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Badger Bits: Sweet 16 showdown awaits Wisconsin

UW features from some of the nation’s best to hold you over until the 9 p.m. CT tip-off.

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The Wisconsin Badgers are now the only Big Ten team that could make it to the Final Four after both Michigan and Purdue were ousted by Oregon and Kansas, respectively.

In trying to reach their third Final Four in four years, Wisconsin has to go through No. 4 seed in the East Region, Florida, who decimated Tony Bennett’s Virginia Cavaliers last weekend. If seniors Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, Zak Showalter and Vitto Brown (along with redshirt sophomore Ethan Happ) can tame the Gators, a showdown between Baylor or South Carolina looms for a trip to the Phoenix metropolitan area.

As we now wait for nearly 12 hours for the tipoff (8:59 p.m. CT, TBS), here are some hearty links you can sink your teeth into:

Florida Gators (and other gators), ranked - Bucky’s 5th Quarter’s Jon Beidelschies.

Quite frankly, this is our nomination to the Pulitzer committee this year. Jon will actually be covering the game for B5Q at Madison Square Garden tonight.

Wisconsin-Florida Sweet 16 preview; Green Bay Packers free agency chat — B5Q’s Kielbasa Kings Sports Extravaganza

Despite some terrible technical difficulties last night (angry face emoji), finally got this published and working correctly on Friday morning (note: that also killed my prediction of Arizona going to the Final Four...*shakes fist at Sean Miller*).

First 15 minutes we look at Wisconsin’s chances to get to Phoenix, then speak with ESPN Wisconsin’s Jason Wilde—a UW-Madison grad who recalls the days when Wisconsin athletics were not #good. We do talk NFL free agency and the professional team up to Madison’s northeast, but check in on his thoughts about former Wisconsin standout tight end Lance Kendricks. He thinks with Aaron Rodgers, the former All-American could have a huge year.

I also say BOOMSHAKALAKA, so I show my age.

Nigel Hayes is back to being himself in leading Wisconsin to another Sweet 16 — Wisconsin State Journal’s Jim Polzin

The veteran reporter has been busy this week, and delivered great content—including this insightful feature on one of Wisconsin’s great players a couple of days before the Senior Day match-up against Minnesota. Emotions were high after the loss to Iowa the last week of the regular season.

Hayes pulled his hood over his head, yanked tightly on the strings to cover up part of his face and answered questions while staring at the ground. When he was finished, he returned to the training room for a rehab session.

Finally, Hayes’ emotions came pouring out while soaking in the whirlpool tub. As Perez-Guerra listened, Hayes broke down in tears.

“This is not how this year was supposed to go,” he said. “This is not how we’re supposed to be playing.”

What bothered Hayes the most was he didn’t have any answers. Now, looking back on the afternoon of March 3, Hayes is glad he got it all out of his system.

“It was an emotional release,” he said earlier this week. “I wasn’t crying because I was sad. It was just built-up frustration. It’s the worst thing in the world to be frustrated. It’s worse than actual pain. That feeling, being frustrated and not knowing what do to fix things, especially when you love something so much, is horrible.”

Moesch Madness: Badger State of Mind

MUST WATCH for Badgers fans from two walk-ons, Aaron Moesch and Matt Ferris playing on Greg Gard’s squad.

Showalter savoring fifth year with UW - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jeff Potrykus

Gotta love a story about a former walk-on doing big things at the right time. Not sure why I love these stories so much (yup, you know why).

Doing It Their Way —’s Ben Worgull

Great feature from Ben with insights from Josh Gasser, Ben Brust and former UW assistant Gary Close.

More stories:

Wisconsin's Bronson Koenig ready for Madison Square Garden — Wisconsin State Journal’s Jim Polzin

Tennessee, Oklahoma coaches know what's it like to face Wisconsin, Florida — Wisconsin State Journal’s Jim Polzin

Greg Gard seeks smarter play in more tightly officiated games — Wisconsin State Journal’s Jim Polzin

Greg Gard again has Wisconsin playing its best basketball in NCAA tournament — Wisconsin’s State Journal’s Tom Oates

Notes: UW needs Trice to return to form -- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jeff Potrykus

D'Amato: UW has low seeding, high ceiling — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Gary D’Amato

Trice’s Spirits High Heading into Sweet 16 —’s Ben Worgull

Ten keys to victory against Florida — Sconnie Sports Talk

More videos/audio

Nigel Hayes made an in-person stop on the Dan Patrick Show on Thursday. Check out the full interview.

Bo Ryan on Wilde and Tausch

Long but insightful interview with the winningest coach in program injury. Listen to Wilde and Tausch today at 10 a.m. CT for a chat with another standout leader from Wisconsin, Dick Bennett.