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March Madness 2015: Reflections on Wisconsin's NCAA tournament wins, Sweet 16 preview

What problems does North Carolina pose for Wisconsin? We asked our writers.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

What has Wisconsin done well in the NCAA tournament, and what still concerns you?

Phil Mitten (@hoopsmarinara): I came away from the weekend thinking Wisconsin is playing really soft. The team has settled for lots of jumpers as Frank Kaminsky hasn't figured out how to get on any sort of roll early in the games. He's forced a number of ugly shots to try getting on track, and that is an unfamiliar sight. Against Coastal Carolina, the Badgers seemed to be sleepwalking through half the game -- they are just good enough to get away with it. Oregon made UW look weak at times also, rejecting a number of interior shots. From here on out, the opposition is going to make them pay for those lapses in intensity. The punches only get more powerful.

Luckily Wisconsin is getting contributions from the whole team, including important production from Duje Dukan and Zak Showalter. Nigel Hayes has been phenomenal in the first halves so far. And the ultimate upside is the possibility that the Badgers got a few so-so outings out of their system early and are ready to make another run.

Drew Hamm (@drewhamm5): I don't know if the Badgers just eschewed scouting reports this weekend, but it appeared that no one on the floor was aware of how much taller they were as a team than their opponents. The amount of times a three pointer was settled for was maddening. Sam Dekker alone hoisted up 16 this weekend.

The bench play was encouraging, most notably Showalter against Oregon. Hayes' continued emergence as a top offensive threat is pleasing to me, but hopefully he doesn't get any crazy ideas about going pro (jk Nigel, get paid whenever you want to). Despite Dekker shooting way too many threes, he did make seven of them and didn't seem bothered by Bo Ryan's incredibly short leash for him.

Neal Olson (@olewr7): One of my favorite quotes when it comes to sporting contests was utter by Vince Lombardi: "We don't try to win them aesthetically, we just try to win them best we can." I think that succinctly sums up the Badgers' weekend in Omaha, Neb. Certainly survive and advance is the theme in March, but they looked sluggish and somewhat out of sorts at times.

The much maligned bench had a few moments thanks to Showalter's outing against Oregon, but Dukan was unable to continue his resurgence shooting just 1-of-6 from three point range. Josh Gasser also struggled from distance at just 1-of-5 for the weekend as well. As a team they were a solid 11-of-27 beyond the arc against Coastal Carolina, but came back to earth against Oregon with 7-of-23 performance.

Overall, the Badgers are such an efficient offensive team they will continue to get open looks from deep, but will need to be way more consistent in order to continue to advance. The good news is they have shown the ability to rise to the occasion when the game is on the line. The moxie and toughness they showed last weekend at the Big Ten Conference Tournament and the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament is reason enough to believe they can win any game.

Zach Sinykin (@zachsinykin): After watching these first two games, it seems as if none of the Badgers even cared. And I am not saying that any of them did not want to win, it just seemed as if no one was aggressive on offense and there wasn't a lot of transition points. This definitely concerns me if these type of performances carry onto Los Angeles, as the Badgers will face a fast and hungry North Carolina team, and if they can get by them, a dangerous Arizona squad

What I most liked about the Badgers first weekend is how they still feel very comfortable scoring on any given possession, as should be the norm for the most efficient team in the nation. Hayes has been absolutely spectacular so far, Kaminsky is doing what he does best. The main thing I noticed was that Dekker was draining threes against both Coastal Carolina and Oregon. He went 4-8 against the Chanticleers and 3-8 against the Ducks. If he can continue hitting his shot from deep, it makes an already unstoppable Wisconsin offense even better.

Wisconsin now face No. 4 seed North Carolina on Thursday. Where can the Badgers exploit the Tar Heels, and where is UW vulnerable?

Phil: Pace is obviously huge in such a matchup and the winner will be the side that can dictate it. Points off turnovers could be key because the Tar Heels get a bit loose with the ball yet don't force many turnovers themselves (yes, I'm disregarding the Arkansas debacle). Beyond point guard Marcus Paige, Roy Williams plays a bunch of forwards mostly. Needless to say, North Carolina has the size and athletic ability to give UW fits if the Badgers bring another lackluster effort on the glass.

Teams have shot threes well against UNC, so it bodes well that both Dekker and Dukan are getting some to drop.

Drew: While still a shorter team than Wisconsin, UNC has a team that is much more suited to match-up with Wisconsin's height inside. Kennedy Meeks (who sprained his knee against Arkansas) and Brice Johnson are both 6'9" and the hit the boards, hard. As you probably know, Paige is good and he will pose a problem for Bronson Koenig on defense. The Tar Heels grab 40 percent of their misses on the offensive end, ranking them as fourth in the country in offensive rebound percentage according to KenPom. The Badgers are fifth in the country at corralling defensive rebounds. Whichever team wins that battle should be looking good to make it to the Elite 8.

Neal: The Badgers biggest advantage will be at the free throw line. North Carolina attempts a lot of free throws but also gives up a lot of free throws to the other team. The good news is Wisconsin leads the nation in fewest free throws attempted per game for opponents. If the Badgers can hold true to the Bo Ryan standard of making more free throws than the other team attempts, they will be in good shape.

Another interesting matchup will be on the Tar Heels' offensive glass. North Carolina excels at second chance points after missed shots. Traditionally, Wisconsin has been an outstanding defensive rebounding team. Fresh off of getting out rebounded by a significantly smaller Oregon team, limiting North Carolina's attempts will be key.

Zach: The Tar Heels are a very predictable basketball team at this point in the season. They really can hurt you in transition, however they turn the ball over quite a bit themselves. They draw a lot of fouls every game, yet they tend to give up quite a few per night as well. The main way in which North Carolina can really hurt the Badgers is in the fast break, when their athletic wings like J.P. Tokoto and freshman guard Justin Jackson can get down the floor quickly, and its hard to set your feet in a way that you can defend the shot properly and not get called for a blocking foul. Luckily for Kaminsky and Co., the Badgers match up pretty well with the Heels. North Carolina lives and dies by their own strengths and weaknesses, so facing a Badgers squad that fouls less than any team in the nation and never turns the ball over, is almost the last team they would like to face here in the Sweet 16.

Which team has been the biggest surprise (positively or negatively) in the tournament so far?

Phil: I certainly never entertained any thought that UAB would win a game. Bit of a coup for the Battle 4 Atlantis field, which is 11-3 now. Losing Iowa State that early ruined a lot of brackets, mine included.

Another fun fact: the two Adidas teams that eschewed the cumberbun look (Indiana, Kansas) have been bounced ... the other four donning "#MadeInMarch" uniforms have advanced.

Generally speaking, getting a No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup in every single region was a surprise. And related to that, we don't really have any Cinderella stories right now, which is too bad. The lowest seeds alive (UCLA and N.C. State) are athletic teams from tradition-rich schools in major conferences. Gonzaga and Wichita State are hardly "mid-majors" anymore.

Drew: I come from the fertile land of the Philadelphia suburbs and as such, have always cheered for Villanova (hell, I even attended school there for a semester). This was the best team they'd had since Kerry Kittles and Jason Lawson laced ‘em up and losing in the round of 32 is an embarrassment. I forget which ESPN personality said this on Twitter, but he noted that Nova always seems to get a pass in Philly for underachieving for some reason. WELL NO LONGER! I am here to put Villanova on notice: this sort of malarkey will not stand any longer.

Neal: I guess the pick here is UCLA since they are the only double-digit seed left in the Sweet Sixteen. On one hand a college basketball blue blood with consistent top 10 recruiting classes making a deep tournament run is hardly a surprise. However, the Bruins had the interesting goaltending call to help get the win against SMU and then got a Battle for Atlantis rematch with UAB.

There's a little bit of Kentucky from last year feeling to UCLA. Talented team underachieving in the regular season maybe hitting their stride as the tournament starts.

Zach: I actually predicted Georgia State to beat Baylor, yet I made the mistake to think the Hunter duo could advance to the Sweet 16. However the fact that UAB beat Iowa State is incredible to me, given what a great team the Cyclones were during the regular season and Big 12 conference tournament. I hated the UCLA-SMU ending so I am kinda pissed that the Bruins find themselves in the second weekend of the tournament.

What is your (modified) Final Four now?

Phil: Kentucky, Arizona, Michigan State, Duke

Drew: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Louisville, Duke

Neal: Kentucky (hopefully that paragraph from last week predicting they would not make it out of the region has been retroactively removed by now...checking...rats)
Wisconsin -- MakeEmBelieve!
Michigan State -- Big Ten Homer
Duke -- BOOO!

Zach: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Duke, Oklahoma