Can Wisconsin knock off the defending national champs?
The Badgers will get a chance to pull off the biggest surprise of the NCAA Tournament (so far) and dethrone Villanova on Saturday afternoon at 2:40 p.m. ET in Buffalo. Wisconsin entered the season with Final 4 aspirations, and the Badgers road to Phoenix is about as hard as it could’ve been given their No. 8 seed. But they have the pieces to pull off the upset.
Wisconsin has made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament in five of the last six seasons. But if the Badgers want to make it six of seven, they’ll have to knock off a Villanova team that earned the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed and has won 14 of its last 15 games.
Can Ethan Happ and co. pull it off?
Wisconsin-Villanova live updates, score from 2017 NCAA Tournament
Wisconsin-Villanova NCAA Tournament preview
The Badgers offense performed just fine against Virginia Tech, but that was thanks to a historic night at the perimeter from Bronson Koenig and a hefty size advantage in the frontcourt. Wisconsin is not likely to have that kind of shooting against a Villanova defense that is clearly superior to Virginia Tech’s. Instead, Wisconsin’s best chance at another great night on offense is going to be funneling the offense through Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes. Villanova is similar to Virginia Tech in that it lacks quality big men, so feeding the interior is going to be critical.
Defend across the board
Villanova’s offense runs through senior wing Josh Hart, who ranks No. 1 in the KenPom Player of the Year metric, and has plenty of other options on the perimeter (Kris Jenkins, Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo). Unfortunately for Wisconsin, it only has one Zak Showalter. In order to prevent the Wildcats from erupting on offense, guys like Koenig, D’Mitrik Trice and Khalil Iverson are going to play well.
Get started early
Even though Villanova is considered the best team in the country by the NCAA Tournament selection committee, it is still a group composed of young humans. We got a reminder of that when No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s found itself down only 30-29 to the Wildcats in the first round. If the Badgers can pounce early like the Mountaineers did, they’ll have a much better shot at holding on and making the Wildcats sweat.