BUFFALO, NEW YORK – When the season ended suddenly and shockingly, much earlier than Villanova expected, Kris Jenkins bent over in disbelief near mid-court.
There would be no game-winning shot, no confetti-filled celebration, no more games. The defending champions — and No. 1 overall seed — are done.
After two relatively routine days, madness returned to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday as top-seeded Villanova was bounced from the brackets and the East region 65-62 by No. 8 seed Wisconsin, which added another major upset to its resume and stormed into the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive year.
Nigel Hayes scored 19 points, dropping a layup in traffic with 11.4 seconds left, and Bronson Koenig shook off foul trouble and added 17 for the tournament-toughened Badgers (27-9), who will play next week at New York’s Madison Square Garden after knocking off a Villanova team that never found its traction in snowy Buffalo.
“Seeds don’t matter,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “I told these guys I don’t care where we’re seeded. We have to win six games. Let’s start with these two this weekend.”
Senior Josh Hart scored 19 to lead the Wildcats, but the guard was bottled up and stripped by Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ and Vitto Brown on a drive in the final seconds. Brown then split two free throws with 4 seconds left, but Villanova struggled to corral the rebound and then couldn’t get off a final shot.
It was a bitter ending for the Wildcats, who were trying to be the first team to repeat as champions since 2007. But starting with an unimpressive performance against No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s in its opener on Thursday, Villanova looked vulnerable and instead became the first No. 1 seed to be sent home.
“To me, there’s no dishonor in losing in this tournament,” said coach Jay Wright, whose team lost as a No. 2 in Buffalo three years ago. “We’ve lived through it. You are judged by how you play in this tournament and that’s the reality of it. So, you have to accept it.”
When the horn sounded, Wisconsin’s red-clad fans erupted in celebration and the Badgers stormed the court after taking down a No. 1 seed for the third time in four years. Wisconsin beat Arizona in 2014, Kentucky in 2015 and now can add Villanova to its list.
Flushed with pride, Gard hugged his wife and children as the Badgers’ pep band played their hearts out. A few minutes later, Wisconsin’s players doused each other with water and tore a few signs off the walls in KeyBank Center for souvenirs.
Florida 65, Virginia 39
In Orlando, Florida, Devin Robinson had 14 points and 11 rebounds, the fifth double-double of his career, and No. 4 seed Florida handled fifth-seeded Virginia.
Gonzaga 79, Northwestern 73
In Salt Lake City, top-seeded Gonzaga fought off a wild Northwestern comeback for a victory with help from an untimely technical foul on Wildcats coach Chris Collins.
W. Virginia 83, Notre Dame 71
In Buffalo, Jevon Carter scored 24 points, and West Virginia is headed to the Sweet 16 for the third time since 2010.
Xavier 91, Florida State 66
In Orlando, Trevon Bluiett scored 29 points and Kaiser Gates came off the bench to contribute 14 as the No. 11 seed Xavier pulled off its second upset of the NCAA Tournament.
Arizona 69, St. Mary’s 60
In Salt Lake City, Lauri Markkanen and Allonzo Trier combined for 30 points and No. 2-seeded Arizona rallied to defeat No. 7 Saint Mary’s and advance to the West Regional’s Sweet Sixteen.
Purdue 80, Iowa State 76
In Milwaukee, Caleb Swanigan had 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, and Purdue reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in seven years.
Butler 74, Middle Tennessee State 65
In Milwaukee, Kelan Martin scored 19 points, and Butler limited Middle Tennessee’s athletic scorers with smothering defense to advance to the NCAA Tournament regional semifinals.