Wisconsin has drawn a somewhat unlucky matchup in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against the Oregon Ducks. The 5-12 seed matchup is notorious for upsets. There have been 16 such upsets in the last 10 years, and Wisconsin has been both on the winning and losing end. On Friday they face Oregon in San Jose and the Badgers seem to be a popular pick for an upset. The Badgers open as a 1-point favorite.
The Wisconsin Badgers (23-10) are coming off of a double-digit loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament. The Badgers barely beat Nebraska and let Ohio State come back after being down by 20. They have been on a downward slide as of late and need to come back rested and ready to play hard on both ends of the ball.
The Oregon Ducks are trending in the other direction. The Ducks (23-12) are riding an 8-game win streak after beating Washington in the Pac-12 Championship. Coach Dana Altman has his Ducks confident and ready to go. Momentum going into March is what often propels higher seeds into multiple wins in the tournament.
Oregon is on fire, so what can the Badgers do to stop that momentum?
Defense. Defense. Defense. Wisconsin has been rock solid on defense, and that will be essential to slowing down the Ducks. The Ducks are averaging 70.5 points per game, led by freshman forward Louis King (13.1 PPG) and junior guard Payton Pritchard (12.7 PPG) who was also the MVP in the Pac-12 Tournament.
On the other side of the ball, the Badgers have to get production in the paint and beyond the arc. The Ducks are long on defense and feisty, only allowing 62.9 points per game and teams only average 29.4% from 3. The Badgers play mostly mistake-free basketball, and the Ducks will try to throw off their momentum from the start.
The Badgers match up well with the Ducks. How well they can slow down the fast-paced Ducks offense will be key to this game. Ethan Happ has been consistent for the last three years and this tournament should be no different. Aside from defense, players like D’Mitrik Trice, Khalil Iverson, and Brad Davidson will need to be at the top of their game if the Badgers want to not only beat the Ducks but make some noise this March.