USA TODAY Sports’ Scott Gleeson breaks down how Wisconsin was able to take down the defending champions to pull off the biggest upset of the NCAA tournament so far.

Defending national champion Villanova entered the NCAA tournament as the top overall seed. And left it in utter disarray. The Wildcats were favorites to win back-to-back titles for the first time since Florida did it in 2006 and 2007.

Coach Jay Wright will tell you his team got a tough draw. He’s right. The eighth-seeded Badgers were good enough to be a No. 6 seed and played like a top seed. But more than Wisconsin playing good was Villanova playing bad. The Wildcats were bizarrely unsteady in a close game against a worthy opponent — missing three crucial free throws down the stretch and coming unhinged in a way that looked nothing like last year’s championship group that thrived under pressure. It also looked nothing like the team that won the Big East regular season and tournament titles rather handily. For all the teams that looked vulnerable heading into March, Villanova did not show signs. Until the Big Dance.

WISCONSIN: Badgers got the wrong seed

GAME REPORT: Wisconsin pulls off shocker

This isn’t about any underachievement for Villanova as a program in the NCAAs. Last year’s national title negated previous years of early exits and frustration — they’ve been No. 1 or No. 2 in five of the past seven tournaments and only advanced past the round of 32 once (last year). It’s important to note that a No. 1 seed has lost in six of the last 10 years before the second weekend.

What’s most notable is how shaky Villanova played in its two lone tournament games. Why? How? That might be the biggest mystery of 2017’s tourney.

The Wildcats only led by one point before pulling away against No. 16 seed Mount Saint Mary’s. Then on Saturday, it was missed free throws during crunch time; they shot 15-for-21 from the free throw line (71%) despite leading the nation in free-throw percentage at 80%. And national player of the year candidate Josh Hart had the ball stolen for him on what have been the game-tying play in the final seconds.

Kris Jenkins’ epic game-winning three-pointer in last year’s title game will live on forever in March Madness lore. But the painful truth of March is sometimes the best overall team doesn’t win, especially when it doesn’t play up to par.



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