Wisconsin, Duke Set to Clash at the Kohl Center


Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Frank Kaminsky vs. Jahlil Okafor. Bo Ryan vs. Mike Krzyzewski. Big Ten vs. ACC. Freshman phenoms vs. battle-tested veterans. All these matchups and more will be on display when No. 2 Wisconsin (7-0) and No. 4 Duke (7-0) square off Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m. in Madison.

The game will be just the second top-five matchup to ever be played at the Kohl Center. The only other one occurred on January 9, 2007, when Jordan Taylor scored 25 points to lead the third-ranked Badgers to a 72-69 victory over No. 5 Ohio State. Now, the Blue Devils will come into Madison for an ACC-Big Ten Challenge showdown between two teams that have aspirations of a Final Four run and maybe even a national title come March.

“It’s nice that the two leagues got together when they did the assignments and they thought Duke and Wisconsin would be a pretty good game. Both our teams will try not to disappoint,” Ryan said of the highly anticipated matchup. “We’re excited. We’re sure Duke is, too.”

Wednesday night’s game will be the third meeting between the two programs, with the series tied at 1-1.

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The Blue Devils soundly defeated Wisconsin 82-58 in November of 2007 at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but the Badgers enacted revenge two years later, upsetting fifth-ranked Duke 73-69 in one of the most memorable wins in program history. The victory resulted in a Kohl Center court storming and allowed the Big Ten to win the ACC-Big Ten Challenge for the first time.

The matchup will also pit two of the country’s best and most well-respected head coaches against one another. Krzyzewski and Ryan have combined to win 1,701 games and eight national championships (four for Krzyzewski at Duke and four for Ryan at UW-Platteville) during the course of their illustrious coaching careers.

“He’s done more for college basketball than anyone, for basketball, period,” Ryan said of Krzyzewski. “Not just because of the national championships, but all the time he has spent with USA Basketball and developing the USA Basketball youth all the way up.”

Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils are anchored by a trio of standout freshman starters: Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow. To put that into perspective, Ryan has started a total of four true freshman during his tenure at Wisconsin.

Okafor was one of the most highly coveted recruits in recent memory coming out of high school, and committed to play for Coach K at Duke as part of a package with Jones. Okafor has lived up to the lofty expectations places upon his shoulders thus far, averaging 17.7 points and 7.9 rebounds while also shooting 63.6 percent from the field. In just his past two games, Okafor has scored 45 points on 20-of-28 shooting in just 51 minutes of action.

Okafor will go toe-to-toe with Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky in a matchup that could very well be the deciding factor in who emerges victorious.

Through seven games, Kaminsky is averaging 16.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.3 blocks and is shooting 56.3 percent from the field. He was also named MVP of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament this past weekend, where the Badgers defeated UAB, Georgetown and Oklahoma on their way to capturing the tournament title.

Sam Dekker, who’s scoring 12.7 points per game, and Nigel Hayes, who is averaging 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds, have both been stellar for Wisconsin so far this year, but Ryan’s squad has plenty of depth and could get major contributions from just about anybody.

This game has been circled on the calendars of college basketball fans everywhere from the moment it was first announced, and now tip-off is drawing near. While we don’t know will win this epic clash of titans, one thing is almost certain: fans across the nation will be in for a treat when the Badgers and Blue Devils face off in Madison.

Next: ACC/Big Ten Challenge: Duke vs. Wisconsin Game Info, TV Channel, Live Stream and More