#7 Wisconsin (22-12) vs #6 Notre Dame (23-11)
When: Friday, March 25th 2016
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Time: 7:27 ET | TV: TBS
Two teams that struggled in their respective conference tournaments and needed last-second shots last week to get into the Sweet 16, meet tonight in Philadelphia as the Wisconsin Badgers battle the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Badgers were blow out of the Big Ten Tournament by Nebraska and struggled mightily in the first round against Pittsburgh. Wisconsin scored the fewest points to win an NCAA Tournament game since 2003 in the 47-43 victory over the Panthers. Bronson Koenig kept the seventh-seeded Badgers’ dream of making three straight Final Fours alive their next time out, hitting two 3-pointers in the final 11.7 seconds, including the game-winner as time expired, to upset the second-seeded Xavier Musketeers 66-63. Koenig scored 20 points in the contest after scoring a combined 21 in his previous three games. Leading scorer Nigel Hayes (15.9 points) has been awful in this tournament and needs to turn things around if the Badgers want to advance. Hayes has missed all 17 of his 3-point attempts and is a combined 7-of-42 from the floor over his last three outings. The Badgers held Pittsburgh’s and Xavier’s leading-scorers to well below their season averages in the two wins. Wisconsin has won their last five games that have been decided by six points or fewer after starting the season 2-7 in that category.
The Irish were also blown out of their own tournament before the Big Dance. North Carolina beat them by 31 points, but the Irish bounced back to defeat Michigan in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Notre Dame rallied from a 12-point deficit to defeat the Wolverines and had even more drama in their second game. Freshman Rex Pflueger tipped in a missed shot with 1.5 seconds left to hold off a second-round upset bid from Stephen F. Austin 76-75. Zach Auguste (14.3 points, 10.9 boards) became the 13th Fighting Irish to reach 800 career rebounds Sunday and has ten double-doubles over his last 14 games. He is averaging 15.3 points and 12.1 boards over that span and is shooting 70.5% from the field in seven career NCAA Tournament games. Auguste has a chance to break Bill Walton’s tournament record (68.6) if he is able to maintain his current percentage on nine or more attempts. V.J. Beachem (11.6 points) is coming off his worst shooting effort (6-for-13) since the end of the regular season, but he is still averaging 15.8 points on 24-of-39 from the field – including 13-of-25 from beyond the arc over that four-game stretch. The Irish need to take better care of the ball against Wisconsin. They have committed 16 more turnovers than they have forced during the NCAA Tournament (29-13).
Both teams are lucky to be here, but I believe Nigel Hayes will get things turned around for the Badgers and they squeak out a victory tonight over the Irish. The winner will play either North Carolina or Indiana.
Pick: Wisconsin +1