NCAA West: Bears, Badgers no strangers to Sweet 16

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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Baylor and Wisconsin have never met, and the unpredictable Bears at first glance have little in common with the disciplined Badgers.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan and Baylor's Scott Drew both recognized one big similarity as their teams prepared for their matchup just down the street from Disneyland.

Although they arrive from different directions, they both know what to do when they get to March.

No. 6 seed Baylor (26-11) and No. 2 Wisconsin (28-7) finally meet Thursday at Honda Center i to play for a spot in the West Region final.

While the building is unfamiliar, the stakes are not: The Badgers are in the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years, while the Bears have made it three times in the past five. Those are remarkable runs of consistency for any program, let alone two teams without huge national profiles and the resulting recruiting advantages.

Past postseason success is fine, but the coaches know it could fade in the face of Baylor's baffling zone defense or Wisconsin's famed intensity.

"I think every coach would tell you they would rather have that experience than not have it," Drew said.

"But it doesn't guarantee you anything. That's what makes March Madness. Even if you play well, it might be your last game because there are so many great teams and great players."

Arizona vs. San Diego State

Arizona and San Diego State are back on familiar ground in the West Region.

Three years ago, both failed to advance out of the Sweet 16. This time, one of them is going home early again.

Aztecs coach Steve Fisher has never watched the tape of his team's loss to Connecticut as a No. 2 seed in the 2011 regional semifinals at Honda Center. Fourth-seeded San Diego State (31-4) is back in the regional for the first time since then.

"I still think we were better than Connecticut when they won the national championship," Fisher said Wednesday.

The top-seeded Wildcats (32-4) are playing in their third Sweet 16 in four years. Three years ago, they lost to Connecticut by two points in the regional final.

This semifinal is a rematch between two teams that met Nov. 14, a lifetime ago in college basketball. The Wildcats won that road game, 69-60, after leading by 14 points in the first half and then withstanding the Aztecs' late rally that cut the deficit to four.

"They guard, guard, guard, and they share the ball," Fisher said about Arizona. "That is a winning formula and they've got it."

Nick Johnson had 23 points and Aaron Gordon added 16 for the Wildcats, who went on to win 20 consecutive games and were ranked No. 1 for eight weeks.

Of course, much more is at stake now.

Arizona wants to reach the Final Four, where coach Sean Miller has never been despite restoring the program to an elite level in his five years in the desert.

San Diego State's modest resume includes never advancing beyond the Sweet 16; the school didn't even win an NCAA tournament game in its first 40 seasons playing in Division I.

"They're out to prove that they're better than the outside world has given them credit," Miller said.

Defense will be at a premium in the matchup, with both teams holding opponents under 40 percent shooting.

The Wildcats lead Division I in defensive efficiency, allowing 87.2 points per 100 possessions, while San Diego State allows 90.3 points.

The Aztecs are stingy beyond the arc, limiting opponents to 28 percent from 3-point range.


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