Inside the Sweet 16 matchup: No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 4 Florida

Brad Penner - USA TODAY Sports

Inside the Sweet 16 matchup: No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 4 Florida

The Big Ten is down to one team still alive in the NCAA tournament, as No. 8 seed Wisconsin faces No. 4 Florida Friday night at 9:59 p.m. ET. As always, BTN researcher Harold Shelton has the in-depth analytical breakdown on what to look for before the Badgers and Gators tip off in New York City.

STREAM: Watch the Wisconsin vs. Florida game here.

Working in Wisconsin’s favor

  • They’re one of the best defensive teams in the country. They are ranked 7th in efficiency and 9th in 2-point shooting (42.8%)
  • Wisconsin doesn’t foul a lot. They are 28th in opponents free throw rate. They also rebound it well. They are ranked 18th in offensive rebounding and 39th in defensive rebounding.
  • Bronson Koenig is back. He’s made big shots throughout his tournament career, including the game-winner against Xavier last year and a couple of big threes in the comeback win over Villanova. After struggling with a leg injury earlier in the season, he’s averaging 18.2 points and shooting 44% from 3 in the last nine games. He made eight 3-pt FG in the first round against Virginia Tech, which was tied for the second-most by a Big Ten player in an NCAA Tournament game.
  • They have a ton of experience. They start four seniors and they are the only team in the country that has made the Sweet 16 in each of the previous four seasons. They are 13-3 in NCAA Tournament games.
  • Nigel Hayes has played with a lot more urgency lately. He’s had double-doubles in three of his last four games and he’s averaging 14.9 PPG with 8.6 RPG in the last 10 games, including five double-doubles in that span. He’s had 35 points and 18 rebounds in the two NCAA Tournament games this year. He’s only take two 3-point attempts out of his 25 shots from the floor. Sixteen of those 25 shots have come at the rim (made 11 of 16 shots at the rim).
  • Florida isn’t a great defensive rebounding team, ranking 174th nationally in that category.
  • Florida is missing center John Egbunu after tearing his ACL last month. The 7-foot center averaged seven points, nearly seven rebounds and blocked 1.5 shots per game. That could be an issue considering that Florida is 121st in defending the rim, allowing teams to shoot nearly 58% on layups, dunks and tip-ins.
  • Florida isn’t a great shooting team. They rank outside the Top 100 in 3-point shooting (36.2%) and outside the Top 130 in 2-point shooting (50.2%). They are 147th in half court offense.

[ MORE: Tom Dienhart’s preview | AP preview | Sweet 16 nuggets ]

Working against Wisconsin

  • They are one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country. They make just 64.3% of their attempts, which ranks 334th nationally.
  • They are really bad defending the 3-point line. Teams shoot nearly 38% from three against them, which ranks 305th nationally. The good news is that Florida makes 36.2% from that range, which ranks 117th nationally.
  • Wisconsin doesn’t get a lot of easy points, which could be an issue against a really good defensive team. They are 267th nationally in getting to the line. If Wisconsin falls behind, will they be able to come back? They are the 18th slowest team in the nation.
  • Florida’s defense is really good. They are 3rd nationally in efficiency, 11th in 3-point shooting (30.4%), 12th in half court defense, 30th in 2-point shooting (45.2%) and 32nd in forcing turnovers.
  • Florida has been one of the most impressive teams in the tournament so far. The Gators join Kansas, UCLA and Xavier as the only teams to win both of their games by double digits. They are allowing just 52 points per game against East Tennessee State and Virginia while allowing 35% shooting. They lead the tournament in both categories.
  • Devin Robinson has taken his game to another level. The 6-foot-8 forward is averaging 19 points and nine rebounds during the NCAA Tournament. He’s also making 39% of his threes this season.
  • Florida has multiple big players that can shoot the three ball. In addition to Robinson, 6-foot-8 forward Justin Leon is making 40% of his threes. Both Robinson (41) and Leon (45) have made more than 40 triples this season.

Kenpom prediction: Florida wins by three points.

Thanks for reading!

Harold Shelton III, BTN Studio Researcher

Harold Shelton III is a BTN Studio Researcher who writes up weekly stats for BTN & BTN.com. Follow his work on Twitter @BTNStatsGuys.

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