Coming off of its 2013 NIT Title, Baylor opened its regular season winning 12 of its first 13 games, including victories over Sweet 16 teams Kentucky and Dayton. The Bears jumped to as high as seventh in the national rankings in early January.
Then Baylor hit an offensive slump that would result in losses in eight of nine games, shooting no better than 40 percent in all but three of those losses.
“I think we just got beat by better teams that were healthier and playing better than we were,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said in a press conference in Anaheim, Calif. Wednesday.
In February, the Bears lost their starting point guard, Kenny Cherry, who was suffering from turf toe and didn’t see significant minutes for three games.
But since Cherry has been back in the starting lineup, Baylor has gone 11-2.
“When we got Kenny back, I think everybody recommitted themselves to the defensive end,” Drew said.
The Bears rode their hot-streak into the Big 12 Championship game where they would lose to Iowa State 74-65.
After receiving a No. 6 seed from the NCAA selection committee, Baylor blazed through the second and third rounds in San Antonio, Texas, beating No. 11 seed Nebraska by 14 and No. 3 seed Creighton by 30.
Since starting the postseason in its conference tournament, Baylor has trailed for a total of just seven minutes and 24 seconds out of 240 minutes in its six games.
The Bears are now in their third Sweet 16 in the last five years, advancing to the Elite Eight twice during that time.
Wisconsin started its season with a grueling nonconference schedule and came out of it unscathed. Eventually the Badgers would reach a program best start 16-0 and reached No. 3 in the national rankings. During that stretch, Wisconsin picked up wins over six teams that reached the NCAA Tournament.
Struggles, first defensively and then offensively, would lead to a stretch where the Badgers would lose five of six games, including three home losses. But Wisconsin bounced back with an eight-game winning streak to close out the regular season before losing in the season finale to Nebraska.
The Badgers have found success several ways this season. They have won games where they have scored in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 100s and have averaged 8.9 more points per game (73.9) than last season.
Wisconsin’s regular season campaign ended in a second place finish in the Big Ten —the 13th season in a row that Wisconsin has finished in the top four in the conference— and eventually received a No. 2 seed from the NCAA Selection Committee.
After beating American and Oregon in the second and third rounds in Milwaukee, Wisconsin advanced to its seventh Sweet 16, its third in four years, where it will matchup up with Baylor for the first time in program history.