Wisconsin's unfavorable No. 8 seed set up a massive challenge against No. 1 overall seed Villanova in the second round.
Well, challenge met.
The Badgers advanced to their fourth straight Sweet Sixteen with a gargantuan upset of the defending national champions Saturday afternoon, taking down the Wildcats by a 65-62 score.
Wisconsin seniors Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, veterans of the program's back-to-back Final Four runs, provided the engine for this upset, combing for 36 points and hitting the game's biggest baskets down the stretch.
Despite a four-point lead at halftime after a hot-shooting first 20 minutes, the Badgers trailed by seven with five and a half minutes to play. But the Badgers rattled off seven straight from there, Koenig tying the game at 57 with a triple with three and a half minutes remaining.
After a Villanova free throw, Ethan Happ got a running bucket to beat the shot clock and put Wisconsin in front by a point, the Badgers' first lead since four and a half minutes into the second half. The Wildcats tied the game by splitting a pair of free throws at the other end, only for Koenig to nail another huge 3-pointer inside of two minutes to play. Villanova's Jalen Brunson cut the lead to one with a bucket, and after Koenig missed a 3-point try, Villanova turned the ball over with a travel in the final minute.
But things quickly looked like they were going to spiral out of control for Wisconsin when Koenig was trapped at halfcourt and turned the ball over when he tried to find Hayes with a pass, Hayes then fouling and sending Donte DiVincenzo to the free-throw line with just a handful of seconds left. But DiVincenzo split his free throws, only managing to tie the game. Hayes instantly redeemed himself at the other end, getting an up-and-under basket to give the Badgers a two-point lead with 11.4 seconds left.
Josh Hart had the ball stripped away at the other end, Vitto brown hit a free throw, and Wisconsin clinched its massive upset.
This is the second straight trip to the Sweet Sixteen for Greg Gard, in just his second season as the team's head coach. It's the fourth straight for the program and fourth for a senior class that has created a remarkable legacy in Madison.