Wisconsin heard all week that they shouldn't be a No. 8 seed. And they probably have a solid case. But when it comes down to it, all the Badgers could do is come in to Buffalo with tunnel vision and play the game. Survive and advance. Wisconsin did just that by ousting a talented Virginia Tech team 84-74 to advance for a date with No. 1 Villanova.
Bronson Koenig was incredible for the Badgers, nailing eight three-pointers and leading all scorers with 28 points. Koenig hit a number of big shots in crucial moments and continuously fended off furious Virginia Tech runs.
Zach LeDay netted 23 points to lead the Hokies and Ty Outlaw added 16. Virginia Tech did the bulk of its damage in the paint, taking full advantage of Ethan Happ’s vulnerability due to early foul trouble.
This matchup went back and forth, as Wisconsin controlled the tempo, but Virginia Tech seemed to always have an answer.
With 1:30 remaining in the second half, Wisconsin put the game away with an Ethan Happ outback layup to extend the lead to 79-73 and deflated any comeback hopes for the Hokies.
Let’s take a closer look at the game.
What We Learned:
1. Bronson Koenig is the go-to man for the Badgers.
Sure, that one seems obvious after tonight’s dazzling performance from the sweet-shooting senior. But, when a team looks at Wisconsin on film, it’s Happ who draws the attention and double teams.
Koenig is the guy. When the Badgers need a hoop in crunch time, it’s Koenig. The shot clock is under 10 seconds? Find Koenig.
No disrespect to Happ, who is a luxurious second or third option in the Wisconsin offense, but Koenig is the one with the hot hand and the proven tournament experience.
Koenig has netted over 15 points in seven of the last eight games. He runs the swing offense to perfection, logs 35-plus minutes a night and never lets a moment get too big.
2. Virginia Tech showed just how good the ACC is.
The Atlantic Coast Conference are a different breed in collegiate hoops. The nation’s best conference is littered with savvy coaches and players who are there to win despite looking at millions of dollars in the NBA in the near future.
The Hokies are some gamers. There was no quit, even though they scarcely held a lead and were faced with the ongoing challenge of playing from behind for essentially all 40 minutes.
This is a No. 9 seed, remember. If the Badgers have a legitimate gripe with the committee (and they do), then the Hokies should, too. This team finished seventh in conference play. Seventh! In the majority of other leagues—maybe even the Big Ten—the Hokies would be top-3.
3. Khalil Iverson is a weapon off the bench.
The Badgers often like to send out a smaller unit, consisting of three “guards” and Nigel Hayes with Ethan Happ in the middle. Koenig is virtually always on the floor, but Zak Showalter’s scrappiness tends to land him in foul trouble and Vitto Brown’s inconsistency from the field leaves a vacancy for playing time.
Iverson has shown flashes of being the player that Greg Gard needs to be able to trust in a sixth or seventh man role, but tonight it all seemed clear. Iverson is 6-foot-5, but he plays like he is five inches taller.
Iverson snagged seven rebounds, and four of them were on the offensive glass. It is a quite the sight to see Iverson soar over forwards to secure a rebound then take the ball strongly to the basket. Iverson scored 11 points and impressively knocked down 7-of-10 free throws.
Look for Iverson to see more action against Villanova Saturday.
It was a tough game for the Badgers, but Wisconsin was able to take care of business and came away with a huge win. The Badgers will now get ready to face the bracket’s top seed in Villanova on Saturday.