The Win Probability Swings in the Florida-Wisconsin Game Were Insane
March happened. It finally happened.
In the midst of a tourney absent of buzzer beaters and a Sweet 16 in which half the games were decided by double figures, we got our madness.
If floaters from beyond the arc are your thing, you were in heaven Friday night.
The Sweet 16 clash between Wisconsin and Florida featured not one but two last-second runners from deep, including a game-winning shot by the Gators, giving us something this NCAA Tournament had been lacking -- some buzzer-beating March mayhem.
Here's the damage.
Here's your game graph. FLA was 99%, and then WISC was 96%. I love you all. pic.twitter.com/bo1sJpAbfp
â€” numberFire (@numberFire) March 25, 2017
It was a game of runs from the get go. Wisconsin started off well and jumped out to a quick double-digit lead, needing just under seven minutes to take a 16-6 advantage. In the first half, their win probability peaked at 82.51% when Ethan Happ made a layup with 8:12 left in the opening stanza.
Then we got our first big swing as the Gators closed the frame with a 16-5 run, nosing in front 34-32 at the break and boasting a win probability of 55.81% after 20 minutes of play.
Florida threatened to run away with it on two occasions in the second half. The Gators held a 51-41 cushion after a Casey Hill jumper with 14:52 to play, moving their win probability to 86.38%, which was a game-high mark at the time. Lumped in with their first-half spurt, Florida went on a 45-25 run, turning their early 10-point deficit into a 10-point advantage.
It's Wisconsin, though, so it's never going to be easy. The Badgers answered immediately, piecing together a quick 12-1 run over the next four minutes and regaining the lead, 53-52, with 10:21 to go. Just like that, the Badgers were back in front and had a 54.14% chance to move on to the Elite 8.
And this is just child's play compared to what's coming.
Florida answered Wisconsin's rally with one of their own and overpowered the Badgers over the next 10 minutes. Thanks to a 16-3 run, the Gators seized a commanding 68-56 lead with 5:24 to play. With 4:20 remaining, Florida had a 99.20% to win.
But March, at its best, laughs in the face of 0.8% odds.
Wisconsin closed regulation on a tear, stringing together a 16-4 run to force overtime. The Badgers trailed 70-62 with 1:54 left, and Florida's win probability stood at 98.14% at that point.
Every comeback needs some help, and Wisconsin got it in the form of some ice-cold Florida offense. The Gators didn't make a field goal over the last 6:12 of regulation, and they didn't score in the final 1:44. Florida turned it over three times in the last 3:33, including twice in the final 18 seconds.
That gave Wisconsin a plus and set the stage for Zak Showalter's running three-pointer at the buzzer, the first crazy shot of the night.
Zak Showalter game-tying 3 to send the game to OT. #MarchMadness #Sweet16 #NCAA pic.twitter.com/LiS6wV53sj
â€” The Windy City (@thevvindycity) March 25, 2017
With 6 seconds left, prior to Showalter's heave (and Aaron Rodgers-esque celebration), Florida's win probability sat at 97.20%. In the flick of a wrist, the Gators were underdogs, with our models giving Wisconsin a 58.24% chance of winning once they forced overtime.
Now it was the Badgers' turn to pull away and then lose their lead.
Wisconsin scored six of the overtime's first seven points and held a 78-73 lead after a Nigel Hayes-made free throw (something which didn't happen often as he hit just 7 of 14 from the stripe). After Showalter canned two freebies to make it 80-75 with 1:09 to play, the Badgers had a 94.63% chance to win.
Contrary to what Happy Gilmore would have you believe, Gators don't die easily.
A KeVaughn Allen layup, Happ making just one of two from the line and two (granny-style) Canyon Barry free throws pushed Florida to within 81-79 with 37 ticks remaining. That set up the biggest non-buzzer-beating-three-point-floater play of the night.
With the Gators in desperation mode and pressing full-court, Wisconsin broke through the pressure and kicked ahead to a wide open Khalil Iverson for a breakaway bucket.
But Barry did his best LeBron James chasedown impersonation, stuffing the layup to keep it a one-possession game. Florida's Chris Chiozza came down on the ensuing trip and slithered his way to the bucket for a game-tying layup, knotting the score 81-81. Spoiler alert: It wasn't his last basket.
Rewind â€¦ Canyon Barry with a CHASE-DOWN BLOCK. #Gators ðŸŠ pic.twitter.com/Duf8AFxmAF
â€” Only Gators .com (@onlygators) March 25, 2017
At that point, with 24 seconds left and the ball, Wisconsin still had a 58.24% chance to win. Those odds jumped to 94.27% when Hayes drew a foul on a drive to the bucket and overcame his free-throw demons to sink a pair of charity tosses, giving the Badgers an 81-79 cushion with 4 seconds to play.
Then March happened.
Chris Chiozza buzzer beater to send Florida to the Elite 8 #NCAA #MarchMadness #Sweet16 pic.twitter.com/tujXZOQGdn
â€” The Windy City (@thevvindycity) March 25, 2017
Chiozza sliced through the Wisconsin defense and drained a buzzer-beating triple as time expired.
In the final 4 seconds, we went from Wisconsin having a 94.27% chance to win to a Florida victory, and all it took was probably the last jump-stop-into-a-floater trey you'll ever see.
We had to wait a while this year, but March always delivers.