It’s March Madness, the greatest time of the year. Looking for some help with your bracket? Don’t know which teams to believe in, in this crazy college hoops season? We’ve got your back. We’re breaking down every first-round game in the field of 68, plus looking ahead at which teams will make the run to the Final Four.
9:40 p.m. tip, Buffalo, NY
8. Wisconsin (25-9, 12-6/Big Ten)– It was a little surprising to see the Badgers slip to a No. 8 seed, with a 25-9 record, 12 Big Ten wins and a run to the conference title game. Nevertheless, this program keeps on rolling under Greg Gard, who has guided Wisconsin to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances after legendary head coach Bo Ryan’s retirement.
This Wisconsin group has a mixture of youth and experience, with two seniors–Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig–who played key roles on the Badgers’ 2015 national runner-up team.
Koenig leads Wisconsin in scoring at 14 ppg, while nimble big man Ethan Happ (just a sophomore) comes in at 13.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per.
Happ will be tough to stop for Virginia Tech, and the Hokies will have to keep Hayes and Koenig in check, as both have proven to be big-game performers and won’t go home without a knock-down, drag-out fight.KEY STATS:
Points Allowed 61.1 (7th)
9. Virginia Tech (22-10, 10-8/ACC)–It didn’t take long for head coach Buzz Williams to make his mark on this squad. The former Marquette coach left Milwaukee for Blacksburg in 2014, and in three short years, he’s taken Virginia Tech from ACC bottom-feeder to NCAA Tournament team. The Hokies are back in the Dance for the first time since 2007.
Like Wisconsin, Virginia Tech wins games with toughness and attention to detail. It showed in home wins over Duke, Virginia, and Miami.
Junior Zach LeDay (16.3 ppg, 7.4 rag) and senior Seth Allen (13.3 ppg) lead the way for this team, but there isn’t much depth on this squad, as they have only eight scholarship players left on the roster.
PREDICTION: Happ, Hayes and Koenig prove too much for this relatively inexperienced Virginia Tech squad to handle. We think Wisconsin will get the Hokies into foul trouble, and Va. Tech’s thin bench comes back to bite them in the end. Advance Wisconsin in your bracket, but only one line. We’ve got them falling to No. 1 Villanova in the Round of 32.