On Wednesday night at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin, Duke and UW met for perhaps the most anticipated basketball game of the year. Many people -- myself included -- picked Wisconsin to win. But Duke beat them 80-70, hitting a remarkable 65.1 percent of its shots from the field.
During warmups, I met 12-year-old Kobe Smit, who also predicted a Wisconsin victory. "The Badgers have more weapons," he said. "Guys coming off the bench who can hit big shots and grab rebounds." I still agree with Kobe, but like him, I underestimated the Blue Devils' athleticism as well as their relentless defensive play. "We beat a really good basketball team today," said Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski. "Our guys showed a lot of grit. Our defense was good and our offensive efficiency was incredible tonight." Incredible is an understatement, so I will also add luck as a factor for Duke's victory as their its shooting percentage was unusually high.
I think the Wisconsin Badgers and Duke Blue Devils are the two of the best college basketball teams in the country. I like the players -- on and off the court -- and I have the utmost respect for both coaches and the impressive programs they oversee. After watching them go head to head I consider Duke to be the better team, but Bo Ryan is clearly the best college basketball coach in America.
Ryan never gets the marquee players that are regularly recruited by schools like Kentucky, Louisville and Duke, yet every year the Badgers are consistently good with teams populated primarily by local players. "One and done" is not part of the Badger vocabulary and that is too often overlooked at a time when college has become a way station for athletes using a school as a showcase for the pros.
The season is young and the Badgers will survive this loss. Bo Ryan knows basketball, so he and his team will learn from this loss. Wisconsin is a perennial powerhouse and will be a presence in the NCAA tournament in March.
See you then!