Wisconsin has pulled off the signature win of the tournament so far (apologies to South Carolina/Duke) with their victory over reigning national champion Villanova. Now the Badgers find themselves in the dangerous spot of avoiding a letdown as they take on the Florida Gators Friday night in Madison Square Garden.
One thing Wisconsin can't afford to do is overlook Florida. The #4 seed Gators have rolled through the first two rounds of the tournament and with Duke being knocked out of the bottom half of the East bracket – the winner of this game has a much easier path to the Final Four (supposedly).
Wisconsin's latest visit to the Sweet 16 was easily the least expected. The Badgers lost 3 of 4 to finish off the regular season and were upset by the surging Michigan team in the Big Ten Tournament. Regardless, all is good in cheese land after two straight tourney wins including that amazing 65-62 win over Villanova.
The Gators definitely had a stronger ending to the regular season. Florida won 10 of 13 games with losses coming to Kentucky and back to back close hiccups (71-73, 62-72 in OT) against Vanderbilt to end the season and in the SEC tournament. They are playing some of the best basketball in the tournament through the first two rounds after beating Eastern Tennessee by 15 and demolishing Virginia by 26.
On paper, these two teams are pretty evenly matched up. Wisconsin is 27-9 while Florida is 26-8. The Badgers are 6-4 over their last 10 while Florida has gone 7-3. Florida only gives up 61.8 PPG (11th) whereas Wisconsin 65.7 (37th). The defensive numbers alone could point to the total going under but the number of 131 is easily the lowest of the Sweet 16.
Therefore we must pick a winner. It could be easy to think that Wisconsin is riding the momentum from their huge upset over Villanova. Another way to look at it, however, is that they are set up for a letdown now more than ever. We can't forget Wisconsin's poor play at the end of the regular season and in the Big Ten tournament in lieu of one game in the round of 32. The way the Gators are playing they may be bound for the Final Four. Florida is the pick.