Which team owns the most NCAA Tournament wins in the past four years?
If you guessed the Wisconsin Badgers, then you are correct. The Badgers can add to that impressive total on Friday night when the team takes on the fourth-seeded Florida Gators. Florida comes into the matchup after having won its first two tournament games by an average of 20.5 points.
Choosing a one-on-one matchup to watch is difficult, considering both of these teams have a balanced offense. Wisconsin is led by Bronson Koenig, Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes. Koenig averages a team-best 14.5 points and he’s the team’s most deadly shooter. So far Koenig has drained 31 career threes in NCAA tourney play.
When Koenig is hitting from the outside like he has in the first two tournament games we’ve seen just how difficult it is to stop this offense. Adding to Koenig’s perimeter game is paint production from Happ and Hayes.
Happ and Hayes’ ability to score down low allows for a dynamic inside-out game that keeps the defense on their toes. Happ and Hayes both average 13.8 points per game and are excellent passers on the low block, giving Koenig, Zak Showalter and Vitto Brown plenty of open looks.
Florida’s offense also depends on three guys. KeVaughn Allen is Florida's leading scorer at 13.4 points, but he has struggled in the first two tournament games, averaging 5.5 points in the victories over East Tennessee State and Virginia. Canyon Barry is the team's second-leading scorer at 11.8 points per game, Barry is joined by Devin Robinson, who averages 11.4 points and is the playmaker and the team’s most athletic player.
-Nigel Hayes vs. Devin Robinson:
Although both teams depend on a variety of players, there is still one intriguing matchup to watch that could very well decide the game. That matchup will be between Hayes and Robinson. It’s likely that both players will guard each other considering that both play the forward position and both guys are the playmakers on their respective teams.
Robinson has been the best player for the Gators in their first two tournament games. He dropped 24 points against East Tennessee State and followed that performance with 14 points and 11 rebounds in Saturday’s win over Virginia. Robinson is the Gators’ top athlete and best pro prospect. What makes Robinson intriguing is his ability to stretch the floor as well as finish at the rim.
Hayes will be tasked with guarding Robinson. In terms of size, Robinson is 6’8” and 200 pounds, Hayes is 6’8” and 240 pounds. Robinson is a better leaper than Hayes, but Hayes is stronger and has the 40 pound difference. The first question to ask is will Hayes be able to contain Robinson from the three-point line and will he be able to find Robinson in transition?
Robinson is shooting 39 percent from three this season, Hayes will have to do his best to run him off the line and make him put the ball on the floor. Hayes, along with teammate Khalil Iverson, only allowed one three-pointer against Josh Hart on Saturday. They will need to play the same type of defense against Robinson.
The other area of concern for the Badgers is finding Robinson in transition. The key for Badgers in limiting transition points, will be cutting down on their turnovers. Florida will only have a limited amount of opportunities to run if the Badgers take care of the ball and are able to dictate the pace of the game.
The second question to ask is: Will Robinson guard Hayes, and if he does, will he be able to stop Hayes when he’s in iso situations on the low block? Robinson isn’t strong enough to stop Hayes from backing him down, but he is long enough to block his shot.
Even with Robinson’s length advantage and jumping ability, I think Hayes will still win this battle. He’s crafty enough to figure out how to avoid getting his shot blocked and smart enough to draw fouls on Robinson when the Florida forward leaps in the air.
I wouldn’t be surprised if both players struggle to score because of the tough matchup each player presents for one another, but I’m certain that both players will put their stamp on the game via assists, rebounds and creating open looks for their teammates.