After trouncing the Montana Grizzlies in the first round (reminder, 60 teams don’t get a first-round bye), the Badgers were walking around Albuquerque flapping their gums: “That’s just too easy!” “No, no, no, that shit is TOO EASY!” Drubbing Montana 73-49 is cause for such celebration. The 24-point victory is the largest margin of victory ever in the Big Dance for the Badgers.
The Badgers played one of their most complete games of the season, controlling the game on both ends of the floor, and really never stalling on the offensive side – an achilles heel for parts of the season. In typical Badger basketball fashion, they had a solid assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5:1), shot 48% from the field, including 10-19 from beyond the arc, and shut down the Grizzlies, holding them to just 38% shooting and only 3 treys. And most importantly, the Badgers controlled the boards, holding a 32 to 19 edge. But, let’s be honest here, the Grizzlies were clearly over-matched. This is what the Badgers are supposed to do – albeit a 24 point victory is more than what’s expected. The Badgers need to have this complete performance Saturday to make it through to the second weekend.
Standing in their way from Sweet 16 glory is the SEC Tournament champs (where they knocked off the prohibitive favorite for the national championship – Kentucky NBAers). Vanderbilt took care of the geniuses at Harvard in 79-70 fashion. Vandy seemed to have the game in control with a double-digit lead for most of the game. Then, Harvard solved for X and figured out how to attack Vandy, closing the game to 5 points with little over a minute to go before falling short. Vandy shot 54% from the field, made 8 three’s, and controlled the boards with a 35 to 22 edge. Something to consider, though, is Vandy turned the ball over 16 times – a stat Bo Ryan is sure to highlight to the squad during preparation.
The Commodores entered the season no. 7 in the country, but struggled out of the gates going 6-4. Their stud center – Festus Ezeli – was suspended the first six games for NCAA rules violations (accepted improper gifts) and then was injured even before the suspension was over, delaying his return a few more weeks. Soon after his return, Vandy started putting things together, and closed the season with its impressive run through the SEC tourney. They boast a strong inside-outside game with Ezeli and John Jenkins, one of the better snipers from outside in the country.
Vandy is a popular bracket buster in many office/friendly/gambling pools. I, for one, picked Vandy to the Final Four. They are the hotter team, coming into this game with a level of confidence Sydney Deane would be proud of. We know White Men Can’t Jump (just watch the Badgers play for further proof), but if the Badgers do advance to the Sweet Sixteen, well, We Goin Sizzla! We Goin Sizzla! (go to 2:53 spot).