Badgers Get Duke at the Kohl

After years of the Badgers not getting their shot at home against the top dogs of the ACC, the Kohl Center will be rocking in December, as Wisconsin basketball will get a chance to avenge its 2007 Challenge loss when the Duke Blue Devils make their first trip to Madison.

MADISON - Although hosting Florida State, Maryland and Wake Forest over the 10-year history of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, Wisconsin never seemed to get a fair shake from the ESPN schedule makers.

Playing more road games than any other team in the challenge, Wisconsin, a team that has won five Big Ten Championships in the last eight years, was never given the opportunity to host an ACC school with similar credentials.

Not so anymore, as Wisconsin will host the Duke Blue Devils in the 11th annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge at the Kohl Center on Wednesday, December 2nd, a matchup the Big Ten confirmed Wednesday.

Wisconsin fans started buzzing when head coach Bo Ryan hinted at the matchup during the team's post-season banquet Tuesday.

Ryan told a story of when his 1995 National Champion Platteville team was getting its picture taken and Bo's father, Butch, was holding up a handmade sign that said, ‘Bring on Duke!'

"All of a sudden, there are people laughing and pointing fingers," Ryan said. "I had no idea what he was talking about."

Ryan wouldn't comment further, but there's little doubt he is pleased that UW is getting some national respect.

Wisconsin has played on the road six times in the 10 years of the event, including four of the last six seasons. Ryan was openly frustrated with the schedule makers after the Badgers were sent on the road in 2007 and 2008 and as a result, the Badgers were guaranteed to host the event this fall and 2010.

The 2009 matchup will be a rematch of the 2007 Challenge in which seventh-ranked Duke handily beat UW, 82-58, in Durham, N.C. The Blue Devils (who shot 11-for-24 from three-point range in the game) led 48-25 at halftime, as some Badgers admitted to being taken aback by the environment.

That won't be the case this time for Wisconsin, who will be hosting only its fourth Challenge game at the Kohl Center, where the Badgers have sold out every game for six straight seasons and have a home record of 120-10 under Ryan.

Duke finished the 2008-09 season 30-7, won the ACC tournament over Florida State and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament before losing to eventual Final Four participant Villanova.

Duke has never lost a Challenge game, going a perfect 10-0 and 5-0 on the road.

The Blue Devils, who are ranked fifth in early preseason poll, will lose bench player Greg Paulus, who will probably transfer to Michigan to play football with his one year of eligibility, and possibly junior guard Gerald Henderson.

The third-team Associated Press All-American averaged 16.5 ppg and is a projected first-round draft pick in the upcoming NBA. Henderson has thrown his name in the middle, but has not signed with an agent.

Players that are expecting to return are junior forward Kyle Singler (16.5 points, team-high 7.7 rebounds), junior guard Jon Scheyer (14.9 points, team-high 2.8 assists) and sophomore Nolan Smith (8.4 points).

The Badgers return 67 percent of their minutes, 66 percent of their scoring, 81 percent of their three-point shooting and three starters. Wisconsin will need every bit of it, as Ryan hinted that the Badgers could have one of top five toughest schedules in the country next season; a schedule that includes a home game against Marquette, a road game at Green Bay and three games in the always-competitive EA Sports Maui Invitational the week of Thanksgiving.

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