A basketball game really doesn’t get much more ‘Wisconsin’ than what we saw as the No. 4 Badgers survived an impressive comeback to knock off No. 5 Vanderbilt 60-57, moving into the Sweet 16.
The game was played in the 50’s, with the Badgers putting five players in double figures. Jordan Taylor led the way with 14 points, but it took him 15 shots to do so. Vandy didn’t get into an offensive rhythm until the stretch run, when they started feeding Festus Ezeli in the paint. John Jenkins and Jeff Taylor finished a combined 7-25 from the floor and 3-14 from three, ending up with just 22 points.
And, of course, the game was tight down the stretch with Wisconsin coming up with seemingly every loose ball and hustle play. There was Jared Berggren grabbing an offensive rebound with 46 seconds left and Josh Gasser doing the same just 30 seconds later, which meant that the Badgers were able to milk more than a minute off the clock.
And after John Jenkins missed a three that would have given the Commodores a one point lead, Wisconsin batted down a last-second, desperation in-bounds pass.
The Badgers advanced to face Syracuse in the Sweet 16, setting up what will be a terrific matchup. Obviously, Syracuse plays a 2-3 zone, and the Badgers are perfectly designed to matchup with a zone. They have a terrific point guard in Taylor. They have shooters around their perimeter. They have skilled big men in Jordan Berggren and Ryan Evans, the latter of whom is playing the best basketball in his career.
Bo Ryan has gotten criticized in recent seasons for putting together a team built for regular season success that struggles in tournament play. Like Vanderbilt, his team has had issues with being eliminated from postseason play earlier than their seed says they should.
Well, for the second straight season, Bo has his team in the Sweet 16. And playing in a region where the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, Syracuse and Ohio State respectively, have their issues, the Badgers are as good of a bet as any to put together a run to the Final Four.