Just like in the Illinois-Loyola matchup from earlier in the day, Baylor (the 1-seed) faced an early barrage from a lower-seeded opponent in Wisconsin.

The Badgers opened the game with a 7-2 run, the kind of opening punch that essentially knocked Illinois out in the preceding game. But before anyone could even really start to imagine a similar narrative unfolding, Baylor responded with a run of their own, taking a 9-7 lead. They’d never trail again, beating the buzzer to take a thirteen-point lead to halftime.

That thirteen-point lead ended up being the difference, too, as they won 76-63. Wisconsin was better in the second half, but digging a hole against one of the best teams in the country isn’t going to work out very often.

 

It was a clinic, really, in the end. Like Illinois, Baylor drew a team that according to metrics was very underseeded; KenPom had the Badgers near the top ten heading into the tournament, and they blew out North Carolina on Friday to back up those bonafides.

But it just didn’t matter. Baylor played their game, disrupting Wisconsin’s three-point shooting (the Badgers went 8-21 from deep, not bad but not enough) and made their own (8-17), holding Round 1 hero Brad Davison to just eight points (down from 29 against UNC.)

Both teams shot the same percentage, and made the same number of threes. The difference: Baylor’s defense forcing 14 turnovers (while they committed only four), and the free throw disparity.

Not a foul disparity, to be clear; both teams were whistled for 15+ fouls. But Baylor’s were on attacks to the rim, which meant they got to the line, where they made it count, going 18-23. Wisconsin’s 5-7  is a solid percentage, but it’s hard to win tournament games without either a big free throw total or a big three-point total, and the Badgers couldn’t manage either.

Essentially Baylor played like they want to play, and Wisconsin couldn’t adjust. That’s what the top-seed is supposed to do, and if they don’t (like with Illinois), we get to the upset zone very quickly. That didn’t happen here, and Baylor looks like an even tougher out now than they did before the tournament.

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a writer and editor for The Comeback, and a contributor at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer.