during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Scottrade Center on March 20, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.

Wisconsin, Notre Dame share plenty of similarities ahead of Sweet 16 matchup

As Bronson Koenig knocked down a cold-blooded three pointer from the corner to give Wisconsin a 66-63 victory over Xavier on Sunday, Badger nation went insane. From Frank Kaminsky doing a slide to numerous tweets from former players, it was clearly a time of celebration.

However, that celebration has been short-lived for the team that accomplished one of the most memorable moments from what has already been a crazy tournament. Just as the Badgers landed back in Madison, players and coaches got little sleep and were back at their daily grind on Monday morning.

It was a scene not too unfamiliar for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and in fact these two teams share a whole lot of similarities as they prepare to tangle in the Sweet 16 on Friday night.

Koenig’s triple at the buzzer sent UW to victory, but Notre Dame can say the same. That’s because the Irish needed a tip-in with 1.2 seconds left to lift the No. 6 seed over pesky Stephen F. Austin

Just as Koenig’s heroics will live on in infamy for the Badgers, Rex Pflueger’s tip-in off a teammates miss will do the same for the Irish. The similarities don’t really stop there either, as these teams have much of the same make up to them — a hard working crew with little national attention and the conference results to impress anyone paying attention.

Wisconsin came in to the season losing the two biggest names on its roster in Sam Dekker and national Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky. Sure, nice names like Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig were back, but they weren’t the stars of the 2014-15 roster.

Notre Dame lost its lone star, guard Jerian Grant, a Naismith Award finalist. With him gone others have stepped up, including leading scorer Demetrius Jackson, who leads Notre Dame in scoring at 15.5 points per game.

The rest of the roster are unassuming parts that as a whole are greater than the individual pieces. Sound familiar?

There’s even a head coach who has gotten the most out of a team with less talent than its competition at almost every turn.

“It’s a team that every year it seems like it’s a different name that crops up in terms of who’s leading them individually,” head coach Greg Gard said at his Monday press conference. “They’ve done a great job of adapting and adjusting and developing players throughout the years, and (coach) Mike (Brey) does a tremendous job of coaching them and putting them in the right position.”

Notre Dame finished fifth in the ACC, going 11-7 in conference play.

Wisconsin? Just one game better with a 12-6 record in the Big Ten.

Even how the two teams stack up is rather similar.

Wisconsin vs. Notre Dame team stats:
PPG: UW 68.1; ND 75.6
OPP PPG: UW 63.9; ND 70.5
FG%: UW 42.6; ND 47.6
3PT%: UW 35.1; ND 37.2
FT%: UW 70.4; ND 73.7

While the Irish would like to get up and down a bit more than the Badgers, the reason these stats are so important is it shows two teams who’s makeups are so very similar. They shoot well from beyond the arc, get to the line and finish at the line and can score when needed.

Notre Dame gets to the line 18.9 times per game and allows opponents to attempt just 15.5 free throws per game. Wisconsin is one of the top teams in terms of getting to the line, averaging 21.2 free throw attempts per game. The Badgers allow opponents just 18 free throw attempts.

It all adds up to two teams who like to do a lot of the same things in order to achieve victory.

What is different is the mechanics of how each team likes to get it done, with Notre Dame preferring a much faster pace of play than UW.

But, perhaps the biggest difference comes in the last few weeks of results for the two teams. Whereas the Badgers have pulled off huge wins over ranked opponents and taken down goliath, Notre Dame has been losing to David, if you will.

Notre Dame finished the regular season winning just six of its final 10 ACC games. Included in that stretch were bad losses to Florida State and Georgia Tech. There were also two losses to Miami (FL) in that stretch.

Wisconsin fought its way to the NCAA tournament with big wins over the likes of ranked opponents Indiana, Iowa, Maryland and Michigan State. UW also won 11 of its final 13 games in the regular season.

Being hotter over a long stretch of time certainly bodes well for the team who is, considering not much else separates these two teams in other tangible ways.

Will that confidence matter much? Only if the Badgers can tap in to the times it found its offense to go with that powerful defensive game it has displayed most of the last two months.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10.com

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