16 things to know about Wisconsin, Florida's Sweet 16 opponent

Landon Watnick, Beat Writer
Inside the Gators

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After defeating ETSU and Virginia during its opening weekend by a combined 145-104 - and then outscoring both by 112-72 during the final three halves of action - No. 4 seed Florida (26-8, 14-4 SEC) will square off against No. 8 seed Wisconsin (27-9, 12-6 Big Ten) on Friday night at about 9:59 p.m. ET in Madison Square Garden in New York City in a matchup that will air on TBS.

Now, Inside the Gators presents 16 things to know about Wisconsin ahead of Friday night's Sweet 16 matchup.

1. The Badgers have reached the Sweet 16 six times in the past seven years - every year excluding 2013 from that span, and they did make the NCAA Tournament that year as well. Although three of the five trips previous to this weekend's ended in Sweet 16 ousters, Wisconsin did make the Final Four in 2014 and 2015, reaching the national title game the latter year and then losing to Duke.

2. After long-time head coach Bo Ryan announced his retirement 12 games into the 2015-16 season, Greg Gard was soon named the interim head coach - eventually seeing the interim tag removed. After starting that year 7-5, the Badgers finished 15-8 and reached the Sweet 16. The Badgers are 42-17 under Gard through one-and-a-half seasons.

3. Wisconsin, which is 27-9 this season and 12-6 in Big Ten play, tied for second best in the conference. After knocking off Indiana and Northwestern in the conference tournament, Wisconsin fell to Michigan in the final, 71-56.

4. No. 8 seed Wisconsin's first-round matchup with No. 9 seed Virginia Tech last Thursday came down to the final minutes, although the final score of 84-74 may not indicate it. The Badgers made a number of key shots and free throws down the stretch, and some important stops against the Hokies, to eventually make it a three-possession game with 36 seconds left.

5. The Badgers' big win everybody is talking about is their bracket-busting 65-62 upset victory over overall No. 1 seed/defending national champion Villanova last Saturday. That game, too, came down to the wire. With the contest tied up at 62-62, Nigel Hayes scored a layup with 14 seconds to go, Nova's Josh Hart turned over the ball, and then Wisconsin went 1-of-2 at the line but still held on for the win. Although standouts Bronson Koenig and Ethan Happ each dealt with foul trouble, with four apiece, the Badgers still managed to survive.

6. While Florida is now No. 3 in KenPom.com's power ratings, Wisconsin is No. 21, fourth-lowest of Sweet 16 teams. The Badgers are tied for 32nd nationally in RPI and 83rd in strength of schedule, while the Gators are 10th and eighth in those respective categories.

7. Like Florida, Wisconsin is up there as one of the best teams in the country in numerous defensive statistical categories. The Badgers are seventh nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency (per KenPom.com), 41st in opponents' effective field-goal percentage (47.4%), ninth in two-point defense (42.8%) and 45th in percentage of opponents' possessions with a steal (10.3%).

8. However, Wisconsin's three-point defense hasn't been as good. The Badgers have allowed opponents to shoot 37.7% from downtown, which is just 305th best nationally. On the flip side, the Badgers have gone 35.8% on three-point baskets (135th).

9. Wisconsin's free-throw shooting is one of the team's greatest weaknesses. The Badgers are shooting just 64.3% from the charity stripe, which is 334th nationally. To compare, opponents have shot 74% on free throws while the national average is 70.4%.

10. Similar to Virginia, Wisconsin likes to operate at a slow tempo. The Badgers are 334th nationally in adjusted tempo, per KenPom, with an average possession length of 19.9 seconds (343rd in the country).

11. One of Gard's group's greatest strengths is rebounding the basketball, especially on the offensive glass. The Badgers record an offensive rebound on 35.8% of their possessions, which is 18th in the nation. Opponents do so on just 25.5% of possessions, 39th best in the country by Wisconsin.

12. Eight of Wisconsin's top nine scorers from the 2015-16 season returned to school for the 2016-17 season. Per KenPom, the Badgers are No. 1 nationally in minutes continuity (86.6%), measuring how many minutes players from last year's roster have received this season. Comparably, Florida is 23rd in that category (69.7%).

13. Most of Wisconsin's minutes have gone to eight players who primarily make up the rotation. Eight Badgers average at least 10 minutes per game and have appeared in 34 of 36 contests this season.

14. One of Wisconsin's greatest strengths this season has been the inside presence of the 6-foot-10, 232-pound Happ and the 6-foot-8, 240-pound Hayes, two forwards who are the No. 2 and No. 3 scorers on the team, respectively. Happ, a sophomore, is averaging a near double-double (13.8 PPG on 58.4% shooting on two-point baskets, team-high 9.1 RPG), while Hayes is also recording 13.8 points per game but on 45.2% shooting (48.4% on twos, 30.4% on threes). The senior forward is second on the team with 6.6 rebounds per game.

15. Wisconsin's leading scorer is Koenig, a senior guard who is averaging 14.5 points per game on 42.2% shooting and a 39.5% clip from three-point range, which is second best on the team behind D'Mitrik Trice (42.2% from three on 90 attempts). Koenig has the most three-point attempts on the team, notably hitting eight threes on 17 attempts against VT and then knocking down three of six threes against Villanova.

16. Florida's all-time record against Wisconsin is 2-2, with the Gators and Badgers most recently playing a home-and-home in 2012 and 2013. Florida won at home in 2012, 74-56, while the Badgers defeated the Gators a year later 59-53. Before that, Florida and Wisconsin only had played in 1967 and 1968.


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