By Vince Huth
Mar. 21, 2013
To some, Thursday marks the beginning of the college basketball season; The Big Dance is finally here. All right, the “first-round” games were technically played Tuesday and Wednesday, while Thursday marks the beginning of the “second round.” (According to the NCAA, 60 of the 68 teams received a first-round bye.)
The No. 5-seeded Badgers (12-6 Big Ten, 23-11 overall) will begin their run at an NCAA championship Friday morning (tip is set for 11:40 a.m. CDST) in a second-round matchup with No. 12-seeded Ole Miss, who clinched an automatic bid in the NCAA tournament after sweeping through the Southeastern Conference (SEC) tournament.
“Ole Miss is a team that’s gonna have a lot of momentum coming in,” redshirt senior forward Jared Berggren said. “We’ll see what happens.”
The Rebels (12-6 SEC, 26-8 overall) play faster than any team in the Big Ten, averaging 73.7 possessions per game. By comparison, UW averages 63.6 and Indiana, the fastest-paced team in the conference, averages just below 70.
Wisconsin and Ole Miss had two common opponents this season—Arkansas and Florida—both of which play with the Rebels in the SEC. The Badgers beat the Razorbacks on a neutral court in November but lost to the Gators by 18 points in Gainesville. Similarly, Ole Miss dropped a road game to Florida, 78-64, and beat Arkansas at home.
However, the Rebels also knocked off the Gators in the SEC tournament title game, 66-63, during which they outscored Florida 40-25 in the second half.
“[The Rebels] are a dangerous team, to go in and beat Florida—that shows what they’re capable of,” Berggren said. “We’ll have our hands full.”
Ole Miss has used its up-tempo style of play to average over 78 points per game this season, good enough for seventh-best in the nation. Rebels junior guard Marshall Henderson leads the offensive attack, averaging more than 20 points per game.
On the interior, Ole Miss senior forwards Murphy Holloway (14.6 points per game, 9.6 rebounds per game) and Reginald Buckner (9.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg) provide the Rebels with a stout inside presence. While Holloway and Buckner’s combined 17 rpg outnumbers that of any duo in the Big Ten, Berggren said playing in the nation’s top league will have UW ready for tip Friday.
“What we’ve gone through in the Big Ten throughout the year and this weekend as well, it’s prepared us for anything,” Berggren said.
The Wisconsin-Ole Miss winner will square off in a third-round matchup with the winner of No. 4-seeded Kansas State and No. 13-seeded La Salle’s matchup.