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Badgers feel prepared by Big Ten season, don’t care about seeding

9th-seeded Wisconsin can’t wait to see non-conference competition in NCAA Tournament
Published: Mar. 15, 2021 at 5:47 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - 5 years ago, Wisconsin beat the Tar Heels in the Sweet 16 en route to an appeance in the NCAA Tournament’s championship game. This week, The Badgers are getting ready to face North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament opener.

The Badgers are a #9 seed this season. Perhaps they deserved a better fate. But going 0-9 against the top 5 teams in the Big Ten this season probably factored in. Head coach Greg Gard knows then number next to his team’s name means nothing now, especially with the tournament tetris the bracket makers must meanuever to avoid pitting conference foes against each other early on.

9 Big Ten teams made the dance. And 4 of them are either #1 or #2 seeds.

“I have never really gotten too consumed in it in terms of where you are,” Gard said. “There are 68 teams left. They are all good. You can make a case every whichway. But I knew we would not be (a part of) the 8-9 (that would in the 2nd round go) against Illinois and Michigan and I knew we would not be the 7-10 up against Iowa or Ohio State. So it probably minimzed where they could put us. We are obviously excited to be playing.”

Last year the Badgers went on a magical run to win the Big Ten regular season title and won ESPN’s computer simulation of a COVID-canceled NCAA Tournament. This time around? There are much lower expectations for a Wisconsin team that finished 17-12 overall.

It’s no secret that the Badgers took their lumps facing a brutal Big Ten schedule. 8 of their 12 losses came against teams that are now either a #1 or #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

And Wisconsin’s last 4 losses of the season? Have all come by 5 points or less. The Badgers now face #8 seed North Carolina and have #1 seed Baylor likely waiting if the Badgers make it to the 2nd round.

But Gard has taken the tough road to the Sweet 16 twice before, beating #2 seed Xavier in 2016 and the #1 overall seed Villanova in 2017.

His team feels prepared.

“Knowing we had this type of schedule down the stretch, we just had to attack it head on, and learn from it,” Gard said. “Obviously we wanted to have better results and more success. But I think the strength of our schedule has prepared us and gotten us to this point.”

“It’s so exciting to get to play a team outside of the Big Ten,” said Badgers guard Brad Davison. “Because I only really get a chance to watch Big Ten games during the season. I am looking forward to starting to watch some film to see what we are up against. And I am looking forward to everything that comes with that.”

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