After two relatively routine days, madness returned to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday as top-seeded Villanova was bounced from the brackets and the East Regional 65-62 by No. 8 seed Wisconsin, which added another major upset to its resume and stormed into the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive year.
In the biggest shakeup thus far, No. 8 Wisconsin put together a scrappy performance that resulted in a victory over No. 1 Villanova, the national champions from a season ago. "I told these guys I don't care where we're seeded". We have to win six games.
Trailing 45-36 with 16:09 to play, the German native scored on a layup to start a 17-6 run that gave MI its first lead since the opening minutes. They were looking to defend their crown and become the first team since 2007 who managed to do so. Josh Hart did lead the charge with 19 points.
"To me, there's no dishonor in losing in this tournament", Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "So, you have to accept it". It is also the third time in four years that Villanova has lost in the Round of 32. "Those are things we didn't see as much earlier in the year, even when we were winning games".
Wisconsin shot 53 percent, improving to 17-0 this season when making more than 45 percent of its field goals. In Washington, D.C., the Badgers looked the part of the preseason favorites again, locking down on defense against IN and Northwestern (a 28-point win, mind you).
After DiVincenzo stole the ball at midcourt and made one of two free throws to tie the game, Hayes drove the baseline and scored on a reverse layup to put Wisconsin ahead 64-62 with 11.4 seconds left. Happ then made the game's defining defensive play, ripping the ball away from Hart. Although they shot 15-for-21 from the free throw line, missed opportunities at the stripe doomed them as they only made three of their final six attempts.
"I'm always going to be with my brothers", Hart said, referring to his teammates. Against a tough, veteran, talented Wisconsin team, it meant the end of Villanova's reign as national champions. It was not the bench then, but perhaps the minutes that got them. Leading the way for them was senior Nigel Hayes who had 19 points, eight rebounds, one assist and one block. "I'm proud of the way our guys fought all 40 minutes and did all the little things", Bronson Koenig said.
"This senior class has been through everything there is to go through in terms of a basketball career", senior forward Vitto Brown said. "I still keep thinking we're going to learn from it, we're going to watch film and come back and get better".
A more accurate location may have been "WATERLOO", for this is the western NY town where Villanova would not leave with its tourney life intact for a second time in four years.
After the first 20 minutes, Villanova was trailing Wisconsin, 31-27.
No. 8 seed Wisconsin (27-9) vs. "Everyone wants to make basketball seem like a really complicated thing, but it's really a pretty simple game if you just take care of all the details and fundamentals and boxing out and taking care of the ball and that's what kind of got us previous year in that Notre Dame game".
The second-seeded Wildcats staved off a challenge by No. 7 Saint Mary's as Lauri Markkanen and Allonzo Trier combined for 30 points in Arizona's 69-60 win against the Gaels.