Virginia Draws Wisconsin In ACC/Big 10 Challenge

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Virginia owns an 11-6 record in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge.
Virginia coach Tony Bennett has helped his team win three straight games in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge. ~ Mike Ingalls

The matchups for the 2017 ACC/Big 10 Challenge arrived Thursday and Virginia’s opponent is a familiar one. The Cavaliers will face Wisconsin for the third time in six years when they host the Badgers at John Paul Jones Arena. The official schedule date among Nov. 27, 28, and 29 and the tipoff time will be released at a later date.

ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU will combine to televise all 14 games with specific channel assignments made at a later date.

Overall, the ACC leads the Challenge 11-5-2. That includes a 9-5 win in last year’s matchups. UVA owns an 11-6 record in the event, including a 6-2 mark at home after it defeated Ohio State at the JPJ last fall. The victory over the Buckeyes pushed the Hoos’ winning streak in the Challenge to three games.

Wisconsin owns a 9-9 record in the Challenge, the second best win percentage among Big 10 teams behind Purdue. The Badgers have a winning streak in the event as well after back-to-back wins against Syracuse.

Interestingly, Virginia’s last loss in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge came at home against Wisconsin. The two teams have split road wins in the event. The Cavaliers won in Madison, 60-54, in 2012, while the Badgers won in Charlottesville, 48-38, in 2013. That setback at the JPJ is UVA’s only loss in the last seven years of the event.

UVA finished 23-11 last season with its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. Wisconsin posted a 27-10 record last season. Florida ousted both teams from the tourney.

This marks the third meeting with Wisconsin in the Challenge for Virginia, who only has faced two other teams as many times. The Hoos played Minnesota four times and Northwestern three times in other years. They also took on Ohio State, Purdue, and Michigan State twice each with single games against Maryland, Michigan, and Penn State. UVA has not faced Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska, or Rutgers in the event.

While a rubber match with Wisconsin may not have the glitz of a game against a former National Champion like Michigan State or Indiana, it will be a challenging contest against a quality opponent. The Badgers have not missed the NCAA Tournament since 1998 after all. They made their sixth trip in the past seven years to at least the Sweet 16 last season.

Wisconsin coach Greg Gard has been a part of almost all of those teams, joining the program in 2001 before taking over as head coach in 2015. Gard and Cavalier coach Tony Bennett worked together as assistant coaches at Wisconsin on the Badgers’ 2002 and 2003 Big 10 Championship teams. Bennett’s father Dick coached the Badgers from 1995-2001.

“We’re looking forward to squaring off with my good friend Tony Bennett and his team,” Gard said in a news release. “We have tremendous respect for him and the entire Bennett family. We know we’ll be facing a talented and well-coached team. This will be an exciting early-season test for our young group. Our entire non-conference schedule is shaping up to be really challenging and will force us to grow and learn in a hurry.”

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