Badgers get No. 5 seed in South Region, draw 12th-seeded James Madison

A year after having to play in the NIT and watch the NCAA Tournament on TV, the Wisconsin basketball team is back in the Big Dance.

The 68-team bracket was announced Sunday with the Badgers learning they would be the No. 5 seed in the South Region and face 12th-seeded James Madison on Friday night in Brooklyn with tip set for 8:40 CT. A win would mean taking on 4th-seeded Duke or 13th-seeded Vermont on Sunday at Barclays Center.

The Dukes come into the tournament riding the longest winning streak in the country at 13 and ended up a school-record 31 wins on the year. They finished second to Appalachian State in the Sun Belt Conference during the regular season, but ended up rolling through the conference tournament and beating Arkansas State for the title.

James Madison is led by senior Terrance Edwards who averages 17.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. The 6-foot-6 guard is complimented by two-time transfer forward TJ Bickerstaff’s 13.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. South Dakota State transfer Noah Friedel also scores in double figures at 12.1 points per game, while freshman Jaylen Carey gives the Dukes a lift of the bench with 7.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Coached by Mark Byington, James Madison stunned the college basketball world early in the season, taking down top-5 Michigan State on the road in overtime. The three losses consisted of two against Appalachian State and one at Southern Mississippi. The Dukes finished 52 in the NCAA’s Net Rankings, one of the data points used by the selection committee to determine which teams make the tournament and those that don’t.

Wisconsin and James Madison have just two common opponents — the Spartans and Arkansas State. The Badgers beat Michigan State twice, while they opened the season by dropping the Red Wolves 105-76. In addition to beating the Spartans, the Dukes beat Arkansas State twice, including by 20 in the conference title game last week.

While many will be picking James Madison in an upset, the Badgers will enter playing some of their best basketball of the season. After losing eight of 11 coming into the Big Ten Tournament, Wisconsin handled Maryland by 31, took down Northwestern, upset top-seeded Purdue and gave Illinois all it could handle before falling.

This will be the fifth time the Badgers have been the No. 5 seed in the tournament. Three of those previous trips — 1999, 2013 and 2019 — ended with first-round losses to the No. 12 seed. The other time came in 2003 when they made a run to the Sweet 16 before falling to No. 1 Kentucky.