Men's College Basketball

Wisconsin and Florida both Proving Analysts Wrong

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No. 4 seed Florida (25-8) vs. No. 8 seed Wisconsin (27-9)

Friday, March 14, 9:59 p.m.

TBS

According to a Campus Insiders’ analysis, the Wisconsin Badgers are proving that they were one of the selection committee’s most underseeded teams, and, this indicates some merit to that argument, when they defeated 2016 national champion Villanova Saturday in the second round Saturday.

The Badgers have advanced to their fourth consecutive Sweet 16 to take on the Florida Gators in Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous basketball arena. The matchup pins the Badgers, who have achieved success in recent tournaments, against a Florida program making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014.

Boasting three double-figure scorers in 6-3 senior Bronson Koenig (14.5), 6-10 sophomore Ethan Happ, (13.8) and 6-8 senior Nigel Hayes (13.8), the resurgent Badgers have proven themselves as a contender in the NCAA Tournament after finishing second in a struggling Big 10 conference, both in the regular season and as runner-up in the conference tournament.

The Badgers shot 53.1 percent from the floor against Villanova.

In five postseason games in 2017 (Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments). Hayes is averaging 15.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game, including three double-doubles. He scored 19 points against Villanova, including a contested layup with 11.4 seconds remaining.

Koenig made a school-record eight 3-pointers and scored 28 points against No. 9 seed Virginia Tech in the first round, and followed it up with a 17-point performance against the Wildcats.

The Badgers were knocked out of the NCAA Tournament at this stage last season, suffering a 61-56 defeat to then-No. 6 seed Notre Dame after victories over No. 10 Pittsburgh and No. 2 Xavier. Wisconsin was the NCAA Tournament runner-up to Duke in the 2014-15 season after winning the Big Ten title outright and the Big Ten Tournament title. They advanced to the Final Four in the season prior as well. Both Hayes and Koenig have been on the Wisconsin roster for each tournament run.

Even though the Florida is the No. 4 seed in the East, expectations for the Gators were modest because they lost big man John Egbunu to an ACL injury in mid-February, and then lost three of four games before the NCAA Tournament.

But the Gators, like the Badgers, have shined when it matters the most, handling East Tennessee State 80-65 in the opening round, and downing No. 5 seed Virginia using stout defense in the Round of 32, holding the Cavaliers of the ACC to under 40 point in Florida’s 65-39 rout.

The game marked Florida’s largest NCAA Tournament win over a major conference team, surpassing their 26-point victory, also over Virginia, in the 2012 tournament.

The Gators held the Cavaliers to 29.6 percent shooting from the field in the second round, a defensive performance they will have to show against the hot-shooting Badgers. 6-8 junior forward Devin Robinson finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds against UVA after a 24-point

performance in the first round. His presence in the paint will be essential against the big men of Wisconsin, especially with Egbunu on the bench.

Like Wisconsin, Florida features three double-figure scorers in 6-2 sophomore KeVaughn Allen (13.4), 6-6 senior Canyon Barry (11.8) and Robinson (11.4)

After a 2014 Final Four appearance, 2015 saw the Gators fail to make a post-season tournament in 17 years. Last season Florida advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIT, where they lost to George Washington 82-77.

Mike White has lead the Gators back on an upward track since being hired in May of 2015, a tall task to tackle in a program once led by the decorated former coach Billy Donovan who led them to an unprecedented back to back national championship in 2006 and 2007.

This story was researched and compiled by University of Connecticut journalism student Steven Tucker, with reports from Florida and Wisconsin sports information bureaus, ESPN, Campus Insiders, Sports Illustrated and UPI.

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