Wisconsin has won the Paradise Jam before, but it could be difficult to do it again.
The No. 25 Badgers will play No. 2 Connecticut for the first time Monday night in the championship game of the event in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Wisconsin (4-0) won this event in 2005, when current senior Marcus Landry averaged 13.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in three games as a freshman. The Badgers beat Norfolk State, Eastern Kentucky and Old Dominion that year.
They have defeated Iona and San Diego in this year’s event, but will take a step up in class against Connecticut (4-0).
“I just know they’re good,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “They’re not No. 2 by accident.”
The Huskies advanced with a 76-63 win over No. 17 Miami in Sunday’s semifinals, getting double-doubles from Hasheem Thabeet and A.J. Price. Thabeet had 19 points,14 rebounds and seven blocks while Price added 13 points and 11 boards.
“A.J. rebounded well, we’re just going to need a little more help for Hasheem,” Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said. “Hasheem took the gamble. … It seemed like he blocked everybody.”
UConn has been strong offensively all season, and it’s 47.5 percent shooting Sunday was a season low. The 7-foot-3 Thabeet made 8 of 11 field-goal attempts and is shooting 67.7 percent (21-of-31) in the early season after shooting at a 58.4 percent clip through his first two college seasons.
“It’s not about me hitting the first shot or the last shot,” Thabeet said. “I give credit to my teammates and my coaches for executing the plays.”
Thabeet has avoided picking up fouls for the most part through four games, but the Badgers have done well in getting to the line in this tournament. They converted 25 of 34 free throws in a 60-58 overtime win over Iona on Friday, and made 17 of 23 in Sunday’s 64-49 victory over San Diego.
“I think defensively we covered things pretty well,” Ryan said about Sunday’s win. “We got them into foul trouble by getting the ball inside to our posts.”
Landry only has 16 total points in this tournament for Wisconsin, but Trevon Hughes is putting up numbers that could have him in line for MVP honors. After scoring 21 points in the first game, the junior guard had 22 while shooting 8-for-11 from the floor against San Diego.
“It’s going to be tough,” Hughes said of facing UConn.
While Thabeet may be an imposing presence in the paint, the athletic Landry is Wisconsin’s top shot blocker. The 6-foot-7 forward has 15 blocks for the season, including five Sunday.
- No. 22 UCLA beats Stanford 76-71
- No. 6 Kansas beats No. 10 West Virginia, 75-65
- With Williams sick, No. 9 North Carolina beats BC 68-65
- Watson's 32 leads Creighton to 70-56 upset of No. 5 Xavier
- Gill's 16, 'D' lead No. 7 Virginia past Virginia Tech, 67-49
- Louisville's Pitino awaits NCAA interview about sex scandal