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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

T-Minus Duke And Counting

There was a point on Tuesday when it looked like Indiana could pull off a mammoth upset and push the Big Ten out to a 4-0 start in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, with a capable Michigan State squad yet to play.

We all know what happened after that. With the ledger knotted at 3-3, it will come down to games like Minnesota-Miami, Wisconsin-Duke, and Ohio State-Florida State to determine if the midwest's finest can claim it's first victory in this 11-year battle. So far, things have gone according to chalk (my own predictions are only 5-1).

Duke brings the nation's 6th-ranked team into the Kohl Center for a game where Wisconsin has nothing to lose. But that doesn't make the task any easier, it just makes failure more acceptable. Jon Leuer played admirably two years ago in defeat and should be the team's first offensive option. The visitors will get an athletic upgrade in their own front court, however, if freshman big man Mason Plumlee can play big minutes in his return from a wrist injury.

In typical Bo Ryan fashion, the Wisconsin head coach is downplaying the significance of UW's rematch with the Blue Devils:

"We've faced a lot of teams with good three-point shooters, and you can't make up a defense just for one game. You know, you get your matchups, you get your tendencies, just like we do against every other team, and you play it from there."
It's refreshing to hear that the players let on a little, though.

"[Bo] is telling us don't overthink the game, that it's just another one on the schedule," senior Trevon Hughes said. "But everyone knows the implications of this game."

The team is probably just glad to get a home game again in this series. To earn the upset, the Badgers will have to get to the free throw line, rebound well and hit their shots. The Blue Devils do not turn the ball over, play great team defense and have been rebounding well. Duke is also one of the most efficient offensive teams in the land. Sound familiar?

But the Dukies struggle to get to the charity stripe, much like the Badgers. Nolan Smith can get to the rim, but is not quite as skilled as other perimeter players who have given Wisconsin fits in the past. Newcomer Andre Dawkins has also given Duke a lift at guard. But I don't think either player can handle Hughes.

For a Duke perspective, check out the Duke Basketball Report.

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