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Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne: Playing Wisconsin would be ‘great for college basketball’

LISTEN: Greg Byrne, UA Athletic Director

Last year, Arizona’s championship run was ruined by Wisconsin. In an overtime thriller in the Elite 8, the Wildcats couldn’t get a final shot off before time expired in a 64-63 loss. In order to win it all this year, Arizona may have to take on Frank Kaminsky and the Badgers once again.

This year, Arizona and Wisconsin were both placed in the West region of the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin earned the top seed, while Arizona is No. 2, so there’s a chance of an Elite 8 reunion. Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 Monday that when the bracket was announced, his thoughts immediately went back to last season.

“I just remembered Kaminsky last year- man, was he good,” Byrne said. “I didn’t know him, I hadn’t watched Wisconsin play before we played them last year and I’m like, ‘Who is this big kid who’s seven feet tall?'”

Kaminsky dominated the matchup last season, scoring a game-high 28 points and securing 11 rebounds. This year, Kaminsky is averaging 18.2 points, eight rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. He is in the running for national player of the year awards and led his Badgers to a Big Ten championship. Byrne said playing Wisconsin again would be a good thing.

“If we’re fortunate enough to advance, he’ll be a guy that we have to face again,” Byrne said. “But, you know what, that’s great for college basketball, that’s great for the Arizona Wildcats. But the reality is, we have a lot of ground to cover before we would have that opportunity, just like Wisconsin will. That’s why it’s important if you’re inside that locker room, to make sure we’re taking it a game at a time. But, I think if that were to happen, there’d be a lot of interest in that game, obviously on the national stage, and that’s good for the University of Arizona.”

The road for Arizona beings Thursday against 15th-seeded Texas Southern. The Tigers earned an automatic bid after winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament, finishing with a 22-12 record. Even though Texas Southern has never won a game in the NCAA Tournament, Byrne said the Wildcats, who finished with a 31-3 record and won their own conference tournament, aren’t taking the Tigers lightly.

“The reality is if you’re going to go to the Final Four, go compete for a national championship, you’re going to have a tough road no matter what region you’re in,” Byrne said. “So, obviously we got great respect for Texas Southern. Mike Davis, their head coach, who was the head coach at Indiana and they had a bunch of really good teams over his coaching career, including this one. So, we have to take this one game at a time and stay focused on the task at hand this week.”