On behalf of all fans of Wisconsin basketball and college basketball in general, I’d like to thank whoever scheduled this year’s ACC/Big Ten challenge.
Last Thursday, the 16th annual challenge was laid out for all of us to drool over. Syracuse at Michigan, Ohio State at Louisville, Iowa at North Carolina, and the one we all wanted: Duke at Wisconsin.
The basketball gods have answered our prayers. On December 3, Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils will travel to Madison to take on Bo Ryan’s Badgers, who will be hungry to kick start their 2015 campaign.
Don’t be depressed over the departures of Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. Coach K has been hard at work on the recruiting trail, reloading his roster with the nation’s best freshman class.
Standing above all (literally) is center Jahlil Okafor. Hailing from Chicago, Okafor has been compared to the once-great Greg Oden. Okafor is a talent that comes around once a decade. Unfortunately for college hoops fanatics, that talent will likely stick around only until next April, when Okafor declares for the 2015 NBA draft.
Jahlil and fellow freshman Tyrus Jones, Justise Winslow, and Grayson Allen will be tossed into the ring against an incredibly mature Wisconsin team. Four of the Badgers’ starters will be returning, along with all beneficiary bench players.
ESPN has already predicted Okafor as a preseason first-team All-American. Tipping off across from him will be Frank Kaminsky, ESPN’s preseason second-team center. The face-off between these two could sell a $100 dollar ticket by itself. Add in the overflow of talent around them, and find yourself in basketball heaven.
Both Duke and Wisconsin will appear in the top-five once the season’s underway. The obvious goal for both teams is make another splash into the Final Four. For Krzyzewski, it’s old news. Over the past 33 years, Krzyzewski and his Blue Devils have been to 11 Final Fours.
The same could not be said for Bo Ryan, who’s quest for a Final Four finally ended in April. A journey that had been hard earned and long-deserved. Fans of Wisconsin know the rarity of their Badgers making it to the Final Four. They also know that this upcoming team may be Wisconsin’s best team, dare I say, ever.
From what my 21-year-old eyes have seen they are, and a loss before the Final Four would be considered a failure. This Wisconsin team got their first taste of college basketball’s final stage in April, and now it’s time to conquer it.
Knocking off Duke will send a cross-country message that the Badgers mean business. So mark your calendars folks, because on December 3rd, we get reacquainted to thrill of college basketball.