We’ve reached the point of no return for the Wisconsin Badgers 2016-17 basketball team. Either they will show up like the elite team just about everyone thought they were or they will go out of the NCAA tournament after the first weekend for the first time in a long time.
It just so happens that it will come against the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament — the Villanova Wildcats. Yesterday we looked at what the Wildcats bring to the table, now it is time for our staff to put their thoughts on the line.
Will the Badgers pull off the first major upset of the NCAA tournament? Let’s look at our staff predictions for this game.
Score: Wisconsin 65, Villanova 64
Reasoning: Wisconsin won’t have many advantages in this game, but they do have one important one: Size. I expect Ethan Happ to snap out of his mini slump, and dominate the paint. With the assistance of Nigel Hayes inside, the Badgers will be able to hang around all game, keeping the game close in crunch time. And in crunch time, that is when Bronson Koenig shines. Maybe I’m biased, or stupid, or even both, but I think Wisconsin will be able to pull out the tough defensive grinder.
Score: Villanova 64, Wisconsin 62
Reasoning: The game will be played at a slow pace so each possession will be vital. I expect the game to come down to the last few minutes, and quite possibly the last second. For Nova, Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson will be extremely difficult for UW to handle, and keeping Koenig./Showalter out of foul trouble will be key. Expect UW to work out of the post early and often, and expect Nova to double to post. The player with a big opportunity to have a statement game is Nigel Hayes, who will be a matchup nightmare, especially paired with Happ on the floor. In the end, I favor Nova due to free throw shooting. I like Nova a lot more to close out games due to having five guys who are all scorers/good foul shooters. I’ll take Nova 64-62 in the most exciting game of the tournament so far. Nova will need to play well in order to advance, as I suspect Wisconsin will bring their A game on Saturday.
Score: Villanova 71, Wisconsin 66
Reasoning: Of all the No. 1 seeds facing an eight-seed in the tournament, Villanova seems to have the worst possible matchup. Wisconsin has a massive size advantage and Nigel Hayes is a matchup nightmare for the Wildcats. However, I just don’t trust this Badgers team to be consistent enough to hang with the Wildcats for all 40 minutes. There is likely an extended scoring drought that will doom an otherwise great defensive performance and the Badgers won’t be able to hit the shots needed at the end.
Something tells me Bronson Koenig will have himself a good game, but no one else is going to come along for the ride with him. That’s a problem against a loaded Villanova offense.