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NCAA Tournament: What you should know about Wisconsin basketball



The Florida Gators' path back to the Sweet 16 was somewhat unlikely, as I wrote in today's Tampa Bay Times. Not so much for their opponent, Wisconsin. The Badgers are in the Sweet 16 for an NCAA-leading fourth year in a row.

"It's an amazing accomplishment," associate coach Lamont Paris told the Wisconsin State Journal.

Here's what you should know about the Badgers:

1. They have a great 1-2-3 punch. Three players earned all-Big Ten honors: Forward Ethan Happ (first team), guard Bronson Koenig (second team) and forward Nigel Hayes (third team). All three average between 13.5 and 14.5 points per game, and Happ was also on the Big Ten's all-defensive team. Speaking of Happ...

2. Happ will be a touch matchup for UF. Or anyone, for that matter. "He's got size," Villanova coach Jay Wright told reporters before Wisconsin's 65-62 second-round win. "He can score over you, and if you have size on him, he can score around you with his ball handling. He's a great ball handler. He's a really tough matchup." Happ leads the Badgers in rebounds (9.1 per game) and assists (2.8).

3. Wisconsin is big and physical. Wright compared the Badgers to Butler, but bigger. Four contributors - including three starters - are at least 6-8. UF hasn't yet missed center John Egbunu (torn ACL) in the post yet. But this might be a game where his absence inside shows up.

4. Hayes is one of the most interesting people in college basketball. It's not just his game - although he did score the go-ahead basket in the closing seconds against Villanova. He has been outspoken on the hot-button topic of whether college athletes should be paid.

5. Wisconsin's current run is ridiculous. Two more wins, and the Badgers will be in their third Final Four in four seasons. That's despite changing coaches, from Bo Ryan to Greg Gard, midway through last season. Since 2014, no team has won more NCAA Tournament games than the Badgers (13).

[Last modified: Monday, March 20, 2017 3:56pm]


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