Hoopcap: Badgers Continue Their March Dominance Shocking Nova
A long time ago, Wisconsin Badgers and March didn’t mix well. Fans were critical of Bo Ryan’s lack of success in college basketball’s grandest month. Things have changed signficantly in the last four years. Despite having a tougher draw than most expected, Wisconsin will be playing in their fourth straight Sweet 16 after stunning number one overall seed and defending National Champion Villanova, 65-62. Badgers continue to find clutch moments left from both Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes.
Hayes senior moment
This hasn’t been the senior year people expected from Nigel Hayes. Many thought he could win Big Ten Player of the Year, and potentially National Player of the Year if things really worked out well. Hayes never really found his shot, and free throws became an issue for him. Hayes had that will to not go home in the second half. He dropped 14 of his team-high 19 in the second half. In his last four games, he’s averaged 16.7 points per game. Hayes made a great fake spin move to the basket for the final bucket to give Wisconsin the victory. Another amazing moment for this senior class.
Badgers protect the long-range bombs
One of the biggest things that I felt would prevent a big run was their lack of three-point defense. Badgers ranked in the 300’s in that category all season and faced two of the best three-point shooting teams in the country with Villanova and Virginia Tech. Wisconsin did a great job with both teams holding Hokies to 7/17 on Thursday then yesterday afternoon, Nova shot a woeful 5/16. Josh Hart is a 40 percent three-point shooter and he missed all three. If Wisconsin wants to keep this run going, this will need to continue.
Free throws became an issue again
Sorry to beat a dead horse, but the free throw problems rose up again after a good night versus Virginia Tech. Wisconsin missed nine free throws and only made seven. That’s not good. Badgers need to channel whatever they did against Hokies, and bring that to Madison Square Garden. They’ll need that version next Friday night. At some point, this will be the cause of an exit in March.
Wisconsin holds water without Koenig
If we’re being honest, I knew this game could swing Wisconsin’s way when Villanova could not capitalize on Wisconsin’s leader, Bronson Koenig, being out of the game for an extended period of time. Koenig leaves with three fouls then again with four fouls, and Villanova did not make the slightest of pushes. The lead got out to seven late then Wisconsin snatched it back with a 7-0 run of their own. Least surprising thing in the world was Koenig hitting a big three late.
Players of the Game: Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin) Donte DiVencenzo (Villanova)
Next up: Wisconsin will head to Madison Square Garden to take on Florida in the Sweet 16. The two teams met a few years ago for a home-and-home in November where both home teams won. These two have never met in the NCAA Tournament. One big question heading into Friday’s game will be the struggles Wisconsin had in Madison Square Garden earlier this year, but we’ll discuss that later this week.