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Wisconsin’s path to the NCAA championship game couldn’t be toughe

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Wisconsin’s path to the NCAA championship game couldn’t be toughe

When the NCAA tournament bracket was unveiled on Selection Sunday minutes after they’d outlasted Michigan State in overtime to win the Big Ten tournament, the players for the University of Wisconsin were thrilled – then a little concerned. “We finally worked hard enough, got a No. 1 seed,” sophomore guard Bronson Koenig said, “and now we’re put in the toughest region with the toughest (path) to get to the Final Four, national championship.”635638549135827826-USATSI-8499575

Said sophomore forward Nigel Hayes: “We were definitely happy to be a No. 1 seed, but we still saw the teams we’d have to play, and the inevitable game against a great Kentucky team. But as the cliché saying goes, if you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.” Yes, as the fourth No. 1 seed, Wisconsin drew potentially the toughest path possible to the title game. If top seeds won games they were supposed to — which they did — the Badgers would face the nation’s second-strongest No. 2 seed in Arizona, then the No. 1 overall seed in Kentucky – and all just to reach the championship game, not win it. They’ve got another No. 1 seed looming Monday night in Duke.

If Wisconsin wins Monday, it will be the first time since the NCAA began seeding the tournament in 1979 that the champion has faced the highest-seeded opponent possible in every game along the way. With a win Monday, it also will be the hardest path any No. 1 seed will have taken to win a national championship. (Worth noting: Arizona, as a No. 3 seed in 1997, did beat three No. 1 seeds en route to its title.)

These are the teams the Badgers have faced (by seed) so far this NCAA tournament: No. 16 Coastal Carolina, No. 8 Oregon, No. 4 North Carolina, No. 2 Arizona and No. 1 Kentucky. “If we take care of business to win a national championship,” Hayes said, “we’ll look back at the teams we beat to get here. It’ll definitely be worthwhile.” Certainly, no one could argue that the Badgers wouldn’t deserve a championship after all that. Or any of the accolades they’d get.

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