Big Ten/ACC challenge

Inter-conference bragging rights — and trips to the Elite Eight — are on the line Friday

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — For one week at least, fans of Wisconsin and Michigan State can unite. The only two conferences in the nation with three teams in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA men's basketball tournament are the much ballyhooed Atlantic Coast Conference and the largely denigrated Big Ten. Two Big Ten/ACC tandems tango in the regional semifinals Friday night, with Michigan State facing Duke in Austin, Texas at 6:10 p.m. and Wisconsin taking on North Carolina State at 6:27 p.m.

So is there added incentive as a standard-bearer for the Big Ten?

"I don't know if it's added incentive just because these games, obviously, there is a lot at stake," senior guard Clayton Hanson said. "But we just want to compete as best we can and represent the Big Ten well."

"We haven't really thought about it that much like that," senior forward Mike Wilkinson said. "We think about them as N.C. State. And they're another team that's going to be tough to play against… They've got some great players and we look forward to playing against [them].

The ACC has dominated the annual ACC/Big Ten challenge, which has pitted nine teams from each league against each other in early season inter-conference action, including a 7-2 edge this season, when only Wisconsin (a 69-64 winner over Maryland) and Illinois (91-73 over Wake Forest) won for the Big Ten. Duke topped MSU 81-74 in the challenge.

All the time in the world (for commercials)

March Madness means mad cash for CBS, which broadcasts every NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament game.

The television deal stipulates that the mandatory media timeouts that take place four times each half are extended from their typical one minute length to 2 ½ half minutes. This, in turn, helps teams shorten their benches, since top players have more time to rest without leaving the floor.

Against Bucknell Sunday, six Badgers played at least 24 minutes, led by Wilkinson's 38 and Alando Tucker's 36. Wisconsin's seventh-highest minutes muncher was Ray Nixon with four.

"(CBS) must be doing well with how many ads they're selling, because I've actually run out of things to say during the timeouts," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "Our guys are so well rested during those timeouts that, you know, you get to play certain guys down the stretch more than maybe you would at other times because of the length of the timeouts. I was worried about our guys drinking too much water, which can happen. I was making up things to say."

Wilkinson, though, did not concur that his long-winded coach was out of breath.

"I have not yet seen him run out of things to say, but I'll let you know if it happens," Wilkinson said.

The senior forward also added that the additional rest is not always good for the body.

"Sometimes before halftime you are a little bit stiffer than you are normally," he said. "[However], timeouts definitely help, especially late in the game."

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