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March Madness 2015: Previewing Oregon-Wisconsin matchups, x-factors, prediction

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After cruising to a solid second-round victory over Coastal Carolina, Wisconsin will be on alert as a hungry Oregon team which narrowly beat Oklahoma State will try to lay the upset on the top-seeded Badgers.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Eighth-seeded Oregon earned its second postseason shot at Wisconsin in as many years, both teams holding serve out West in their Round of 64 matchups this weekend. The top-seeded Badgers will again be favored on Sunday evening, though they won't have quite the home-court advantage they enjoyed last March in Milwaukee, as this game will be played in Omaha.

Reviewing Friday's results

The Wisconsin Badgers had quite the typical win on Friday, as they used their incredibly efficient offense to overpower the Coastal Carolina inside with the front court trio of Frank Kaminsky, Nigel Hayes, and Sam Dekker, and limit the Chanticleers' opportunities on the glass.

To their credit, the Chanticleers were hitting some ridiculous shots. Two players in particular were firing on all cylinders, especially from the three-point line. Josh Cameron, a Racine native, only contributed 11 points, but hit 3-of-5 shots from behind the arc. Meanwhile, Elijah Wilson -- usually just a role player off the bench -- hit all four of his three-pointers and poured in 20 points for the game. As a team, the Chanticleers shot 58.7 percent from behind the arc.

Kaminsky and his versatile set of offensive tools led the way for Wisconsin. Frank the Tank posted yet another double-double, garnering 27 points and 12 boards, and also dished out four assists. The Naismith Player of the Year candidate made highlight plays all game long, bullying smaller interior defenders inside with and-ones and powerful slam dunks. Hayes also played a great game, scoring 15 and cashing in eight boards, while his battery mate, Dekker, tallied 20 points.

The Ducks, meanwhile, pulled out a close victory over the ninth-seeded Oklahoma State Cowboys, led by do-it-all scorer Joseph Young, who was hitting shots from all over the floor for Coach Dana Altman. Young went 3-of-6 from behind the arc and a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line to rack up 27 points, four rebounds and four assists. Forward Elgin Cook and guard Jalil Abdul-Bassit recorded 18 and 17 points, respectively to close out Oregon's unique and deadly offensive attack.

Here's what the Badgers need to do to advance to the Sweet 16.

Matchups to Watch

Nigel Hayes vs. Elgin Cook

Cook, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin native, is probably the Duck's best player not named Joseph Young, and may be Altman's best defender. Cook shoots a solid 53 percent from the floor, and although he isn't a good three-point shooter (25% on the season), he hit his only attempt in the Round of 64 on Friday and Hayes will not be able to leave him alone too often. The key for Hayes is his versatility on both ends of the court. He must force the rebound-machine in Cook to pressure him on the perimeter, opening up second-chance points for the Badgers' much taller interior bigs. On defense, Hayes will have to slide into every driving lane to keep the junior from completing easy buckets around the basket. If Hayes can win the rebounding battle, along with shutting Cook down defensively, the Badgers could control the paint for the entire game.

Josh Gasser (or Bronson Koenig) vs. Joseph Young

Although Joseph Young is the Ducks' point guard, I personally expect Bo Ryan to place Josh Gasser opposite of the fabulous and deadly scorer. Josh Gasser has been a great defender for all of his five seasons in Madison and is a superior perimeter defender and has better footwork than the less experienced Koenig. However Coach Ryan may choose to give Koenig yet another challenge, and if the Badgers choose to head in that direction, I would think Koenig will play extra hard to prove his defensive worth against one of the nation's most versatile scoring guards. Young's playmaking and shooting ability will open up so many opportunities for other Ducks to score, so it is very important for Gasser or Koenig to stay in front of the senior guard, and square him off to his left and weaker side of the court.

X-Factors

Continue mistake-free basketball

The Badgers are one of, if not the best, basketball team in the country in terms of limiting any form of mistakes, whether it be defensive fouls or turnovers. They rank in the top three in the country in both statistics, and if they continue this unexceptional mistake-free ball, anything is possible for this squad. The Ducks aren't as reliant on turnovers as say, the North Carolina Tar Heels (whom the Badgers would play in the Sweet Sixteen with a win Sunday night), however they have a starting lineup with a lot of speed that can hurt you when sprinting down the court. If Ryan's group can keep the Ducks away from the charity stripe and not in transition, then expect the Badgers to prevail soundly.

Get the ball to Kaminsky as much as possible

Frank Kaminsky has been a matchup nightmare for almost every single Badger opponent, and that will most definitely be the case in this game. Oregon's tallest starter and the one tasked with defending Kaminsky is 6-9 freshman forward Jordan Bell. If you thought the fact that Kaminsky has three inches on the big man was the only mismatch, think again. Bell is a freshman and has little-to-no experience guarding a center as skilled and versatile as Kaminsky. I personally expect a field day on offense from Frank the Tank, and it will be so important for the rest of the Badgers to feed the Big Ten Player of the Year the ball as much as they can.

Prediction

Oregon is entirely overmatched in this situation, especially when you consider how much size the Badgers' entire starting lineup has on them. However, UW cannot overlook this team, as the deadly inside-out scoring combination of Cook and Young could amount to a shootout and the Badgers will have to bring their most efficient offense selves onto the court come Sunday night. Given that, Wisky has too much offensive firepower and defensive awareness both in the paint and out on the perimeter to be outplayed by Oregon.

Wisconsin 73, Oregon 66