Wisconsin is staying close to home for the NCAA Tournament.
The selection committee released the bracket Sunday night with the Badgers as the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region. They will face 14th-seeded Colgate on Friday (approx. 8:50 p.m. on TBS) at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
“I think we deserve it,” guard Johnny Davis said. “We’ve all worked hard enough. We’ve been together since earlier this summer, beginning of the school year, and we just been grinding every single day in the weight room, in the gym, in the classroom. So, I think we really deserved being a three seed in Milwaukee. And we’re just excited about it to be able to have the home fans there.”
The last time the team played in Milwaukee for the tournament was in 2014 as the No. 2 seed. Wisconsin trailed by double digits in the second round to seventh-seeded Oregon at halftime but used the raucous home crowd at the Bradley Center to overcome the deficit.
“No doubt, we’ve said all along I don’t think we rally to beat Oregon if we’re not there in Milwaukee with that crowd behind us,” said coach Greg Gard, who was an assistant at the time. “I’ve talked to these guys over the last week about distractions. I’ve seen close (tournament) sites work for us and I’ve seen close (tournament) sites cause distractions. I’ve seen remote (tournament) sites really work for us. Even though it’s great for all the people on the outside, (the players) understand the need to minimize distractions. We’ve talked about that. It’s gonna be great for everybody sitting in those (17,000) seats at Fiserv. It’s gonna be great for those people. But again, in between those lines is what is going to matter and that’s what we have to focus on.”
Wisconsin enters the game losers of two-straight, their first back-to-back losses of the season, while Colgate comes in winners of 15-straight. The Raiders rolled right through the Patriot League Tournament, winning by an average of 21.3 points per game. They have a balanced lineup with five players scoring in double figures led by senior guard Nelly Cummings (14.5 points per game).
Colgate will present a tough challenge offensively for the Badgers. The Raiders are one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, hitting 40.2% of their shots from deep. That ranks second in all of college basketball. Three different rotation players are hitting at a 42.3% clip or better from beyond the arc, including senior guard Jack Ferguson.
This will be Colgate’s third tournament appearance in four years. As a 14-seed last year, the Raiders gave third-seeded Arkansas all it could handle. They led by as many as 14 in the first half and held a lead as late as the 10:24 mark of the second half before the Razorbacks pulled away for a 17-point win.
No. 3 seeds are 125-23 against 14 seeds in tournament history with the most recent loss by the higher seed coming last year when Abilene Christian upended Texas. The Badgers are 8-0 all-time against teams seeded 13 or lower.
If the Badgers get by Colgate, they will face either sixth-seeded LSU or 11th-seeded Iowa State on Sunday for a trip to the Sweet 16 in Chicago.