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Wisconsin Badgers return to Sweet 16 to face No. 4 seed Florida Gators

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NEW YORK — The No. 8 seed Wisconsin Badgers face the No. 4 seed Florida Gators Friday, March 24th in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen. Badgers Head Coach Greg Gard and players spoke out Thursday, March 23rd ahead of the big game.

Friday’s matchup is set for about 9:00 p.m. central time on Friday — 15 minutes after the first game.

The Badgers will face Florida at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers are 27-9 on the season. The No. 4 Florida Gators are 26-8.

The Badgers are back in the Sweet Sixteen for the fourth straight season after upsetting defending champion Villanova in the second round on Saturday, March 18th.

Wisconsin lost five of six late in the regular season, but seniors Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig have sparked another successful March.

Hayes and Koenig rank Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, among active players in career points scored in the NCAA Tournament heading into the Sweet Sixteen. Hayes has 166 points and Koenig has 159. The 6-foot-8 Hayes is one of two players in Big Ten history with at least 1,800 career points, 700 rebounds and 300 assists. The other is former Michigan State star Steve Smith. Koenig is one of the best clutch shooters in the country. He is 36 for 71 from the three-point range over the last two seasons in the final five minutes and overtime.

Florida is back in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2014. The Gators missed the NCAAs altogether the last two seasons, but second-year coach Mike White has them rolling again. Florida was one of the most dominant teams in the first two rounds of the tournament, beating East Tennessee by 15 and Virginia by 26.

Florida’s KeVaughn Allen, who averaged nearly 14 points coming into the tournament, has 11 total points in two NCAA games and is one for 13 from the three-point range. Depth and getting offense from different spots has been one of the Gators’ strengths. Eight different players have had at least one game in which they have led the team in scoring.

White, who took over when Billy Donovan left for the NBA, has set a program record for victories in his first two seasons as Gators head coach with 46.

Wisconsin coach Greg Gard is the third coach in the last 20 years to lead a team to the Sweet Sixteen each of his first two seasons, joining Gonzaga’s Mark Few and UCLA’s Steve Lavin.

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