Wisconsin Badgers: Duke Win Hopefully a Sign of Things To Come

Sam OlesonCorrespondent IDecember 3, 2009

BOISE, ID - MARCH 20:  Head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers, Bo Ryan, and the bench cheer during their game against the Florida State Seminoles in the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Taco Bell Arena on March 20, 2009 in Boise, Idaho.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Optimism. After Wisconsin's win over Duke Wednesday night, maybe one of the biggest victories in program history, optimism is the word of the day in Mad-town.

In terms of actual significance for the Badgers' season, this win isn't as important as say winning the Big Ten title...but it's pretty close.

The win not only makes up for the Badgers' embarrassing loss at Duke two years ago, but it also gave the Big Ten its first-ever win in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

However, let's turn back to our word of the day. This win gave Badger fans, coaches, and players the confidence and optimism they will need to turn an average squad into a Big Ten contender.

Let's not kid ourselves about anything. Wisconsin has nowhere near the talent to compete for a Big Ten title. Michigan State, Purdue, and Ohio State are all way ahead of the Badgers in terms of talent.

Trevon Hughes has emerged as the Badgers go-to this year in the point guard position (or sometimes shooting guard) and Jon Leuer has been solid as well. But aside from that, Wisconsin has little consistency in terms of solid, flat-out talent.

Jason Bohannon is struggling to find his shot, Keaton Nankivil can shoot from the outside, but still has yet to make himself an inside presence and Jordan Taylor is only a sophomore with much to learn if he's going to run the point.

No, talent isn't going to be what lets the Badgers contend.

Bo Ryan and his coaching staff will play a large role in keeping the Badgers competitive, as he has done during his entire tenure at Wisconsin.

But a great defense and a plodding, but consistent, offense with basically an under-talented team can only take you so far.

If the Badgers are to succeed this year, they have to show the kind of energy, determination, and optimism they did for 40 minutes against the Blue Devils.

Everyone knew Wisconsin was going to be pumped for this game. 17,000 screaming fans, the No. 5 team in the nation in town and a chance to end Duke's ten-game winning streak in the Challenge? What team wouldn't be pumped?

However, that's the kind of attitude that the Badgers have to take into every single game for the rest of the year if they hope to compete.

Simply put, their schedule is tough.

They take on their in-state rivals Marquette next weekend and then launch into the Big Ten season on New Year's Eve with a showdown against Ohio State. They play Michigan State, Purdue, Illinois, and Ohio State all twice and they'll need a 100 percent effort if they're to win any of those games.

The 2009-10 Badgers have already shown what a well-coached, determined team can do even if they are lacking in the talent department.

They're off to a 5-1 record with the victory over Duke and wins over Arizona and Maryland in the Maui Invitational.

But they've also shown some vulnerabilities, especially in their loss against Gonzaga.

If the Badgers are to have a successful season, the Duke game will have been the catalyst.

The determination, integrity, and clutch play the Badgers displayed definitely inspired me to feel that the Badgers could again overachieve this year.

Going into this year, not many fans would have said that.

This was supposed to be a re-building year.

A year where the Badgers started to develop young talent, while Hughes and Bohannon finished out their careers on somewhat of a low note compared to what they'd accomplished the last three years.

A year where the Big Ten was considered one of the best conferences in the nation and the Badgers were relegated to the middle of the pack.

A team that despite overachieving the past two years just didn't have the talent to compete this year.

However, after a performance like that, against a team like Duke, optimism is all Badger fans feel.

What one win can do.