AP NEWS

8 Wisconsin vs. 9 Virginia Tech

March 15, 2017 GMT

Bing Predicts winner: Wisconsin (82 percent)Region: EastLocation: Buffalo, New YorkOpening line: WIS -4.5Tipoff time: 9:40 p.m. EST (Thursday)Though Wisconsin isn’t viewed by many as a powerhouse program, the Badgers have become models of consistency in the college basketball landscape. Wisconsin has made the NCAA tournament every year since 1999, a run that includes nine Sweet 16 appearances, three trips to the Final Four and a runner-up finish in 2015. Its current streak is tied with Gonzaga for the fourth-longest active run, behind only Kansas (28), Duke (22) and Michigan State (20).This year’s Badgers started off 21-3 before struggling down the stretch, losing five of their last seven regular-season games. Wisconsin relies on the trio of Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ, the only three players averaging over 10 points per game, to get its offense in sync. The Badgers rank seventh in defensive rating, according to Sports-Reference, while Virginia Tech ranks 27th in offensive rating.The Hokies have five players averaging double figures, though one of them -- guard Chris Clarke -- is out for the season after suffering a torn ACL on Feb. 12. That leaves coach Buzz Williams with just seven players who have played more than 40 total minutes this year, so Virginia Tech’s depth will be tested by a Wisconsin team that routinely goes nine or 10 players deep.The Hokies are an excellent three-point shooting bunch, ranking 13th in the country at 40.3 percent. That’s a problem for Wisconsin, which ranks 307th in opponent’s three-point percentage. Given Wisconsin’s otherwise grinding defense and Virginia Tech’s lack of depth, though, expect Wisconsin to advance to the next round.