March Madness is here.
As Wisconsin basketball prepares to make some noise in its 19th straight NCAA Tournament, here’s everything you need to know about where the Badgers stand and who they will face.
Wisconsin’s seeding makes almost no sense (especially when compared to the rest of the Big Ten)
You can read more in-depth here on why Wisconsin as a No. 8 seed is outrageously low, but the gist is that the NCAA Tournament committee had no idea how to handle the Big Ten and Wisconsin was by far the biggest victim of that.
There is no logical world in which Wisconsin is an 8 seed while Minnesota is a 5 except in the magical land of RPI. And even then there are some plot holes in that fantastical tale, like how Northwestern is also an 8 seed.
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) March 12, 2017
But there’s nothing the Badgers can do about that. Social media outrage doesn’t give you bonus points and attacking the committee isn’t going to make it reconsider. The only thing Wisconsin can do is make every team it runs into angry about its seeding, too.
The Badgers landed in a very bad place to be an 8 seed
The bad news? Wisconsin is an 8 seed. The very bad news? The Badgers are an 8 seed in the worst possible place, the region of the No. 1 overall seed and arguably the most talented team in the tournament. Just so we’re clear, I’m talking about two separate teams.
Assuming Wisconsin triumphs over first-round opponent Virginia Tech, and Villanova doesn’t suffer a historic loss, the Badgers will face off against the defending champion and No. 1-ranked Wildcats in the second round. A win over Villanova would be one of the tournament’s greatest shocks, and would be Wisconsin’s best chance to show the committee how wrong it was.
On the other side of the East Region is No. 2 seed Duke, which somehow lost enough to miss on a No. 1 seed despite boasting what many considered to be the most talented team in the country. In another round of bad news for Wisconsin (and Villanova), Duke might actually be playing to its potential. The Blue Devils stomped their way through a stacked ACC Tournament (and South No. 1 seed North Carolina) and will be a trendy pick to win it all.
Wisconsin will see an old friend in the first round
In what might not be a coincidence, Wisconsin’s first dance will be with Virginia Tech, whose coach should be familiar to many Badgers fans.
Buzz Williams coached Wisconsin’s top in-state rival, Marquette, for six seasons, including five NCAA Tournament berths, three Sweet 16s, two Big East regular-season championships and a 3-3 record against the Badgers. He surprised many by leaving the Golden Eagles after the 2013-14 season to take over Virginia Tech, one the lower-tier programs in the ACC.
While Williams’ Hokies finished a middling 10-8 in the ACC this season, they do possess a quality that could make them a very bad matchup for the Badgers.
Well here's your stat:
Wisconsin is 307th in the country in three-point defense.
Virginia Tech is 9th in three-point offense.
— Josh Parcell (@JoshParcell) March 12, 2017
This could be Ethan Happ’s moment to shine
No Big Ten team relied more on a single player than Wisconsin did on Ethan Happ. The center led the Badgers in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals in conference play. That dependency likely won’t change as Wisconsin prepares for a more advanced level of opponent.
Any upset the Badgers want to pull off against Villanova or Duke or No. 4 seed Florida will likely have to center around a Herculean effort from Happ and the rest of the Wisconsin offense figuring out how to support him. The Badgers’ defense and rebounding is strong enough to give them a shot at anyone, but whether the good version of their offense shows up will decide how far they’ll go.
Win or lose, Wisconsin athletics is still on an incredible run
Even if Wisconsin goes down to Virginia Tech, it’s already added another layer to what has been a historic level of consistency. This is its 19th straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, the fifth-longest streak in NCAA history. And it only gets better for Badgers fans when you consider the stats below.
Wisconsin has now played in a bowl game and the NCAA Tourney for 15 consecutive years. Next closest active streak is 4. (Ht /u/AtomicFreeze)
— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) March 12, 2017
Wisconsin (8 seed) is the only school to reach Sweet 16 in each of last 3 seasons. It has reached the Sweet 16 in 5 of the last 6 seasons.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 12, 2017