With the victory in the final game by Wisconsin which defeated a highly ranked Duke team, the Big Ten conference won for the first time against the ACC since the match up was started 10 seasons ago. With 6 victories against 5 losses, the Big Ten gets bragging rights about which is the superior conference.
Both conferences have glorious histories of success during the regular season and in the NCAA finals. For many years, they each have had perennial powers like Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana, Duke and North Carolina who all have won the Final Four tournament. Each has one or more championship flags hanging from gym rafters memorializing the success of the past. However, when it comes to head to head play against the teams in the conference, the ACC has reigned superior until this year.
In the first game, Penn State set the wheels in motion with a 69-66 win over Virginia. When the whistle blew on Wednesday night on Wisconsin's 73-69 victory over fourth ranked Duke, the Big Ten were kings of the hill. Sandwiched in between was the upset of Clemson by an Illinois team that trailed by 23 points in the second half. If the Tigers had been able to hold onto the huge lead, the Duke loss would not have mattered. The big lead lost by Clemson follows a pattern in recent years where they lost to Florida State and Virginia in 2007 and 2005 after building large second half margins.
The surprise was the upset of 6th ranked Duke (AP poll) by an overachieving Wisconsin team which entered the game with only a single loss to Gonzaga in the Maui tournament but with a victory against perennial ACC powerhouse, Maryland, in the same tournament. With a career high of 26 points from guard Trevon Hughes and stifling defense that has become a trademark of Coach Bo Ryan, the unranked Badgers realized an attention getting win. After Coach Ryan commented "I’m proud to be part of the conference when they win something". His remark will likely make fans of other Big Ten teams wonder how he felt in prior years about being part of the conference that had lost 10 straight years.
In the recruiting wars where the teams and the two conferences battle for the top talent globally, the intangible of the Big Ten defeating the ACC will be played loud and hard by Big Ten recruiters to talent whom may be considering schools of both conferences. The ACC will crow its 10-1 record in head to head play over the last 11 years. In the end, both conferences will win as they continue with their long history of some of the finest college basketball ever played.