The Wisconsin Badgers are headed to their third straight Sweet 16 after Bronson Koenig's buzzer-beating three sealed a victory over Xavier in the second round. Unlike the past two seasons, if you would've predicted the Badgers to make the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament back in mid-December, people would've looked at you like you had three heads.
Now Wisconsin finds itself in a situation where KenPom has them as a one-point favorite to advance to the Elite Eight. They'll face the sixth-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Friday night in Philadelphia for the opportunity to do so.
Here's an early look at the three biggest things to expect from Notre Dame.
1. A Balanced Offense
We'll get to Notre Dame's defense later, but they can certainly score points. If you just look at raw numbers, the Irish's 76 points scored per game doesn't seem overwhelming, but when you factor in that they play at one of the slowest tempos in the country, they grade out as the seventh most efficient offense around. They have five players that average over 11 points per game, led by point guard Demetrius Jackson's 15.5 and big man Zach Auguste's 14.3. Jackson, Steve Vasturia, and V.J. Beachem can all shoot it from the outside, while Auguste and Bonzie Colson do the scoring on the low block. Auguste and Colson are also two of the best offensive rebounders in the country.
2. The Irish Will Not Beat Themselves
Notre Dame averages 10.0 turnovers per game, which is good for the tenth best average in the nation. With that said, four of the Irish's five worst turnover games - based on the percentage of possessions that ended in turnovers - have occurred the last four games. Although one of those games was in the second round against a pressing Stephen F. Austin team. The Lumberjacks forced West Virginia into 33 turnovers in round one, while they were only able to get 13 from Notre Dame.
Another thing that Notre Dame does well is not sending their opponents to the free throw line. There's only ten teams in the country that send opponents to the line at a lower rate. In the first two rounds, SFA and Michigan only shot a combined 14 free throws.
3. But They Will Allow You To Score
While they don't give themselves many self-inflicted wounds, the Irish defense can at times resemble Swiss cheese. They currently rank as the 172nd most efficient defense in the country, which is 63 spots lower than any other team in the Sweet 16. They allow opponents to shoot over 37% from three, they give up a lot of offensive rebounds, and while they don't turn the ball over on offense, they also don't create many on defense.
Three-point shooting hasn't been that much of a strong point for the Badgers this season, but if Koenig can get warm again, that might get the offense going. Ethan Happ's been effective on the offensive glass all year long, but if Nigel Hayes can grab a few and put them back in for easy buckets, it might ignite the rest of his offensive game that has been lacking the past few games.