Big men to highlight Duke-Wisconsin tilt
MADISON, Wis. — Jahlil Okafor vs. Frank Kaminsky.
The big-man matchup today between No. 4 Duke and No. 2 Wisconsin in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge is about as good as it gets for college basketball in December.
Badgers forward Duje Dukan offered a reminder that there will be eight other players on the court at the same time along with two of the game's top players.
"We look at is as Wisconsin vs. Duke. It might happen that they do get matched up on a majority of plays, but at the end of the day it's our five against their five," Dukan said.
True enough. Yet there's no denying the star power and contrasting styles that will be on display today at the Kohl Center when the teams, both 7-0, get together.
The 6-foot-11, 270-pound Okafor is Duke's latest likely one-and-done sensation, a freshman from Chicago who already has NBA scouts drooling. Wisconsin coaches seem to be especially impressed with Okafor's hands and his ability to maneuver in the post.
"He doesn't rush. He takes his time. He makes the right decision ... He's impressive at any age, but being a freshman stands out," assistant coach Gary Close said.
Kaminsky might play the exact opposite style. Wisconsin's senior is a lithe 7-footer with an inside-out game that makes him a matchup nightmare. No McDonald's All-American here. Just a hard-working player who keeps getting better after exploding on to the college basketball scene last season.
There is one big similarity between Okafor and Kaminsky: they are both preseason All-Americans.
"This game isn't about me," Kaminsky said. "I really don't care what happens with me in the game as long as we win."
That was certainly the case for in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas last week won by Wisconsin. Kaminsky was 1 for 8 in the opener and limited to 6 minutes in the first half in the second game because of foul trouble, before scoring 14 of 17 in the second half in the final over Oklahoma to take tournament MVP honors.
Coach Bo Ryan said Kaminsky, who is averaging team-highs of 16.6 points and 8.7 rebounds a game, is playing with a lot of confidence. He also joked that Kaminsky was "another one of those guys in the long list of basketball players who commits a foul and looks like he's never committed a foul in his life."
Wisconsin has a deep frontcourt. Dekker, who was resting a tender left ankle he injured in the preseason, said he should be fine for the Duke game. Sophomore Nigel Hayes has added the 3-point shot to his arsenal, while the 6-foot-10 Dukan played well off the bench in the Bahamas. He is averaging 8.4 points a game in helping to spell Dekker.