In advance of Saturday's primetime (2:40 pm EST) showdown between the 'Cats and the Badgers, our good friend Jake Kocorowski from Bucky's Fifth Quarter took some time to answer some of my questions. After you finish reading this, head on over to their neighborhood to see the Q&A with our very own Brian Ewart.
1. The internet is full of hot "taeks" about how Villanova is always overrated because they play in a weak conference that sent 7 teams to the tournament. How do Wisconsin (and Big 10) fans view the New Big East as a whole?
The fact that Wisconsin lost to Creighton early in the season, plus the fact the Big Ten Conference itself wasn't great this year, I don't think there's a necessarily a negative feel to the conference -- at least from my perspective. Asked a couple of our writers as well, and there's not really an antagonism towards the Big East.
There's an in-state "rivalry" between Wisconsin and Marquette that is made out to be more than what it is (in my humble opinion), but the Big East is a fine conference that plays some great basketball.
2. Villanova fans were shocked and appalled to see the Badgers as a #8 seed. How did Badger fans feel about the seeding? Any conspiracy theories?
Lots of anger and disbelief. I was personally shocked (not necessarily mad) when I heard Wisconsin's name called as the third team announced for the tournament on Selection Sunday. B5Q ran a Facebook Live event about an hour after UW's name was called, and fans let us know how they felt (one was so infuriated he/she said my bedroom color was terrible...I'm still hurt by this).
I don't believe there's any conspiracy theories, but Wisconsin was a victim of a mis-seed. How the committee made their picks (maybe RPI and strength of schedule over KenPom and other metrics), I'm not sure. Maryland and Minnesota suffered losses to the Badgers during the regular season, with UW walloping Northwestern in the Big Ten tournament (the Wildcats did beat the Badgers at the Kohl Center in February). Yet the Terps and Gophers both suffered upset losses the past two days as higher seeds.
Regardless, there's a part that Wisconsin needs to own, in that they struggled mightily towards the end of the season and lost games it shouldn't have to teams they should have beat.
3. This game seems like a "pick your poison" game for Villanova on defense. Either we let Happ eat down low and smother Koenig, or let Koenig fire away while gang-guarding Happ. What would you do if you were the Wildcats? What is your "pick your poison" debate for playing Villanova?
With Koenig now getting hot again (he was near NBA Jam on fire mode on Thursday), it's a tough decision. I still say you have to stop Happ inside. His footwork inside and ability to get to the rim for easy bunnies makes him the clear focal point for any defense. Big Ten coaches realized during that rough stretch for the Badgers that they could double team Happ. Either turnovers would be committed by the big man, or he'd pass out to his teammates on the perimeter.
If others like Koenig (who was nursing an injured calf during the rough stretch), Zak Showalter, Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown would have connected with those shots, the double teams would have stopped. The team as a whole went ice cold, so the offense suffered with the double teams continuing. If the team can shoot like it did on Thursday in the second half (50 percent), they're in good shape. If they shoot lower than 35 percent, even with a relative good defense that's been prone to some mishaps this year, it won't be pretty.
For Wisconsin, the obvious notion is to try to contain Josh Hart (maybe he's Showalter's assignment, as the former walk-on is the glue of this team and is one of the team's best defenders as a guard). Honestly, I think it's more on Wisconsin to not lapse in their defensive assignments as seen against Ohio State and Michigan State in the regular season. The seniors on this team have experienced a chance at an NCAA championship and many tournament games. There's the talent and experience there -- they just need to hit their shots (cliche') and be the defensive team that allowed only 61.8 points per game so far this season.
4. Abraham Lincoln once said, "Big Ten basketball is slow, plodding, and unwatchable." Thoughts?
Heresy. Lies. OK, maybe it's a little slower tempo to be fair, but then again, Wisconsin fans haven't seen much different since Dick Bennett took over the program in the 1990s, with Brad Soderberg have one season before leading into the Bo Ryan years (and now with Greg Gard). The Badgers have scored 90 points on a few occasions this year, and the Final Four teams were something fun to watch offensively. It's a misconception.
5. A fierce debate was had on VUhoops this week about whether it is appropriate to call Wisconsin, "Wiscy," "Whiskey," "Sconnie," or any other abbreviated version of the word "Wisconsin." Please settle the debate once and for all.
I asked our writers, being 11 years from being away from college life, what the proper terminology is these days for the young kids. Think Sconnie's the more accepted now (even a shop on State Street that's named Sconnie Nation). That was a term starting to be used right as I was about to graduate.
I think the better title many Wisconsin fans hope to hear at about 4 p.m. CST tomorrow, however, is "Sweet Sixteen Bound."