Men’s basketball: Wisconsin to take on ‘heck of a 16-seed’ to begin NCAA tournament

first_imgIt’s no secret that a 16-seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.And now that the Wisconsin men’s basketball team could be in that situation with the program’s first No. 1 seed in its history, it’s hoping to not be the first to fall victim to what could be one of the biggest upsets in all of sports.Wisconsin (31-3) earned the program’s first No. 1 seed after three wins in Chicago to win the Big Ten tournament title last weekend. The Badgers will take on Coastal Carolina (24-9) out of the Big South after the Chanticleers won their conference tournament as the No. 3 seed.This being their second straight trip to the tournament, Coastal Carolina is familiar with the NCAA tournament — and the No. 16 seed — and are a team that nearly pulled off the unthinkable last year.Against top-seeded Virginia last season, the Chanticleers kept the Cavaliers on the ropes the entire game, taking a 35-30 halftime lead. While Virginia came out on top in the end, Coastal Carolina returns four starters from the team that almost defeated the Cavaliers.This season, the Chanticleers played three major-conference opponents, losing by 13 to UCLA and by only three points to Ole Miss, but came back from a 12-point second half deficit to knock off Auburn on the road.Coastal Carolina is a team that is far better than its seed may indicate, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said.“If you could watch them, as I have here … that’s a heck of a 16-seed,” Ryan said. “I can remember seeing a lot of 16-seeds over the years, but what they did last year to prove how capable they are and to come back this year and for them to be in that spot, I think there’s a lot of people surprised.“I don’t know if anybody else has said anything, but after watching those games, if I’m [Coastal Carolina head coach] Cliff Ellis, I’m pretty confident with the squad that he has. They’re pretty good.”To knock off Wisconsin, Coastal Carolina will not only have to deal with Big Ten Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky and his 18.2 points, eight rebounds a game, but also a starting lineup that consists of three other players who can score in addition to all-Big Ten defensive player Josh Gasser.Contenders, pretenders, best players and more: What to look for in the West RegionalContenders Wisconsin The Badgers come into the tournament as Big Ten regular season and tournament champions. They also boast the Read…At the Big Ten tournament, Kaminsky scored 47 points over the course of three games, while junior forward Sam Dekker had 36, sophomore forward Nigel Hayes had 51 and sophomore guard Bronson Koenig added 49, spreading the scoring wealth among themselves each game.Koenig has been playing exceptionally well as of late, scoring in double figures in each of Wisconsin’s Big Ten tournament games. This included a new career-high of 19 points against Purdue in the semifinals and another 18 points in the championship game against Michigan State. He also dished out nine assists and hit four key 3-pointers.His ability to take over games and hit a clutch basket when his team needs him to is something Koenig has developed since taking over for the injured Traevon Jackson. He showcased that ability this past weekend in Chicago.“I think he’s become more and more comfortable with his role and where he’s at,” Wisconsin associate head coach Greg Gard said of Koenig. “Sixty days ago, or about that I guess, it’s been when he jumped into that role, I don’t think he would have had that comfort level. I think it’s been a process and obviously he took giant leaps this past weekend, and it was huge with how he played.”The Badgers could receive some added depth this weekend in the backcourt and as the tournament progresses, since Jackson, who has been out since Jan. 11 with a fractured foot, returned to practice Tuesday. Jackson has been medically cleared to play, but says that it will be up to him if he feels well enough to play and that it’s “50-50” whether he takes the court Friday or this weekend.“It’s just a matter of me now — just taking it one day at a time, just see how it feels,” Jackson said. “So I’m not going back fully until I feel like 100 percent.”But with or without Jackson, the Badgers can’t afford to look past the Chanticleers, who could put a devastating end to perhaps the best season in Wisconsin program history.“It’s not a thought at all in my mind,” Kaminsky said of why a 16-seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed. “Once you think it, it enters your mind and then it makes it real and it makes it a possibility, so I’m not even going to think about it.”Wisconsin and Coastal Carolina will tip off at approximately 8:20 p.m. from Omaha Friday night. The game will be televised on TBS.No. 1 Wisconsin (31-3)Last time out: Defeated Michigan State in overtime, 80-69, to win the Big Ten conference tournament.Probable Starters: G — Bronson Koening (6-4, 8.6 ppg), G — Josh Gasser (6-4, 6.9 ppg), F Sam Dekker (6-9, 13.0 ppg), F – Nigel Hayes (6-8, 12.4 ppg), F Frank Kaminsky (7-0, 18.2 ppg)Key Reserves: F — Duje Dukan (5.0 ppg), G – Zak Showalter (2.0 ppg), F – Vitto Brown (2.0 ppg), G – Traevon Jackson (12.4 ppg)No. 16 Coastal Carolina (24-9)Last time out: Defeated Winthrop 81-70 to win the Big South conference tournament.Probable Starters: G – Warren Ellis (6-3, 13.1 ppg), G – Josh Cameron (6-1, 12.9 ppg), G – Shivaughn Wiggins (5-11, 10.2 ppg), F – Badou Diagne (6-7, 9.6 ppg), F – Tristian Curtis (6-7, 4.6 ppg)Key Reserves: G – Elijah Wilson (11.1 ppg), F – Marcus Freeman (5.3 ppg), F – Michael Enanga (2.7 ppg)Game VitalsWho: No. 1 Wisconsin vs. No. 16 Coastal CarolinaWhen: Friday, March 20, 8:20 p.m.Where: CenturyLink Center (18,320); Omaha, NebraskaTV: TBS (Marv Albert, Len Elmore, Chris Webber)Update: Jackson said Thursday that he will not play this weekend in Omaha. He hopes to return for the Sweet 16 should Wisconsin advance.last_img

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