When the up-and-down Badgers take on a red hot Florida St. team this Friday night in Boise, it's tough to predict which Wisconsin team will show up; the one that lost six games in a row in midseason or the one that proceeded to muster five straight wins.
One thing that's certain is that senior forwards Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft will do all they can to make sure their last NCAA tournament is a successful one.
Though their 12 seed is the lowest in school history, the Badgers are no stranger to the Big Dance, having made 11 straight tournament appearances.
"It doesn’t affect anything,” Landry says of the low seed. “We’re going to prepare for those guys whether we’re a one (seed), a 16, or a 12."
The seasoned Badgers are going to need that mindset if they plan on knocking off the young, athletic ACC tournament runners-up in FSU. The Seminoles have been playing great basketball this March, and boast a 73-70 win over North Carolina in the ACC semifinals.
It's also Florida St.'s first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998 and head coach Leonard Hamilton's first in seven seasons as a Seminole. Though heavily favored to win, Hamilton know his team will be in for a dogfight.
"It really doesn't matter who you play at this point, he says. "They're all good teams."
Both of these good teams also feature good players, and here are a few key matchups to watch for come Friday night.
FSU PG Toney Douglas vs. UW PG Trevon Hughes
No secrets here. Douglas is the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and Hughes will certainly have to step up to the challenge in order for the Badgers to win. Not only a defensive force, Douglas leads the 'Noles in scoring (21.3 ppg), assists (2.9) and three point percentage (.384).
FSU C Solomon Alabi vs. UW F Marcus Landry
If Hughes is able to offset Douglas' production, the 7'1'' Alabi will be the next biggest obstacle to a UW victory. Although considered a raw freshman on offense, Alabi could seriously disrupt Wisconsin's offense with his shot blocking ability. Look for Landry to pull Alabi away from the hoop and utilize his perimeter shooting.
FSU F's Chris Singleton & Uche Echefu vs. UW F's Jon Leuer & Joe Krabbenhoft
How well Leuer and Krabbenhoft handle the athleticism of Florida St.'s front line could be a major factor. Singleton and Echefu shoot a lower percentage than starting guards Douglas and Derwin Kitchen, but they defend and rebound well. If they help Alabi disrupt Wisconsin's drives and force the Badgers to shoot jumpers, they will have done more than enough to help the 'Noles win.