Fans in Buffalo couldn't have asked for a much better draw for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The final game here this year has the potential to be a great one between two premier programs with plenty of success on college basketball's biggest stage.
Here are Five Things to Know as the No. 1 Wildcats face the No. 8 Badgers on Saturday in KeyBank Center.
1. Villanova sees a 'familiar' opponent in Wisconsin
It seems strange that two of the most prominent programs in college basketball have only met once before, but that's the case with the Wildcats and Badgers. Villanova came away with a 66-58 victory to earn the title at the 1995 Maui Invitational.
Even though they haven't seen each other, the Wildcats said Friday that the Badgers remind them of Butler – a team that has handed Villanova two of its three losses this season.
"They are similar in a lot of ways with their pack-line defense, their physicality," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. "Butler shoots threes better than people know. Wisconsin shoots them really well as we all saw last night. It's a very similar type of game, and it's going to be a struggle. I actually think Wisconsin's bigger, even bigger, than Butler, so probably even tougher. But let's hope we learn from those games."
"I think there's also some comparisons between us and Villanova, specifically defensively," Badgers coach Gary Gard said. "Just watching them, how physical they are, how they do a great job of playing a team-oriented defense."
2. Wisconsin's offense exploded Thursday
The Badgers are mostly known for their defense, but their 84-74 win over Virginia Tech on Thursday was the fifth-highest scoring NCAA Tournament game in program history, and their most since Jan. 24. Wisconsin's 13 three-pointers equaled a season high, and marked the fourth time in the past five games they've hit at least 10 three-pointers, all wins.
Wisconsin is 10-2 this season when making at least 10 three-pointers in a game.
3. The Badgers are comfortable when it's close
Here's an amazing stat, courtesy of the Wisconsin game notes: Under Greg Gard, the Badgers are 38-1 in games in which they've led or been tied with 5 minutes remaining, including 23-1 this season. That's a Mariano Rivera-like stretch of closing games out. If the Badgers lead down the stretch, don't expect the pressure of pulling off the upset will be too much.
"I think once the ball goes up, guys just play," Gard said. "Sometimes there's more made of that type of scenario, in terms of who's loose, who the pressure's on, who's favored. That, I think is really irrelevant in players' minds. Once that ball goes up, like I said, all of that gets flushed out, and you just play for the 40 minutes."
4. Villanova's advice to Kris Jenkins: Keep letting it fly
The Wildcats' senior, who hit the three-pointer that won the national championship for his team last year, has been in a bit of a shooting slump lately. Jenkins went 2 of 13 from the field Thursday, including 0 for 6 from three-point range, and is 9 of 34 over the last three games.
"Tell him to shoot," fellow senior Josh Hart said of his advice to Jenkins. "I tell him if I pass you the ball, and you're open, one, two, step and let it fly. That's what he does. ... When you're a great shooter, you don't worry about slumps. And he's a great shooter."
"We have a term, 'shoot'em up, sleep in the streets,' " Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. "Kris lives that better than anybody that we've ever had. Scotty Reynolds was one of the best, and Kris is in that category. They just -- they don't fear a 2 for 13 night. ... It doesn't bother him at all. That's what I love about him. I want all of our guys to be like that."
5. The first half against Mount St. Mary is a thing of the past for the Wildcats
The old cliche in sports when a team has a bad game is that it's going to "burn the tape," in an effort to forget about what happened. While there might not have been anything actually going up in flames inside the Wildcats' locker room, it's fair to say they are more than happy to focus on a new opponent instead of worrying about the scare the 16th-seeded Mountaineers gave them Thursday night in the first half.
"We haven't really watched the film of that," Hart said. "And right now, we can't. We've got to focus on Wisconsin, so whatever happened, happened. We've got to play better. We're not dwelling on that, we just got to know what we got to do tomorrow."
"The beauty of the tournament is, if this was the season, I'd say 'Alright, we got to address this right now,' " Wright said. "We got to forget about it."