PLAYER TO WATCH: Ethan Happ
With Gators’ stud, big-man John Egbunu, out since the middle of February due to injury look for Wisconsin’s stud, big man to have a strong game on Friday. The degree in which he’s strong can go a long way in deciding the outcome of the game. If he is dominant, look for the Badgers to win.
PLAYER TO WATCH: KeVaughn Allen
The Gators’ leading scorer will have a tough, must-win individual battle against the Badgers backcourt anchored by Bronson Koenig. Allen needs to reacquire his shooting touch as he’s gone a combined 3-21 from the field in the NCAA Tournament.
With the two most talented teams in the East region now eliminated in Duke and Villanova, it seems that it’s up to the Badgers solely to play their game in order to win. The most encouraging thing to come from last week’s massive win over Villanova is that the Badger got the ‘W’ without playing a great overall game. They shot 33 percent from three, 43 percent from the line, and committed 14 turnovers. Wisconsin also played large stretches of the second half without two of its stars, Bronson Koenig and Ethan Happ, due to foul trouble.
Another huge point of optimism is the play of Nigel Hayes in that second half against the Wildcats where he simply took over the game. And, the best part, he’s taking the ball to the basket with ferocity and great efficiency. If Hayes can continue this run-of-form the Badgers will be tough to beat.
Along the lines of tough to beat…if the Badgers are smart with the basketball and shoot decently from the field they’ll, again, be a hard team to beat. And if they can make their free throws… you get the point. Long story short, if the Badgers play the sound game that they’re more than capable of, they have a great shot against the Gators.
An additional X-factor that my roommate said to me before the Villanova game that applies to Friday’s game: if Vitto Brown can score 10 or more points, they’ll win. I call it the Kirchman special. He has a trademark on that take, though.