This Day in March Madness History
March 24, 2017
Wisconsin vs. Florida
- The Setup
A year after upsetting Xavier in the Round of 32 as a 2-seed, Wisconsin entered this Sweet 16 match-up as an 8-seed, fresh off of stunning the #1 overall seed and defending champs, Villanova. The Badgers once again had put forth an underwhelming regular season effort, but their postseason pedigree was flexing its muscles again in March, as the Badgers looked to get back to the Elite Eight against Florida.
Meanwhile, the Gators were making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014, but Florida was looking for yet another deep run. The Gators had marched to the Elite Eight in their prior four March Madness showings, and in six of their past seven, going back to 2006. They had no issues in their first two outings in the NCAA Tournament, dropping Eastern Tennessee State by 15 and Virginia by 26 to move on to the Sweet 16.
- How it went down
The latter portions of this game were so breathtakingly exciting that we won’t hover too much over the early portions of the contest. Wisconsin got the early jump and led comfortably for much of the first half, taking their largest lead of 11 points at 24-13 with 8:12 to play in the half. Florida closed the gap to 29-22 and then ended the half on a 12-3 run to claim a 34-32 halftime advantage.
Florida jumped out in front to start the second half, but as was the theme of the game ,Wisconsin fought back, edging back in front at 53-52. However, the Gators ripped off a 16-3 run to seemingly seize control of the game, leading 68-56 with 5:24 to play. Although Florida couldn’t hit a shot for the rest of regulation, making only four free throws, the Badgers took a long time cutting into the Gators’ lead.
With 1:44 to play, Florida still led 72-64. Bronson Koenig – hero of the Xavier game a year ago – knocked down a triple, and Ethan Happ made a layup to bring Wisconsin within three points with 44 seconds left. Wisconsin forced a turnover and got the ball back with 18 seconds to play, but they were forced to call a timeout with six ticks remaining on the clock. It worked out for the Badgers, who inbounded to Zak Showalter who banged home a game-tying three with 2.1 seconds left, forcing overtime.
Florida’s offensive drought continued into overtime, where they made just one free throw in the first 3:26 seconds, making it 8 minutes and 50 seconds of game time between field goals. Eventually, down 80-75 with a minute to play, the Gators kicked it into high gear. Kevaughn Allen drove down the lane for an easy layup, and then after Wisconsin free throw, Canyon Barry drained a pair of shots from the charity stripe to bring Florida within two points. Barry raced back down the court and blocked a layup attempt, leading to Florida’s game-tying layup with 24 seconds to play. Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes drove and got fouled with four seconds left, sinking both free throws. Florida needed to go the full length of the court, but that’s what they did, inbounding to Chris Chiozza, who raced up the court and somehow got somewhat free for an off-balance three from the top of the key. The shot was money, as it swished cleanly through, handing Florida an absolutely thrilling 84-83 overtime victory, sending the Gators on to the Elite Eight.
- The Aftermath
Florida’s exhilarating buzzer-beater was the peak of their tournament, as the Gators could not trump two straight Cinderella squads. In the Elite Eight, they fell to SEC foe and seventh-seeded South Carolina by a final score of 77-70. Florida has been back in the tournament both years since this game, but they exited in the Round of 32 both times.
This loss officially ended the glory years of Wisconsin. They made at least the Sweet 16 in four straight years and six of seven, including two runs to the Final Four. They had made two consecutive inspired underdog runs, but the Badgers’ magic ended in 2018, when they failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. They made in back in 2019, but they were served an unceremonious exit in the Round of 64.
- NBA Notables/Current Players
- Wisconsin – None
- Florida – Chris Chiozza (Nets)