By Adam Roberts – 3/15/2021
At 17-12, this Wisconsin Badger men’s basketball team may not have the teeth of team’s in the last 10-15 years or so. However, if anything is certain in this COVID-19 world, it’s that nothing’s certain, and even with a less-than-stellar seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, this is the month where magic happens.
After another close loss to Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, the Badgers were slated with a nine seed yesterday in the South Region, and their opponent for Round One will be the Roy Williams-coached North Carolina Tar Heels. Comparatively, the two teams match up well on paper: two blue-chip basketball programs playing very difficult schedules with fairly expected final records given their difficult roads (Wisconsin played the fifth most difficult schedule of Division One programs this year while North Carolina was 19th).
As for big wins, the Tar Heels had two late in their season, once against at the time 11th-ranked Florida State at home and then in the ACC Tournament against #22 Virginia Tech, who will face Florida Friday as a 10 seed. As for Wisconsin, their best wins according to ranking were over then-#23 Louisville and then-#12 Michigan State in the first half of the season, but their overall record against ranked teams is 3-9 including the Big Ten Tournament.
The key player Wisconsin will have to contend with on Friday is sophomore Armando Bacot. The Richmond, Virginia product is a 6’10” rim-rattler who shoots 62.1 percent from the field and averaged just over 12 and a half points per game. Wisconsin of course has history dealing with big men in the paint, think Luka Garza, but last Friday he was a thorn in the Badgers side all game finishing 10/15 for 24 points.
The winner faces either Baylor or 16-seed Hartford on March 21st.