The Wisconsin Badgers head back to the Big Dance this year after a brief one-season hiatus last March. The Badgers were selected to the South Region where they will take on the Pac-12 Tournament champion Oregon Ducks on Friday afternoon (approx. 3:30 p.m. CT, TBS).
The Ducks had an up and down season this year but are playing their best basketball currently as they rattled off eight straight wins—including four consecutive victories to take home the Pac-12 crown and get into the NCAA Tournament. When the Ducks have had success, it has largely been because of their vigorous defense which has allowed just 62 points per game, which led their conference. Oregon will provide a tough first round test, but lets take a look at the rest of the South bracket and analyize what the Badgers could face if they do survive and advance.
If the Badgers are able to get a win in the first round, they will take on the winner of No. 4 seed Kansas State and No. 13 seed UC-Irvine. The Wildcats claimed the regular season Big 12 Champions, but bowed out early in the Big 12 Tournament. A large part of that is due to the absence of Dean Wade, the Wildcats second-leading scorer and best interior defender. With Wade’s status still unclear for the opening round, UC-Irvine is a popular pick for an upset.
The Anteaters of UC-Irvine come into the dance as both regular and tournament champions of the Big West Conference. The Anteaters won 30 games this season, and were led by two-way standout guard Max Hazzard. A large portion of their success can be attributed to their interior defense, as the Anteaters led the NCAA in two-point defense. Without Wade inside for Kansas State, that match up could be the deciding one.
Whatever team makes it out of San Jose will likely take on the South’s No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers. Although, it is no guarantee, we have seen a No. 16 seed take out a No. 1 seed before. Who was that again? Oh right.
For all intents and purposes, let us assume that Virginia shows up in the opening weekend and plays with the dominance they have all season. With only three losses—all to top 15 teams—Virginia is likely to make a deep run this March. The Cavs have a ton of experience, and two All-ACC first team players in Kyle Guy and eventual lottery pick DeAndre Hunter. While the 8/9 match up of Oklahoma and Ole Miss is one of the stronger ones, I do not see the Cavs bowing out before the Sweet 16.
Should the Badgers advance past those teams to a potential Elite 8 bid, they would face off with any number of teams from the lower portion of the bracket. Tennessee is the South’s No. 2 seed, but with No. 6 Villanova or No. 3 seed Purdue meeting them in a possible Sweet 16 match up, it is a guessing game to see who advances in the lower portion of the bracket.
Should Wisconsin win that, they would be crowned the South Champion and take on the winner of the Midwest bracket in the Final Four. However, we will get to that bridge if the Badgers cross it and preview that more in-depth if and when that happens.
Until then, survive and advance, and it starts with Oregon on Friday afternoon inside the SAP Center in San Jose.
Enjoy, this is March!