When the NCAA tournament began, not many had a matchup between No. 4 Florida and No. 8 Wisconsin in the Sweet Sixteen, however, after a stunning upset that saw the Badgers beat favorite Villanova, the unlikely has happened. But who is this Wisconsin team?
“It’s going to be a tough," said Gators forward Devin Robinson. "They’re really similar to us, they have a lot of guys who can have a breakout night and it’s a great match-up with Nigel Hayes, he’s one of the top players in the country and they have other great guards, Bronson. It’s going to be a tough defensive battle for sure.”
No doubt about it, Wisconsin is a team focused on defense, only allowing 61.8 points per game. The Badgers have held 18 of their 36 opponents to 60 or fewer points this season.
Behind Enemy Lines
This is an interesting Badgers team. Although Wisconsin is seeded eight in the tournament, they were runner ups in the Big-Ten and when it comes to the tournament, this is a team made up of veterans.
Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes are two players that have been here before. They both have played in a Final Four environment and played for a National Championship, so they would not be overwhelmed by the environment.
There is no doubt that Hayes will be the key to the Badgers' success on Friday night, however. Hayes had 19 points and eight rebounds in Wisconsin's win against Villanova this tourney and he has remained hot. He is averaging 15.4 point, 9.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists this postseason so far. His presence in the post will cause some headaches especially when he is paired up with Ethan Happ.
Happ is the nation's only player to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals during conference play - he is now averaging 13.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. The Big man has hit double figures in six of his last seven games. Another offensive weapon is Koenig. He had 28 points against Virginia Tech in the first round and then followed that up with 17 points against Villanova.
The senior is shooting 47.8 percent in the tournament and he is a huge threat down the stretch-over the last two season he has shot over 50 percent from the three-point line in the final five minutes of regulation and overtime.
Along with Happ, Zak Showalter is another defender to watch for Wisconsin. He is second on the team with steals averaging 1.5 steals per contest. Showalter is a previous walk on that has turned into a big piece for the Badgers. He averages 8.1 points per game, 2.8 rebounds per contest and 1.8 assists. He is also a threat from the three-point line ranking second on the team shooting 41.7 percent from beyond the arc.
However, Wisconsin's biggest threat from downtown is D'Mitrik Trice. Trice leads the team from distance, shooting 42.7 percent. It is this team's ability to shoot the three that makes them a real threat. The team is shooting 42.9 percent from outside the arc in the tournament, recording 9.5 triples in the last six games.
A weakness for this team is their shooting from the charity stripes. In their game against the Wildcats, the Badgers turned it over 14 times and also went 7-of-16 from the free throw line.
This and that..
The series between the two teams is tied at two, however, these teams have never met in the tournament. Tip off at Madison Square Garden is slated for 9:59 p.m. The game will be televised on TBS