This Day in March Madness History
March 20, 2016
Wisconsin vs. Xavier, Round of 32
- The Setup
Xavier entered the 2016 NCAA Tournament as a 2-seed, a well-deserved ranking after a 28-6 season and 2-place finish in the Big East. The Musketeers handled their business in the Round of 64, cruising past Weber State, 71-53. However, Xavier still had a lot of pressure on their shoulders, as they had struggled to reach the next level recently, not making an appearance in the Elite Eight since 2008 – despite three Sweet 16 appearances in that time. Gifted a 2-seed in this tournament, the pressure was on for Xavier to take the next step.
Wisconsin meanwhile began the tournament as a very dangerous 7th seed. They had made consecutive Final Four runs, and they were just a year removed from ending Kentucky’s 38-0 season before falling short in the national championship. With plenty of tournament pedigree, their 7-seed was just a number that didn’t seem to accurately reflect the potency of the Badgers in 2016; rather it was a result of a relatively underwhelming 22-13 season, their worst regular season record since 2009.
- How it went down
Xavier did not score for the first 3 minutes and 53 seconds of game time, but Wisconsin could barely take advantage, clawing their way to just a 6-0 lead. When Myles Davis hit a three-pointer, Xavier was immediately back within one possession. Wisconsin led by as many as nine points, but they could not stave off Xavier’s offense, and a few cold spells left them vulnerable to a rally, as the Musketeers came back to take the lead with three minutes to go, maintaining a 33-30 edge into the locker room.
The beginning of the second half was as even as it could be, with neither team leading by more than three points until Xavier began to slowly seize control with a little under nine minutes remaining. Davis knocked down a pair of free throws for a 53-49, and the Musketeers extended that advantage to 58-49, but Wisconsin’s game-ending surge then began.
The comeback was a gradual one, but the Badgers slowly carved away at their deficit, shaving off a couple points here and there. With 2:09 left, Wisconsin got back within two points courtesy of an Ethan Happ layup. Down three with 13 seconds left, Bronson Koenig rose up and drilled a three-pointer to tie the game at 63 points apiece, leaving Xavier with a chance to win it. However, the Musketeers were whistled for an offensive foul, and Wisconsin called a timeout with two seconds remaining and the ball at midcourt. Happ found Koenig on the inbounds pass, and Koenig took a dribble towards the right corner before elevating for a contested triple. He buried the shot right in front of the Wisconsin bench, sending the Badgers into a frenzy and onto the Sweet 16.
- The Aftermath
Wisconsin’s dreams of a third straight Final Four died in the Sweet 16 at the hands of sixth-seeded Notre Dame, as the Irish got two steals and layups in the final seconds to pull ahead. The Badgers would return to the Sweet 16 next year, marking the sixth time they had advanced that four in seven years. Wisconsin has not won a tournament game since appearing in the 2017 Sweet 16, losing in the Round of 64 in their one appearance.
Xavier finally got over some of their postseason demons in 2017 in extremely unlikely fashion. Xavier entered after a mediocre 9-9 Big East record, and they were given an 11-seed, which the Musketeers took and ran all the way to the Elite Eight before succumbing there. The year after, Xavier was a top seed and lost in the Round of 32, leading to the departure of coach Chris Mack.
- NBA Notables (current team)
Wisconsin – None
Xavier – Edmond Sumner (Pacers), JP Macura (Cavaliers)