Badgers Don’t Care
In shocking fashion on Saturday, No. 8 seed Wisconsin (27-9, 12-6 Big Ten) upset the overall No. 1 seed, Villanova (32-4, 15-3 Big East), 65-62 in the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament to end the latter’s hopes of repeating as national champion. Known as a team that peaks in March, the Badgers added the Wildcats to the list of opponents they have upset, including last year’s defeat of then-No. 2 seed Xavier (23-13, 9-9 Big East) at the hands of a game-winning, buzzer-beater three-pointer by then-junior guard Bronson Koenig.
The Badgers were 5.5-point underdogs to the Wildcats, but in some ways, the result continued recent trends. As the only school to advance to the Sweet 16 for four straight years, Wisconsin continues to emerge as an extremely underrated program, while Villanova’s loss marks the fourth time in the past five years it has lost in the round of 32.
The Badgers next take on the No. 4 seed Florida Gators (26-8, 14-4 SEC), who just completed a demolition of the No. 5 seed Virginia Cavaliers (23-11, 11-7 ACC) 65-39, with a spot in the Elite 8 on the line. With its performances thus far, Wisconsin should be considered a legitimate Final Four threat.
Big East Represent
Despite the poor showing by the Big East in this year’s tournament, the conference’s lone bright spot has been an unexpected one. After crushing the No. 3 seed Florida State Seminoles (26-9, 12-6 ACC) 91-66, the No. 11 seed Xavier Musketeers earned a spot in the regional semifinal round for the second consecutive year and eighth time in program history.
Xavier, who knocked off sixth-seeded Maryland (24-9, 12-6 Big Ten) in the first round, hit big shots on perimeter and forced Florida State to rely on long range shooting by sitting in a 2-3 zone much of the game. Junior guard Trevon Bluiett powered Xavier with a team-high 29 points and sophomore forward Kaiser Gates nailed four three-pointers, contributing to the Musketeers’ 11-of-17 three-point shooting. The Musketeers knocked down five three-pointers during the first half compared to just one by the Seminoles.
Known for its athleticism and height, Florida State struggled to get out on fast breaks against Xavier’s stout half-court zone and control of the ball. Although its season looked grim after star sophomore guard Edmond Sumner tore his ACL in January, Xavier looks primed to challenge second-seeded Arizona (32-4, 16-2 Pac-12) in the regional semifinals in the West this Thursday.
Despite its close loss to fourth-seeded Butler (25-8, 12-6 Big East) in the round of 32 last Saturday, twelfth-seeded Middle Tennessee (31-5, 17-1 C-USA) became one of the feel good stories in college basketball, becoming the first team ever to win games in back-to-back years as a double-digit seed.
The Blue Raiders proved they were no one-hit wonder in their win against the fifth-seeded Minnesota Gophers (24-10, 11-7 Big Ten) in this year’s first round after shocking then-title favorite Michigan State in last tournament’s opening round as a 15 seed. Middle Tennessee continued to exponentially grow as a program with a Conference-USA regular season and tournament title along with back-to-back NCAA tournament wins, only further shedding light on the fabulous job Head Coach Kermit Davis has done with a team that relies on three-star-or-below recruits. As the Raiders begin to attract high caliber prospects, they will only become more of a steady force in college basketball, something that’s easy to root for come tournament time in March.
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