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Badgers Breakdown: Wisconsin vs. Villanova

Wisconsin looks to take down the number one team in the country for the second time in three seasons when the Badgers play Villanova in the second round of the N.C.A.A. tournament. We break down the match-up.

Related Video - Second Round Predictions


No.8 Wisconsin (26-9, 12-6 Big Ten) vs. No.1 Villanova (32-2, 15-3 Big East)

Date/Time – Saturday, March 18, approximately 1:40 p.m. Central

Arena – Buffalo’s KeyBank Center (19,200) 

Television – CBS (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel and Allie LaForce) 

Radio – Badgers Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Villanova leads 1-0 (Villanova leads 1-0 on neutral courts)

Last Meeting – Villanova won, 66-58, on November 20, 1995, in Lahaina, Hawaii

WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS

3 Zak Showalter (6-3 Senior Guard, 8.3 ppg)

10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Senior Forward, 13.6 ppg)

22 Ethan Happ (6-10 Sophomore Forward, 13.8 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-2 Senior Guard, 14.5 ppg)

30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Senior Forward, 6.7 ppg)

OFF THE BENCH

0 D'Mitrik Trice (6-0 Freshman Guard, 5.9 ppg)

1 Brevin Pritzl (6-3 Freshman Guard, 2.0 ppg)

21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Sophomore Forward, 3.9 ppg)

PLAYER TO WATCH 

Koenig scored a career-high 28 points and set a school record with eight 3-pointers on 17 attempts. The senior's 28 points equaled UW's third-highest scoring output in an N.C.A.A. tournament game.

VILLANOVA PROBABLE STARTERS

1 Jalen Brunson (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 14.8 ppg) 

2 Kris Jenkins (6-6 Senior Forward, 13.3 ppg)

3 Josh Hart (6-6 Senior Guard, 18.7 ppg)

25 Mikal Bridges (6-7 Sophomore Guard, 10.0 ppg)

45 Darryl Reynolds (6-9 Senior Forward, 4.6 ppg)

OFF THE BENCH

4 Eric Paschall (6-7 Sophomore Forward, 7.2 ppg)

10 Donte Divincenzo (6-5 Freshman Guard, 8.7 ppg)

PLAYER TO WATCH

Hart – an All-American and potential national player of the year – is shooting 50.1 percent from the field, leads the Wildcats in points and rebounds (6.5 per game) and is second in assists (106) and steald (55).

LAST TIME OUT

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Koenig scored a career-high 28 points – including setting a school-record with eight 3-pointers – and Hayes notched his third straight double-double to lead the eighth-seeded Badgers to an 84-74 victory over ninth-seeded Virginia Tech at the KeyBank Center late Thursday night in the opening round of the N.C.A.A. tournament.

“You can definitely say I was looking for my shot,” Koenig said. “It's something I take pride in, being a senior point guard, is making plays in critical moments.”

Hayes hit some big shots and some pressure free throws to finish with 16 points and 10 rebounds. The senior registered 14 points and seven board in the second half alone, going 8-for-9 from the line. 

Sophomore Khalil Iverson – returning after missing the last two games following the shooting death of two of his cousins - chipped in 11 off the bench to help the Badgers (26-9) shoot 50 percent in the second half and win their opening round N.C.A.A. tournament game for the 10th time in 11 years.

Senior Zach LeDay scored 23 points to lead four Hokies in double figures, but Virginia Tech (22-11) never could get over the hump in a game that was two possessions or less from 17:06 to :37 in the second half. Five times the Hokies cut the lead to one point, only to have Wisconsin respond with a bucket on the next possession.

Twice it was Wisconsin finding Koenig for a 3-pointer, as five different players combined to assist on every one of Koenig’s perimeter makes. Finishing 9-for-21 overall and 8-for-17 from three, Koenig just kept telling himself to stay aggressive.

Wisconsin needed Koenig’s shooting to survive on a night where its defense was far from perfect. The Badgers allowed junior Justin Bibbs to convert a pair of four-point plays – on two inbounds plays Gard said the team had practiced the last two days – and gave up plentiful in dribble penetration. Virginia Tech scored 32 points in the paint and 10 off only six offensive rebounds.

The Hokies finished at 50 percent shooting in the first half and, although outrebounded 11-3 on the offensive glass, outscored UW 8-7 on second-chance points and 16-12 in points in the paint.

UW made things look better by holding the Hokies to no field goals in the final 5:38 to close the game on a 15-6 run, including 10-1 in the final 2:25.

SERIES NOTES

Villanova won the only previous meeting, a 66-58 victory in the 1996 Maui Invitational, in the season opener for both teams. The Wildcats won the tournament that season.

The Wildcats were ranked No. 3 in the nation at the time and the game served as Dick's Bennett's first as head coach at Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is 97-86 all-time against current members of the Big East. This season, the Badgers are 2-1 against Big East teams, defeating Marquette and Georgetown and falling at Creighton. Villanova went 6-1 against those teams, only losing at Marquette. The Wildcats also won at Purdue this season.

WISCONSIN NOTES

Wisconsin is looking to advance to the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive season. No other team in the nation has been to each of the last three Sweet 16s. 

The Badgers are the nation’s only team to reach five Sweet 16s in the last six seasons.

With 26 wins on the year, Wisconsin has equaled the fifth-highest single-season win total in school history. All six seasons with 26+ wins have come since 2007.

Wisconsin will be facing a No. 1 seed in the N.C.A.A. tournament for the ninth time. The Badgers are 3-6 all-time against top-seeded teams, with one of those wins coming as an eighth seed in 2000.

The Badgers will be facing the No. 1 ranked team in the AP poll Saturday. Wisconsin is 3-19 all-time against teams ranked No. 1 in the AP poll, but one of those wins came over Kentucky in the 2015 Final Four.

VILLANOVA NOTES 

Villanova improved to 58-34 all-time in N.C.A.A. tournament games. Head coach Jay Wright won his 21st NCAA Tournament game, moving to 21-12 overall. 

Villanova is 22-0 when holding an opponent to 65 points this season

Before winning the national championship last season, the Wildcats lost their second-round game as a No.1 seed in 2015 and their second-round game – in Buffalo – as a No.2 seed in 2014.

Villanova’s first lead Thursday did not come until the 1:23 mark of the first half. The tournament’s top overall seed opened the game 0-for-8 from the floor with no points over the first 6:06 of the game. The Wildcats seized control with a 21-4 run over the first seven-plus minutes of the second half.

Jenkins averaged 15.5 points per game in last year’s NCAA Tournament, but started 0-for-10 from the floor before breaking through with a bucket at the 4:48 mark of the second half. He finished with seven points.

PREDICTION

In the last three N.C.A.A. tournaments with these seniors on the roster, Wisconsin has beaten four teams seeded first or second, registering at least one such victory every year. It’s been an impressive run of success in big games against big teams, something that the program hopes is more of a growing trend than a fluke.

“Ever since me and Nigel came in as freshman we've been a resilient team,” Koenig said. “We don't get rattled when we're down. Kind of like Villanova, just play with a lot of poise. That comes from having a lot of confidence in ourselves, and us as a team.”

Hayes gave a tip of his cap to the preparation of the veteran roster and the details the Wisconsin coaching staff put into scouting, developing a game plan and teaching a strong foundation of solid fundamentals. In a way, Hayes said that has helped the Badgers play together and remain “cool, calm and collected” during the swings of momentum in big moments.

“Even if another team goes on a run or you get down ... you can come back,” Hayes said. “We've seen both sides of it. Going back to our first time in the tournament, really, when we played Oregon in Milwaukee (in 2004), we were on pace to lose by 20-plus, and we kept our composure and we were able to fight back and win.”

Bringing “the fight” will determine whether the Badgers head to Madison Square Garden for a second time this season, only this time for a fourth Sweet 16 appearance in as many years, and slay the giant in the process. 

Villanova has tournament swagger with its national championship a year ago and playing its way to the top overall seed this year. The Wildcats’ top four scorers played on that team a year ago and the addition of DiVincenzo – who recorded his first career double-double Thursday – makes the Wildcats even more dangerous.

The only slight Achilles heel this team has shown is the fact a physical Butler team – one that has a lot of similar traits to Wisconsin – beat them twice during the regular season.

“(Wisconsin and Butler) are similar in a lot of ways with their pack-line defense, their physicality,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “And Butler shoots threes better than people know. Wisconsin shoots them really well as we all saw (Thursday). It's a very similar type of game, and it's going to be a struggle. And I actually think Wisconsin's even bigger than Butler, so probably even tougher. But let's hope we learn from those games.”

Both head coaches said each other’s teams have a championship-program-type swagger, having played in big games, won in big games and understand the things a team needs to go through to win a big game. Hayes, Happ and Koenig carry that for Wisconsin, while Brunson, Hart and Jenkins hold that torch for Villanova. Whichever group outplays the other gives their respective team a significant edge.

But with both teams wanting to play physical, team-oriented defense, the other factor will be the role players. Wisconsin needs Showalter to play lock-down defense, Brown to hit shots from the perimeter, Iverson to bring the same type of fire off the bench and Trice to not be overwhelmed by the moment. It would also help if the Badgers can limit the same type of dribble penetration that Virginia Tech badly hurt them with Thursday.

Despite the cold shooting to open the game, ‘Nova shot 58.1 percent on two-point field goals, 35.3 percent on threes and 72.7 percent from the line. The Wildcats had a 43-27 edge in the paint, had 14 assists on 31 buckets, averaged 1.21 points per possession and held the Mountaineers to 0.89 points per possession. And they did most of its damage on offense with Hart, a national player of the year candidate, taking over five shots, and Jenkins going 2-for-13 and 0-for-6 from 3-point range. 

The task is daunting, especially considering UW is playing a mirror of itself – a disciplined, veteran-laden squad with a similar tempo, aggressiveness and the inability to get rattled, evident by their 4-1 record in one-possession games.

“I think we'll play our style of play no matter who is standing on the other side,” Showalter said. “I think Villanova is a team that sits similar to us, and they've been in big games before, and they know what it's like to play in these situations. So, it's going to be a heck of a game on Saturday, and I'm excited for it.”

This group of seniors has been tremendous in elevating the level of expectations of the program, but I believe beating Villanova takes an effort the Badgers haven’t produced this season. Having said that, the Wildcats end UW’s season with a 13-point win.

Worgull's Record: 28-7

Points off Prediction: 335 (9.6 per game)


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