On a day that saw a number of crazy upsets, including a 15-seed knocking off one of the Tournament’s biggest favorites, Xavier took care of business. The East Region two-seed had little trouble casting aside Weber State, winning 71-53 behind a balanced scoring effort led by big man James Farr, who led all players with 18 points. Farr and the Musketeers effectively neutralized Weber State star Joel Bolomboy, who only scored 14 points on 15 shots.
Wisconsin’s first round win was more of a struggle. The Badgers pulled out a 47-43 win over Pitt, in the first round’s ugliest game. Ethan Happ was very impressive, scoring 15 points on eight shots for the Badgers, but the team did not get much outside of him, Nigel Hayes, and Vitto Brown. Wisconsin’s bench only scored two total points–a basket by freshman Charlie Thomas. They’ll need more out of the role players to upset a very steady Xavier team.
Date: Sunday, March 20
Time: 8:40 p.m. E.T.
TV Channel: TNT
Location: St. Louis, MO
Announcers: Brian Anderson, Steve Smith and Dana Jacobson
Opening Betting Line: Xavier -5
Prediction: Entering the Tournament, Wisconsin looked like a team that could make a run. The Badgers have plenty of Tournament experience, coming off of two straight Final Fours, and it took a little while, but the team really melded under new head coach Greg Gard in Big Ten play. As the Pitt game proved, this does seem to be closer to a pre-Kaminsky/Dekker Wisconsin team, which was a successful era for the program, but didn’t find that next level success. The Badgers play low-scoring games, and look to outlast teams. Xavier had a fantastic regular season, and if the Badgers come out slow, the Musketeers offense is good enough to bury them. Chris Mack’s program is no Tournament slouch either, with two trips to the second weekend in the last four years. The Musketeers feel like the best bet here.