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Wisconsin men’s basketball’s path to the Final Four

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It’s unlikely, but humor me and imagine it just for a second.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Penn State vs Wisconsin Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Look, I know what you’re thinking. I know. It’s unlikely. I would go even further to say it’s highly unlikely. In fact, I think it’s much more likely that the Badgers don’t see the round of 32. However, come March there’s always a chance...

Even if it’s minuscule, there is a chance for all 68 teams in the NCAA tournament to reach the Final Four. Even the lowest-rated Norfolk State or App State have a chance, and that is what makes March so much fun. So I know it probably isn’t going to happen but humor me for a second while we take a look at the Badger's possible path to the Final Four.

Also, this is the 2020 Simulated National Champion Wisconsin Badgers we’re talking about so maybe let’s show a little respect, huh?

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Round of 64

The path to the Final Four for the Wisconsin Badgers begins Friday evening at 6:10 p.m. central. Wisconsin will be taking on the North Carolina Tar Heels in their opening-round game. Now that the who, what, and where is taking care of let’s take a look at the how.

How can the Badgers knock off the Tar Heels in the opening round? Well, it starts with rebounding. I understand if you exit right there since this team has struggled on the glass all season but that will be the biggest key in this game. North Carolina brings a ton of length to the table with three of their four leading scorers standing at 6-foot-10 or taller. Leading the way is Armando Bacot who stands at 6-foot-10 and averages 12.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per contest. Around him are Garrison Brooks and Day’Ron Sharpe who both stand at 6-foot-11 and averaged nearly 10 a game themselves.

If the Badgers want to win this game, the glass is where they will have to do it. They’ve struggled with quality bigs all season long, so this is a tall ask (get it) from the tip (killing it).

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Oklahoma State vs Baylor Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Round of 32

Unless the Hartford Hawks pull a UMBC the Badgers will be seeing the No. 1 seed Baylor Bears in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Nothing easy as an 8-seed, amirite? However, if there was a one seed you could realistically see in Gonzaga or Baylor (couldn’t play Michigan or Illinois in this round) you’d want Baylor. The Bears were dominating teams up until February 2nd, but then went on a 21 day COVID pause and really have not been the same since.

Since coming back from the pause the Bears are 5-2 but they’ve played some tough contests even in their wins. In the return to the court, the Bears struggled with Big 12 bottom feeders Iowa State and Kansas State. The Bears were once mighty grizzlies but now look more like a cute little black bear.

Sure, Baylor could figure it out and come out of hibernation (boom) or maybe Wisconsin catches them napping. If they do catch them on their heels the Badgers will have to defend the arch. Baylor leads the nation in three-point shooting % but they are just No. 33 in two-point shooting %. If the Badgers can defend the arc, maybe they shock the world? It’s happened before.

NCAA Basketball: Winthrop at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Sweet 16

If the Badgers were to escape the first weekend the picture gets a bit more murky as to who they would see in the Sweet 16. The cluster below them features the 5/12 matchup between Villanova/Winthrop and the 4/13 matchup between Purdue and North Texas. If you went chalk Villanova would be the pick but they have not been the same since they lost point guard Collin Gillespie to injury. The Wildcats are 0-2 without him, and their offense looks lost.

If the Wildcats fall victim to Winthrop that leaves either the Eagles, Purdue or North Texas. I don’t see Purdue falling to the Mean Green, but I could see them falling victim to Winthrop. The Eagles are a very strong team who come into the tournament 23-1 on the year. The reason for that is their defense which ranks No. 13 in the country in defensive efficiency.

In a somewhat open cluster, the Eagles could be the double-digit seed that survives the first weekend. If the Badgers do as well, I think there is a good chance they get the Eagles. To win that game the Badgers will have to score consistently and efficiently. You can’t have a classic scoring drought against a team like Winthrop or Purdue if they get there.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Ohio State vs Illinois Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Elite 8

With the upset win over Baylor and the late heroics from D’Mitrik Trice the Badgers have knocked off Winthrop to get to the elite 8. Who they meet there is anyone’s guess at this point. We’ll say chalk holds and Ohio State/Arkansas meet in the Sweet 16. I personally don’t see this happening as I think Arkansas gets upset by Colgate, but if they do Ohio State should stay alive. Texas Tech is a possible option in the 6/11 game, but for now, it seems the Buckeyes have a pretty favorable path.

If Wisconsin were to meet up with the Buckeyes they’d have the tall task of defending the trio of Duane Washington Jr., E.J. Liddell and Justice Sueing. To beat the Buckeyes you have to do a couple of key things. First, you have to convert on offensive possessions. Ohio State doesn’t turn you over, ranking No. 328 in opponent turnover %. The first time Wisconsin played the Buckeyes they turned it over ten times against a team that struggles to create turnovers.

After that, the Badgers need to have their best shooting performance of the season. Opponents shoot 35% from beyond the arc, so a strong shooting night could allow the Badgers to get back to the Final Four.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Penn State vs Wisconsin Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

There you have it, folks. All the Badgers have to do is rebound against North Carolina, catch Baylor napping, knock off the feisty underdog in Winthrop, and then shoot lights out against the Buckeyes to get back to the Final Four. IF THEY DO ALL THAT they’ll have the honor of getting run out of the gym by Illinois.

Look, I know it sounds crazy but what’s crazier is that I just wrote 1000+ words on a hypothetical that will likely not come anywhere close to true. BUT if it does I’ll be right here to say I told you so. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. That’s the beauty of March, isn’t it? Everyone has a shot. In this wild and crazy time, truly anything can happen.