NCAA tournament preview: West Regional matchups

Xavier Thames
San Diego State guard Xavier Thames drives against North Dakota State guard Kory Brown in third-round game of the NCAA tournament on Saturday in Spokane.
(Steve Dykes / Getty Images)

No. 1 Arizona (32-4) vs. No. 4 San Diego State (31-4)Thursday, 7:17 p.m. TV: TBS.

Update: This has been some rebuilding season for San Diego State, which was supposed to fall back after losing stars James Franklin and Chase Tapley. The Aztecs won the Mountain West Conference regular-season title after being picked to finish fourth. Senior guard Xavier Thames has been the catalyst in the team’s second Sweet 16 appearance in school history. In wins over New Mexico State and North Dakota State, Thames had 53 points and only four turnovers in 78 minutes. Thames is surrounded by players who struggle to score but play outstanding defense. Dwayne Polee II, the Mountain West’s sixth man of the year, did not play (coach’s decision) in San Diego State’s nine-point loss to Arizona this season. Polee had 15 points and six rebounds in each of San Diego State’s wins at theSpokane subregional. Top-seeded Arizona advanced out of the San Diego subregional with easy wins against Weber State and Gonzaga. The Wildcats have adjusted to the season-ending injury to forward Brandon Ashley by going to a smaller lineup. The Wildcats play ferocious defense and have five players averaging double figures in scoring, led by guard Nick Johnson (17.5) and freshman forward Aaron Gordon (17.0).


No. 2 Wisconsin (28-7) vs. No. 6 Baylor (26-11)


Thursday, 4:47 p.m. TV: TBS.

Update: It’s hard to believe the Bears advanced to the round of 16 after a 2-8 start in Big 12 Conference action, which just goes to show how much the regular season means. Baylor opened NCAA play by easily dispatching Nebraska and Creighton. Baylor’s length and athleticism helped hold Creighton’s Doug McDermott to 12 points below his 27-points-per-game season average. Creighton shot only 40% in a 30-point loss. Baylor is huge on the front line with 7-1 center Isaiah Austin and 6-10 forward Cory Jefferson and will be tough to beat if guards Brady Heslip and Kenny Chery repeat their Creighton production, when they combined to make nine of 12 three-pointers. Wisconsin has reached the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years under Coach Bo Ryan. This is not Ryan’s best defensive team by a stretch, but it is much better offensively. The Badgers have won this season scoring 48 points (Virginia) and 103 (North Dakota). Wisconsin advanced to Anaheim by trouncing American but needed a huge comeback to outlast Oregon in one of the more exciting first-weekend games. Ben Brust made the big three-pointer with 1:07 left. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin’s 7-foot center, is as much a shooter as he is an inside force. Kaminsky has already attempted eight three-pointers in the tournament. Wisconsin will be looking to poke holes in Baylor’s 1-3-1 zone defense.

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