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This is one of the more surprising matchups in the Sweet 16 after Wisconsin upset Villanova and Florida made it here without big man John Egbunu. But one of them will be in the Elite 8 and it'll be a matchup that not many expected ahead of the tournament. Vegas is similarly uncertain what to expect with the Gators currently small -2 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook for the game at Madison Square Garden.
This was supposed to be Villanova's spot as it would have a large home-court advantage, but instead it's one team from the south and another from the north. The Gators were expected to struggle in this tournament given how they looked at the end of the season without Egbunu, but that hasn't been an issue in the first two games, beating East Tennessee State and then completely handling Virginia 65-39. They've been solid on both ends of the court and that will have to show up against Wisconsin, which is solid in every area as well.
The big thing will be if Wisconsin can stop the athleticism of guys like Devin Robinson, Kasey Hill and KeVaughn Allen. The Badgers did just fine against Villanova, so it wouldn't be surprising if Wisconsin's defense stepped up again. The difference between 'Nova and Florida is that the Gators have more options to turn to if one guy is struggling. They only have three guys that average double digits with Canyon Barry being one of them. And while Florida doesn't have great shooting numbers this season, just 36.1% from deep, that hasn't been an issue in the first couple games because they're shooting well above 50% from two-point range.
Virginia had the best defense in the country according to the metrics, but that didn't matter against Florida's slew of options. The Gators had five players with at least seven points and two of them weren't Allen or Hill. The other end will be a test for Florida because Egbunu is no longer there to stop the other team's big man. So far, the Gators haven't had a to play a team in the tournament that uses its bigs all that often and that will change against Wisconsin.
The Badgers have gotten consistent production from their top three guys in their first two wins and that's how they'll win here. Bronson Koenig continues to hit big shot after big shot, but the difference will be Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes, both of whom were used a ton against smaller teams in the first two games. Happ and Hayes will see a lot of Justin Leon and Kevarrius Hayes with plenty of double teams. But both Happ and Hayes are great passing out of double teams and that's why guys like Koenig, Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter have had open shots.
Florida has struggled to beat teams that attack down low since Egbunu went down with an injury and that'll be the likely route of Wisconsin's scoring. The Badgers will have that edge, but will need to limit the easy looks on the other end from a team stacked with good players, but not great ones.
Our Pick - Florida -2
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