The No. 8 seed Wisconsin Badgers and No. 9 seed Virginia Tech Hokies clash in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Buffalo, New York. This is the Badgers’ 19th straight berth in the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin and Virginia Tech have only matched up one time before in 2008, and the Badgers left Blacksburg victorious, 74-72. The game is set for approximately 8:40 p.m. CT, and will be televised on CBS.
G: Bronson Koenig (14.1 PPG, 2.0 APG)
G: Zak Showalter (8.3 PPG, 2.9 RPG)
F: Nigel Hayes (13.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.8 APG)
F: Vitto Brown (6.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG)
C: Ethan Happ (13.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.8 APG)
G: Justin Robinson (10.3 PPG, 4.8 APG)
G: Justin Bibbs (9.2 PPG, 1.6 APG)
G: Ahmed Hill (11.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG)
F: Ty Outlaw (6.0 PPG, 2.7 RPG)
C: Khadim Sy (4.0 PPG, 2.7 RPG)
The Hokies, an at-large bid out of the ACC, are led by what is a familiar face (and foe) to Badger fans: former Marquette head coach Buzz Williams. Williams led the Golden Eagles from 2008-14 and then promptly left for his current job.
Williams led the Hokies to a 22-10 season. Virginia Tech beat a few notable teams during the regular season, including Michigan, Duke, Virginia, and Miami. The Hokies played tough against Notre Dame and Louisville, but lost both.
The Hokies have four active players that have scoring averages in double-figures, and a fifth, Justin Bibbs, above nine points. Their two leading scorers come off the bench. Forward Zach LeDay averages 16.3 PPG on 53 percent shooting from the field. Guard Seth Allen averages 13.4 PPG and adds 3.3 APG off the bench.
Wisconsin has won nine of their last ten opening round games. Their only loss came as a #5 seed when they got upset by #12 seed Ole Miss and Marshall Henderson in 2013. The Badgers’ formula seems to be on the defensive end, as they are holding their opponents to an average of 54.1 PPG in the opening round.
The Hokies average 79 PPG on offense, which makes an interesting matchup with Wisconsin. The Badgers boast the Big Ten’s best defense, holding opponents to 61.4 PPG.
One thing the Badgers have going for them is experience. Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, and Zak Showalter helped the Badgers reach two Final Fours their freshman and sophomore years. Last year, with essentially the same exact team, the Badgers reached the Sweet Sixteen and were just a few plays away from making their third straight trip to the Elite Eight.
The winner of Thursday night’s matchup will face Villanova, unless there is a historic upset, on Saturday.