage on defense is 44.8 percent, and they do a very good job of defending the perimeter and the paint.

Oregon has not been as sharp on defense over the course of the season, but the Ducks turned it up a notch down the stretch. They allowed 54 points or less in six of their last games and closed down on three-point shooters very quickly to contest their looks.

The other thing you will notice is that these teams play at a glacial pace. Both teams are in the bottom 25 in terms of tempo, and they hold the ball for long stretches. That will make every possession even more important than usual.

Pick: Oregon +2

History has told us that teams that closed out the season strong typically do well in the tournament. Oregon put it all together just at the right time, and I think the Ducks will reap the rewards here. Neither team shoots well, and I think this game is a coin flip. In that instance, I’ll take the underdog.

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