For the third consecutive year, the Big Ten’s Wisconsin Badgers have drawn a four seed in the NCAA Tournament. This year, they match-up with a Montana Grizzlies team who hail from the Big Sky Conference and have won fourteen straight games.
Even though the Badgers (24-9) are 3-0 all-time against #13 seeds and appear to be heavy favorites, I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the Grizzlies (25-6).
Wisconsin Badgers Synopsis: Under Head Coach Bo Ryan, the pesky Badgers are 9-1 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. They are led by senior guard Jordan Taylor who averages 14.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. By now, most people should know that the Badgers are primarily a defensive team as they rank first in the nation while allowing 52.9 points per game. They limit the game’s number of possessions and when they’re shooting well, can stick with anyone in the country. UW was 4-7 vs. the top 25 including four losses to teams who hold a number one seed (Michigan State and North Carolina).
Montana Grizzlies Synopsis: Unless your from Missoula, Montana or a follower of the Big Sky conference, you probably have never heard of the Grizzlies. They have a couple of sharpshooters in Kareem Jamar and Will Cherry who combine to score 29.8 points per game. Montana is a terrific shooting team as they rank 36th in the nation at 46.8 percent. They also have a versatile seven footer, Derek Selvig, who has an uncanny ability to find the open man with three dimes a game. With a win against Long Beach State and a loss to Colorado State, the Grizzlies are 1-1 against current NCAA Tournament teams.
The Match-Up: Wisconsin’s defense will be very important in this game, particularly at the perimeter where they allow teams to shoot only 28.9 percent, good for eighth in the country. If Taylor and the rest of the Badgers guards can slow down Jamar and Cherry, the Badgers should have no problems getting past the Grizzlies. Even though the seven footer Selvig is a great passer, he is not a huge threat on the offensive end. Expect the game to be close for a while, with the Badgers pulling away sometime in the second half.
Odds and Ends: Former Badger player Freddie Owens is an assistant coach on the Grizzlies staff. The Badgers and Grizzlies will play on Thursday in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is 1,127 miles from Missoula, MT and 1,377 miles from Madison, WI. Wisconsin is 2-0 all-time against the University of Montana.
Are you fairly confident the Badgers can move on to the third round of the NCAA Tournament or does Montana have a legitimate shot at the upset? Let me know by commenting below!
Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, and Milwaukee Brewers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.