By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
There are 16 teams remaining in the NCAA Tournament and the seeds vary from three No. 1s to three double-digit seeds. Baylor coach Scott Drew doesn't think the numbers in front of the team names are significant.
"I think we've all learned one thing from March Madness is that seeds don't really matter," Drew said. "Eleven million had incorrect brackets at the end of the round of 32. So when you're in the NCAA tournament, if you don't play well, you go home. You've got to control what you can control, and you've got to play well to give yourself a chance to advance."
For the record, the Bears are the No. 6 seed and will take on No. 2 seed Wisconsin Thursday in the West Regional semifinal. Baylor reached this point in the bracket in 2010 and 2012 and each time won to reach the regional final.
If Baylor can defeat the Badgers and reach Saturday's final, the Bears will have added incentive. A victory in the Elite Eight would put them in the Final Four at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. They played there on Dec. 6 and defeated Kentucky, 67-62.
"Obviously that's our goal, getting back to Arlington and playing in Texas again," Bears forward Cory Jefferson said.
Baylor advanced to Anaheim with dominating victories over Nebraska and Creighton. Cornhuskers coach Tim Miles is familiar with the Big Ten team the Bears will face Thursday.
"With their length and athleticism, they can cover so much ground and take away your outside shooting ability," Miles said of Baylor. "They play the 2-3 (zone) like a 1-3-1. Their forwards are way up, so they can really get to shooters, especially smaller guys. Which I think has to be a real concern for Wisconsin.
"But Wisconsin's also got some weapons that Creighton doesn't have. I think Wisconsin's shooting ability from multiple positions really is going to be helpful. You've still got to attack the heart of the zone. You've got to get in the middle of that thing, in the high post, and you've got to get to the rim and get some opportunities for your team that way."
That's the kind of game plan Creighton discussed the day before playing Baylor. It resulted in a 30-point defeat.
Wisconsin has four players averaging in double figures led by 7-foot junior Frank Kaminsky. The Badgers' offense has been efficient all season.
"They've beaten two No. 1 seeds in Virginia and Florida, and have had a great season," Drew said of Wisconsin. "They're very balanced like us. Basically they have five guys averaging double figures, so we have to make sure we cover every one of them. They do a great job sharing the ball."
The Badgers started 16-0 but then lost five of six in January. That's about the time that Baylor slumped to a 2-8 start in Big 12 play and appeared in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament.
"We obviously had a tough time going through 2-8, but nobody lost hope," Jefferson said. "We thought we could make it to the NCAA tournament because of the great team we have. No one was giving up or pointing fingers at each other. We started digging down and didn't worry about stats or anything."
West Regional semifinal
6:47 p.m., Anaheim, Calif., TBS.
No. 6 Baylor (26-11) vs. No. 2 Wisconsin (28-7)
How the Bears got here: Baylor was an at-large selection from the Big 12 Conference. The Bears defeated No. 11 seed Nebraska, 74-60, in the second round and No. 3 seed Creighton, 85-55, in the third round.
How the Badgers got here: Wisconsin was an at-large selection from the Big Ten Conference. The Badgers defeated No. 15 seed American, 75-35, in the second round and defeated No. 7 seed Oregon, 85-77, in the third round.
Baylor update: The Bears are in the Sweet 16 for the third time in the last five seasons. They reached the Elite Eight in 2010 and 2012; the teams that eliminated Baylor those seasons (Duke and Kentucky) won the national championship. … Baylor, which won the NIT championship last season, has won 17 of its 20 postseason games over the last six years. … In six postseason games (Big 12 Championship and NCAA Tournament), the Bears have had a double-digit first half lead in each game and has trailed for only 7:24 of game time out of 240 minutes. … Baylor has eight players averaging 14 or more minutes per game, all of which have played at least 36 of 37 games. … Senior guard Brady Heslip leads the Big 12 in 3-point shooting percentage (.468) and 3-pointers made per game (3.1). Baylor leads the Big 12, making 39 percent of its 3-point attempts.
Wisconsin update: The Badgers are No. 6 in the RPI and have played the nation's second-toughest schedule. Wisconsin is 6-1 vs. Associated Press Top 25 teams and 9-4 against the NCAA tournament field. … The Badgers average 73.9 points per game and rank fifth nationally in offensive efficiency (1.20 points per possession). … Frank Kaminsky, a 7-foot junior center, was voted as the Big Ten Conference's most improved player. He averages 13.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He scored a school-record 43 points against North Dakota on Nov. 19. … Coach Bo Ryan has 702 career victories at three Wisconsin schools. In 13 seasons with the Badgers, they've made the NCAA Tournament each season but reached a regional final just once and have not played in the Final Four.
What's next: The winner of Baylor-Wisconsin plays Saturday in the regional final vs. the winner of Arizona-San Diego State.