Pitt-Wisconsin was everything we thought it would be and more.
Well … less, actually.
The No. 7 seed Badgers erased an early 12-point deficit with a 19-6 run, holding on down the stretch to beat No. 10 Pitt, 47-43, in the East Region’s first round.
And yes, that final score is accurate, as the game may have been worse than that score would lead you to believe. Wisconsin shot 37.8 percent from the floor, which was markedly better than the 32.1 percent that Pitt shot. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin’s star forward, hit the two game-clinching free throws with 1.3 seconds left on the clock, but he also shot 3-for-17 from the floor. Pitt’s James Robinson was 3-for-14 from the floor, including a runner that he missed with five seconds left that would have given the Panthers the lead.
As bad as this game way, it has to be taken with a bit of perspective. Games that were played in the 40s and 50s, eyesores like this, were not uncommon last season. This year, at least in settings that get as much attention as the NCAA tournament, they have been few and far between.
So maybe the reduced shot clock and the emphasis on freedom of movement actually helped?
Whatever the case may be, the Badgers will advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament, which is a fairly shocking accomplishment given everything they’ve been through this season. Bo Ryan quit in December. Greg Gard took over, but his impact wasn’t immediate. On Jan. 12th, after a loss to Northwestern, the Badgers were 9-9 on the season after a 1-4 start to Big Ten play with losses to Western Illinois, Milwaukee and Marquette.
And now they’ll get their shot at No. 2 Xavier — or No. 15 Weber State — for the right to play in the Sweet 16.
How many people had a better season than that?