In a rematch from the 2005 Elite Eight, the Wisconsin men's basketball team will play at North Carolina on November 30 in the 13th-annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge, as pairings for the event were announced Tuesday.
Arguably the marquee game of the challenge, both Wisconsin and North Carolina have holes to fill, but both are expected to be preseason top 10 selections when the polls are released in the fall.
"The players deserve the credit because they have won a lot of games for us and play in a way that people appreciate," UW assistant coach Gary Close said. "It's an honor for them and a reward for them, and we appreciate the chance to play a great team like North Carolina."
The Tar Heels (29-8) return most of their key players from the squad that won the ACC Championship and reached the Elite Eight last season before losing to Kentucky, including forwards Harrison Barnes (15.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and John Henson (11.7 ppg, 10.1 rpg) center Tyler Zeller (15.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and point guard Kendall Marshall (6.2 ppg, 6.2 apg). That wealth of depth is the main reason many have selected North Carolina as the favorite to win the school's sixth national championship.
"What jumps out at you is their overall talent and athleticism," said Close, who briefly recruited Barnes. "It's obviously a team that has great, great ability and improved tremendously from the beginning of the year to the end. They'll go into this year with terrific confidence, especially after they didn't lose a couple of those players to the draft."
Wisconsin (25-9) loses six seniors, including All-Big Ten selection Jon Leuer, but returns its starting backcourt led by preseason All-American candidate Jordan Taylor. The Badgers made the Sweet 16 last year before falling to national runner-up Butler.
The Badgers and Tar Heels have only met once on the hardwood, with North Carolina pulling out an 88-82 win in the 2005 Elite Eight en route to winning the 2005 national championship. Both schools are 6-6 in the challenge, but Wisconsin owns the most wins among Big Ten schools.
This match-up is loosely similar to the challenge Wisconsin has to travel to Durham, N.C., to take on No.7 Duke in 2007 challenge contest. Wisconsin lost by 24 to the Blue Devils, but rebounded to win a school-record 31 games, including the Big Ten regular season championship outright and the conference tournament.
"I don't think there is any question when you play teams like that that they expose some things and you want to find out about it then rather than the Big Ten season," Close said. "Competition like that is hard to duplicate. Our guys know the tradition of North Carolina basketball, so it's a great honor, a great challenge and something they'll be real excited about."
Tip-off time will be announced at a later date, and the game will be televised nationally on the ESPN family of networks.
The event is scheduled to start Tuesday, Nov. 29th with the following games: Miami at Purdue, Northwestern at Georgia Tech, Illinois at Maryland, Michigan at Virginia, Clemson at Iowa and Duke at Ohio State.
Wednesday's slate of games are set to including the following: Indiana at N.C. State, Penn State at Boston College, Florida State at Michigan State, Virginia Tech at Minnesota, Wake Forest at Nebraska and Wisconsin at North Carolina.
Should the challenge end in a 6-6 tie, the conference who won the previous year (Big Ten) would retain the challenge title.