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Wisconsin Badgers leave their mark on Final Four teams

The Final Four is set and for the first time in three seasons, the Wisconsin Badgers will not be participating.

While Wisconsin fans will be watching the final three games wishing our Badgers were still playing, we take a look at how, if any, connections are present with the Badgers and the remaining four teams.

Villanova Wildcats

The Wildcats are back in the Final Four, advancing to their first since 2009. Having had great success in the regular season the last two years, Villanova suffered two disappointing early round exits as top seeds. This year, the so-called curse had been lifted after the Wildcats dismantled the Iowa Hawkeyes in the round of 32, punching their first Sweet 16 trip in seven years.

Despite playing in the Big East, the Wildcats played seven of the same teams the Badgers did this year in 11 total games.

In the non-conference slate, Villanova played their second game of the year against Nebraska, winning 87-63 in dominating fashion. Two weeks later, the Wildcats played a mutual non-conference opponent in Oklahoma, losing by 23 on a neutral court. The Badgers played the Sooners about a week earlier on the road and lost by 17. Villanova will get their rematch with the Sooners on Saturday.

Wisconsin posted a 1-2 record against Big East teams this year, losing both regular season match-ups to Georgetown and Marquette, but getting the one that mattered most, defeating Xavier in the NCAA Tournament 66-63 thanks to Bronson Koenig’s big three. Against those teams, Villanova put up a 6-1 record, earning three victories against Georgetown, two against Marquette, and splitting each meeting with Xavier. The Wildcats also had a late-season meeting with inner-city rival Temple, winning easily 83-67. The Badgers defeated the Owls 76-60 on December 5.

The NCAA Tournament also provided the Wildcats with a meeting versus a fellow Big Ten team in Iowa. One of the biggest wins of the year for the Badgers came on the road in Iowa City, where they upended the Hawkeyes 67-59, handing them their first loss at home all year. Villanova had no problem with Iowa, demolishing the Hawkeyes 87-68 en route to the Sweet 16.

Records vs. mutual teams

  • Wisconsin: 4-4 (.500)
  • Villanova: 10-2 (.833)

Oklahoma Sooners

The Sooners are making their first Final Four appearance since 2002, where they lost to Indiana 73-64. This is just the fifth Final Four appearance all time as they are seeking the school’s first ever national title. Enduring close calls in the first two rounds, the Sooners turned up the heat on No. 3 Texas A&M and No. 1 Oregon, enjoying double digit wins and punching their ticket to Houston. Senior guard Buddy Hield has been phenomenal, averaging 29.3 points per game this tournament and is only the fourth player since 1975 to average at least 25 points per contest while making the Final Four.

Having significantly less common opponents with the Badgers than did Villanova, Wisconsin and Oklahoma have something the Wildcats did not – a head to head match-up. Both teams met last year in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game, resulting in a 13-point Wisconsin victory. This season, the Sooners retained a majority of their contribution from last season while the Badgers lost multiple weapons and were in search of new players to emerge. Catching the Badgers in an early season funk, the Sooners coasted to a 65-48 victory, holding Wisconsin to 23 percent shooting from the field. The bright side from that game? The Badgers held Buddy Hield to just 12 points on 5-16 shooting, his second lowest total all season.

Only one common opponent between the two, both teams enjoyed victories over the VCU Rams. The Badgers defeated the Rams by one point earlier in the season in the 2k Classic in New York thanks to a last-second runner by Bronson Koenig. Oklahoma defeated VCU 85-81 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Sooners also had the honor of knocking the Oregon Ducks from the tournament, a deed that has been done by the Badgers the previous two years.

Records vs. mutual teams (including head-to-head):

  • Wisconsin: 1-1 (.500)
  • Oklahoma: 2-0 (1.000)

North Carolina Tar Heels

I must admit. It was difficult watching Notre Dame play North Carolina with a trip to the Final Four on the line, especially with the Fighting Irish playing them closely for majority of the game. Pulling away to a 88-74 victory, the Tar Heels advanced to their NCAA-leading 19th Final Four, their first since their 2009 national championship. With four one seeds advancing to the Elite Eight, the Tar Heels were the only top team to survive.

The Badgers and Tar Heels shared seven mutual match-ups this year. Two of the three of North Carolina’s non-conference opponents came against Big Ten teams, resulting in two UNC victories over Northwestern and Maryland. North Carolina also defeated Temple in their season-opener. The Badgers had their fair share of meetings with ACC teams this year, playing Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame. North Carolina also faced Indiana in the Sweet-16, eliminating the last of the Big Ten with a 101-86 victory.

If the Badgers had beaten Notre Dame in the Sweet-16, it would have set up a deja vu like matchup with the Tar Heels with a chance to advance to the Final Four on the line. In 2005, the Tar Hells defeated the Badgers 88-82 to advance to the Final Four and ultimately a national championship. That was the last time a #1 seed met a #6 seed in the Elite Eight and then won the title. The game was also played on Easter Sunday, the same date for this year’s would-be matchup.

Records vs. mutual teams:

  • North Carolina: 10-1 (.909)
  • Wisconsin: 5-4 (.556)

Syracuse Orange

A team that was (supposedly) not even supposed to be in the tournament, the Orange got a favorable scenario, defeating the overseeded Dayton Flyers in the first round followed by the 15-seed Middle Tennessee. Syracuse did not face a single-digit seed until the Elite Eight, overcoming a 13-point deficit with just over 8 minutes to play and defeating ACC foe Virginia 68-62. Syracuse has reached its sixth ever Final Four, and their second since 2013. A team that lost by double digits to St. John’s this year, yes St. John’s, is now two wins away from a national title.

The Badgers and Orange played earlier this year, resulting in a 66-58 overtime win for Wisconsin. At the time, Syracuse was ranked 14 in the AP Poll and had 6-0 record, coming off a Battle 4 Atlantis championship win over Texas A&M. The Badgers out-rebounded the Orange 51-25 and overcame 20 turnovers to pull the stunner. This loss set the Orange into a spiral, dropping three of four, and starting conference play 0-4.

Other than ACC opponents, the only other mutual opponent the Orange played this year was Georgetown. Syracuse lost to the Hoyas the game immediately after their loss to Wisconsin. The Orange had four games in conference against common teams, three of which were against Pittsburgh, losing all three times.

Records vs. mutual teams (including head-to-head):

  • Syracuse: 1-5 (.167)
  • Wisconsin: 2-2 (.500)

Although the Badgers’ NCAA Tournament exit still stings, there is plenty to look forward to. If you find yourself watching the Final Four games this upcoming weekend and wishing it was Wisconsin playing, maybe reading this will help lift your spirits; the Badgers had some impact on each team’s journey.

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