Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Big Ten/ACC Challenge shows why basketball is great

This week I have loyalty to not only Wisconsin but to every Big Ten basketball team.

I want all of them to win, and win big.

Why would I want UW’s competition to come out victorious? Because I want the Big Ten to beat the ACC in its annual basketball challenge.

As a Big Ten native, I have learned to hate the ACC. It has always been the marquee conference, with big-name players and national attention. It has coaches that are granted lifetime contracts and can go simply by their last initial — and just by that one letter everyone in the country knows who you’re talking about. It has players that are first-round picks, and it has a postseason tournament that proves every year why March is the greatest month in sports.

Everyone stops and watches when Duke plays North Carolina, and for those couple of games every year ,college students around the country wonder why they didn’t opt to attend Duke and be a Cameron Crazy.

Even when I was younger and didn’t follow college basketball that closely, I knew who Duke was. I even owned a Christian Laettner poster.

But in recent years, the ACC hasn’t held the same prestige it once did. The reason for that has been the emergence of the Big Ten as a perennial title contender. The Big Ten can combat Duke with Michigan State. While Duke had Shane Battier and Jason Williams, the Spartans had Mateen Cleaves and Zach Randolph.

And in Big Ten country, Tom Izzo is Coach K. While Bobby Knight used to draw the most attention at Big Ten media gatherings, it is Izzo everyone listens to for wisdom and a sort of ‘How do you do it?’ response.

But in order to be the ACC, you have to have more than one good team. Duke wouldn’t be great if it weren’t for the strength of Maryland and North Carolina, and now the Big Ten has the same sort of conference rivalries. In recent years Illinois has stepped up its play, and Iowa has emerged as a top-10 team this year.

And of course there are the lowly teams that each conference possesses. Not every team can be championship-caliber, and Florida State and the likes of Northwestern and Minnesota account for that.

But the beauty of this challenge is that, as the old clich? goes, “On any given night any team can win.” Last year I traveled to the exotic region of Milwaukee to watch the Badgers take on No.13 Maryland at the Bradley Center. While I was convinced this game was going to be a joke, that there was no way No.23 Wisconsin could contend with the likes of a good ACC team, I was pleasantly proven wrong. In fact, it turned out to be the best game I saw Wisconsin play all last year.

Not only did this ESPN-sponsored matchup give me by far the best press credential I have received thus far in my sportswriting career, the game was unforgettable.

Wisconsin’s overtime win witnessed two ties and 10 lead changes in 45 minutes of play, and in typical Bennettball style, the UW’s defense eventually shut the Terps down.

The so-called neutral crowd was a sea of Badger red, and they were all on their feet as the clock wound down and UW defeated the national powerhouse.

The game was a perfect example of what makes college basketball great, and it was played by two of the greatest conferences in college basketball.

The only dark spot that I will associate with this day was one that happened off the court. It was not the hour-and-a-half road trip in a seatless conversion van with my co-editor and a French foreign exchange student; rather, it was Dick Bennett. While the former head coach gave a regular postgame press conference, it would turn out to be his last.

The next day Bennett announced his retirement, claiming that he didn’t have enough energy to coach UW anymore.

That 45 minutes must have taken the last bit of emotion out of the coach, but at least he went out after one of the greatest games I have seen his team play.

This year’s matchup doesn’t hold quite the same billing for the Badgers as they take on Georgia Tech, but if that doesn’t float your boat, there are plenty of other games to grab your attention. Last night there was Iowa versus Duke, and Maryland took on Illinois. Tonight’s key game is Indiana at North Carolina, and other games feature Michigan State and Virginia, Florida State at Northwestern and Clemson at Penn State.

While I haven’t figured out which games I will flip to during commercial breaks of “Dawson’s Creek” and “Felicity,” I do know one thing — I’ll be rooting for the Big Ten in all nine games.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *