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A look back at a classic night of hoops

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan was sitting idle at Big Ten media day in late October when he got word that the Badgers were picked ninth (the Big Ten didn't officially release the projections beyond the top three).

When I approached Ryan about the news, he just smirked and said that was good to know. He knew better. Everyone did. Picking a Ryan team to finish ninth in anything is quite foolish. Forget about personnel for a minute and repeat after me: A Ryan-coached team will never finish ninth. Never. Ever.

Well, the ninth-best projected team in the Big Ten outlasted the co-favorite in the ACC (Duke) to essentially clinch the first Big Ten victory over the ACC in the 11-year history of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Sure, Ohio State had to finish off Florida State a few minutes later, but the Badgers' upset was the difference.

What’s the significance of Wisconsin’s win on easily the best night to date of this young season? Let’s address this win and the others from Wednesday night’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge:

Wisconsin 73, Duke 69: The Badgers declared they are a player in the Big Ten race. Expect Wisconsin to be back in the NCAAs yet again. The depth of the Big Ten will be shown not by the Badgers but more so if Northwestern and Minnesota can still make the field of 65. Meanwhile, Duke found its shooter in Andre Dawkins, but will need to learn how to make better decisions late in games. This was not a bad loss at all for the Blue Devils, just like losing at Michigan a year ago was fine.

Illinois 76, Clemson 74: Illinois was left for dead, down by 23 in the second half. The Illini ended up stringing together the largest comeback in school history. Illinois found its identity Wednesday night. If these guys are scrappy, they’ve got a shot. This makes up for the disastrous loss to Utah after blowing a double-digit lead in Las Vegas last week. Meanwhile, Clemson will need to learn how to close. This loss will sting. The Tigers are still in good standing, but this one may linger.

Boston College 62, Michigan 58: The Eagles picked up their second true road win without Rakim Sanders (high ankle sprain) after winning at Providence last weekend. Corey Raji was terrific on the offensive glass and finished with 24 points. The Eagles open the ACC season at home Sunday against Miami and have the look of a team making an NCAA-bid run. Michigan is headed in the wrong direction with three straight losses and needs to grab a quality win here soon. Unfortunately, a trip to Kansas later this month probably won’t be the answer.

Miami 63, Minnesota 58: The Hurricanes are off to an 8-0 start, not too bad for a team picked 10th in the ACC. Heralded freshman Durand Scott scored 20 against the Gophers. This is yet another example of the depth of the ACC if the Canes are the 10th-best team in the league. Like Michigan, Minnesota is reeling a bit with three straight losses and will need some quality wins in the Big Ten.

Ohio State 77, Florida State 64: An impressive performance yet again from guard Evan Turner, who scored 25 points, grabbed 13 boards and dished out six assists. The Buckeyes will be a top-four Big Ten team. The Seminoles won the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, but may not have beaten an NCAA tournament team yet.

What were the other significant developments Wednesday night?

Kansas: The Jayhawks put together a 36-0 run on Alcorn State. I don’t care about the competition. That’s still quite impressive.

New Mexico: The Lobos went to 7-0 with an 86-78 win over Cal at the Pit. The Bears are another team with three early losses, while the Lobos are now a serious player in the Mountain West.

Gonzaga: The Zags came back from 13 down in the second half to outlast Washington State, 74-69, in what turned out to be one of the best games of the night. Matt Bouldin scored a career-high 28 points and freshman Elias Harris put up 24 and 12. Wazzu is still a real player in the Pac-10, even if the Cougs couldn’t pull off the road upset.

UNLV: Fresh off a home win over Louisville, the Runnin’ Rebels beat Arizona, 74-72, in double-overtime in Tucson behind Tre’Von Willis’ 25 points and former Kentucky guard Derrick Jasper’s late 3-pointer. UNLV is 6-0 and proving the MWC may be the deepest conference outside of the power six.

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets’ "other" freshman, Mfon Udofia, scored 26 to outshine Derrick Favors (16 and 8) in a solid 13-point win over Siena. The Saints now almost certainly have to win the MAAC tourney to get an NCAA bid.

Portland: Pilots coach Eric Reveno told me he would know a lot more about his team after the Portland State game. Well, the Pilots followed up the impressive run to the 76 Classic finals by losing at home by four to Portland State, which set a Chiles Center record with 15 3s and rallied from 12 down in the second half. You know the way this works. Unfortunately, the Pilots won’t be in the AP Top 25 next week.

San Diego State: To show the increasing depth of the MWC, the Aztecs won a tough road game in overtime at San Diego. Had the Zags lost to Wazzu, the good vibes the WCC felt over the weekend would have been zapped.

Vanderbilt: The six-point home win over Missouri will go down as a quality win. The game was well-contested, an entertaining watch and proved the Commodores still have plenty of life.

St. John’s: OK, so it was just Stony Brook, but the Red Storm are still 6-0 and head to Duke this weekend.

Jeff Foote: Who is he? He’s a 7-foot senior center who probably wasn’t known to many before Wednesday night. I guess he still isn't. But he had quite a night for Cornell, scoring 28 points and grabbing 18 rebounds in an overtime win over Bucknell.

Harvard: Yes, Cornell will have company this year. If Northwestern is story 1A for a team that has never been to the NCAA tournament, then Harvard might be 1B. The Crimson haven't been since 1946 and are now 6-1 after a 21-point rout of Ben Braun's Rice team, which gave Texas all it wanted earlier this week.

Ali Farokhmanesh: That should be the next test at the Spelling Bee. The Northern Iowa senior guard hit a 3-pointer with 36 seconds left to beat rival Iowa State in Ames. The Panthers, who took out BC in St. Thomas last week, are the favorite in the Missouri Valley and are looking like a nice upset special team in March.

Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane, the pick by many to win Conference USA, got credibility in-state with a 21-point win over Oklahoma State. Make no mistake: this is the kind of win that'll matter in March.

Tony Crocker: The Oklahoma guard may have had the most even night. He scored 16 points and grabbed 16 boards in the Sooners' 20-point rout of fading Arkansas.

New Orleans: The Privateers are likely headed to Division 3 in 2010, but are going down with plenty of pride. UNO beat Tulane, 51-50, as coach Joe Pasternack continues to coach up his squad.

Utah’s other Division I schools: Unless you live in the state, it’s hard for the outside world to fully grasp the difficulty BYU and Utah have in going to Utah State and Weber State. This is not an excuse, but the reality every season. Utah State beat BYU by 10 behind Jared Quayle’s 22, while Weber knocked off Utah by seven behind Damian Lillard’s 28.

At least it was close: The Pitt-Duquesne game was hardly a classic to close out Mellon Arena, with each team turning the ball over on its last possession of regulation. But the game did have some drama and Pitt prevailed 67-58 in double overtime.