Are Wisconsin The Favorites In The East Regional?
Wisconsin Badgers knew their opponent after Saturday night with Florida Gators who are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2014. They didn’t know what the other half of the region would look like. Many thought Duke Blue Devils would be there and set up the possibility of a rematch of the 2015 National Championship game between the two teams. That did not happen. South Carolina stunned the world with another victory moving on to the Sweet 16 as well as Baylor Bears who took care of business against USC Trojans. Many will ask today if Wisconsin is the favorite to get the Phoenix. The answer is a little complicated.
Wisconsin is the most experienced team left in this region. It’s not even close. South Carolina will be dealing with a brand new experience here, Baylor and Florida have recent runs yet no players know what this round of the tournament is like at all. Badgers have more than enough seasoned players that know what this pressure will be like for the coming days leading up then the game itself. It’s crazy to think Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter have played 16 NCAA Tournament games for their career. Even though that’s the case, Wisconsin’s skill level will be challenged with the upcoming opponents.
Florida might be the most underrated team left in the tournament. They blew out East Tennessee State, a lurking Cinderella, by 15 and dismantled a Virginia team by 26 points. There’s no other team who won both of their first weekend games by more than 15 points. Gators are a big team with Justin Leon and Devin Robinson both over 6’8 plus a skilled guard in KeVaughn Allen. Baylor is loaded with more size led by NBA Draft prospect Johnthan Motley and Manu Lecomente’s three-point shooting could be an issue for Wisconsin. South Carolina is riding an offensive high with Sindarius Thornwell leading the way. This region has more promise than the media will sell to you this week.
The most fascinating thing about this region might be the lack of coaching experience. Scott Drew has the most, but he’s not seen in high regard plus a zone versus Wisconsin doesn’t usually work – Ask Buzz Williams. Florida’s Mike White is a newbie, Badgers coach Greg Gard is still wet behind the ears as well. Frank Martin hasn’t been here since the days of Jacob Pullen (All-time favorite). In these games, coaching can be the difference, and it will be the great unknown.
New York City might not be hyped on these four teams, but my guess is they’ll deliver a show.