Under seeded? Maybe. Poor officiating? Almost certainly. Sweet? Definitely.
It has been an arduous season for Badger Basketball fans this season. They reached the Top 10 in the polls only to have a late season meltdown with close losses and missed free throws. They struggled to score on offense and failed to look like the dominant team that went on a tear to open Big Ten play. The team struggled with fouls and each player went through their own sort of slump. This was not the way for an all time senior class to go out, there was too much talent on this team to not make the second weekend.
When the brackets came out Badger fans were outraged they thought this team (that finished second in the big ten, nearly won the Big Ten tournament, and beat some traditional powers in the non-conference) deserved better. A few members of the team remarked that they felt slighted and that it would drive them to play better and harder.
A first round battle with the Virginia Tech Hokies and Buzz Williams was a tough match-up but the Badgers prevailed. To go to the Sweet 16 Wisconsin just needed to knock off the reigning champs and number one overall seed Villanova. Even the most biased homers knew that this Villanova game would not be easy. Villanova came in having lost only three games all season, one ironically to a Golden Eagles team the Badgers beat previously.
Villanova was laden with guys who had tournament experience, they had two guys who were top five among active players in tournament scorers. The Badgers had two of the guys in front of them though with Hayes and Koenig. Koenig was in foul trouble for most of the game but was able to knock down a clutch three. Hayes was an animal all game with 19 points and 8 rebounds including the go ahead basket in the final seconds of the match. Hayes presence on the boards is necessary for the Badgers when they go small with Brown or Happ on the bench.
The Badgers were the better team for most of the afternoon, but foul trouble put two of their best players in Happ and Koenig on the bench. Villanova was able to capitalize on this and take a seven point lead with 5:31 left in the second half. Wisconsin was able to rally back with all of their starters in the game, Wisconsin’s starters have outscored their opposition by .46 points per possession this season. For people that do not know that is incredibly good, but it also illustrates how weak the bench has been this season. This team has a starting five that can play with anyone and when rotations shrink in the tournament they can thrive.
The Badgers will face the winner of tonight’s Virginia-Florida game and potentially look forward to a rematch of the 2015 National Championship game in the elite eight against Duke. The survive and advance mentality is common tournament time, but Badger fans should enjoy today, a win against a team like Villanova and a fourth straight Sweet Sixteen is worth writing home about.