Despite toppling number one overall seed Villanova, the road isn’t getting any easier for the Wisconsin Badgers. In fact, their Sweet 16 opponent, Florida, is the number three team in the country according to Ken Pomeroy Rankings. Villanova was number two. So ignore the fact that Florida is just a four-seed. They are a really, really good basketball team. In order to pull off another upset, Wisconsin is going to have to get back on defense, play inside-out on offense, and limit their turnovers.
1. Limiting Turnovers
While Florida’s offense isn’t bad, their defense is their real calling card. They have really quick, athletic guards that relentlessly pressure and pester the opposing team’s guards. For that reason, they are one of the best teams in America at forcing turnovers. On the flip side, Wisconsin has not had great ball security this season. While it has been improving, the Badgers still turned the ball over 14 times against Villanova. They will need to be better in that area against the Gators.
2. Play Through the Post
On February 15th, the Gators lost starting center John Egbunu to a torn ACL. That left a massive hole for the Gators on the interior. Thus far in the tournament, they haven’t played a team that can exploit that weakness, but that is about to change. Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ should be able to dominate inside against Florida, much like they were able to do against Villanova and Virginia Tech. Florida’s only chance to stop them is to bring a double-team, which should result in open three-pointers for Bronson Koenig and company.
Hayes to Koenig. Hopefully some more of those left. pic.twitter.com/YKhrsAqkaE
— Big Ten Geek (@bigtengeek) March 18, 2017
Florida has a really tenacious perimeter defense, so it may be difficult for Wisconsin’s guards to create their own offense. While Bronson Koenig is remarkably effective at pulling miracles out of thin air in late shot clock situations, it would be unwise for the Badgers to keep relying on that. They need to get the ball into the post early and often, and run their offense through there.
3. Get Back on Defense
Florida loves to get out in transition and score easy baskets after turnovers and missed shots. They are excellent at it too.
Wisconsin needs to make the effort to get back on defense and set up. Florida has an inconsistent half court offense that the Badgers stout defense should be able to contain. But if they let Florida’s speedy guards get in the open court and make plays, it could be a long night.
Bonus Key: Stay out of Foul Trouble
This one is pretty self explanatory, and really applies to any game. But given that it has been a common trend for Wisconsin during this tournament, I thought I would mention it. Wisconsin’s stars, especially Ethan Happ (Koenig’s was kind of fluky), need to avoid picking up silly fouls. Happ has dealt with foul trouble in the first two rounds. That can’t be the case on Friday. He can dominate against a much smaller Florida front line if he can stay in the game.