After winning two home games and leading the Big Ten Conference to the championship of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge over the past two seasons, the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team was expecting to get a tough Challenge road game.
It doesn't get any tougher than facing North Carolina at the Dean Dome.
The Badgers-North Carolina game will be played in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Nov. 30 and is one of two marquee Challenge games that came out of the pairings that were announced Tuesday afternoon.
The other top matchup will see Duke play at Ohio State on Nov. 29. Other games that night include Miami at Purdue, Northwestern at Georgia Tech, Illinois at Maryland, Michigan at Virginia and Clemson at Iowa.
Other games on Nov. 30 include Indiana at North Carolina State, Penn State at Boston College, Florida State at Michigan State, Virginia Tech at Minnesota and Wake Forest at Nebraska.
All games will be shown by the ESPN family of networks.
It will be hard to find a more intriguing matchup than the run-and-gun Tar Heels, picked as the No. 1 team in the nation in an early preseason poll by ESPN's Andy Katz, against the patient Badgers, who are No. 11 in Katz's poll.
Associate head coach Greg Gard, who is UW's schedule maker, said it was exciting news for everyone in the program when they learned of the matchup.
"It shows the respect that's starting to accumulate nationally from where we are year in and year out. It's great for our guys," he said.
The Jordan Taylor-led Badgers, who many pundits believe will battle Ohio State for the Big Ten title next season, will have to contend with a bevy of North Carolina standouts such as forwards Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson and shooting guard Kendall Marshall.
Top freshmen will include forward James McAdoo and guard P.J. Hairston, both of whom are McDonald's All-Americans.
The Tar Heels, who have a 6-6 Challenge record, won the ACC championship this past season, reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament and finished with a 29-8 record.
Gard said the Challenge has been a great teaching aide for the program over the years. The Badgers' six Challenge wins are the most among Big Ten schools. Their 6-6 overall record in the Challenge is tied with Ohio State (5-5) as the best among Big Ten schools.
The Badgers also have a six-game winning streak over ACC teams that include games outside of the Challenge. The only time they've faced the Tar Heels was during a 2005 NCAA tournament Elite Eight game in Syracuse that North Carolina won 88-82 en route to winning the national championship.
"We've learned from every (Challenge) game we've been in," Gard said. "Whether we come out on the left-hand side (of the score) or not, we always take a lot from those games."
Gard is still working on the non-conference part of next season's schedule for the Badgers, who were 25-9 overall and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament last March.
The only true road game that has been scheduled so far besides the Challenge game is at UW-Milwaukee. The Badgers will play two neutral site games at the Chicago Invitational Challenge at the Sears Centre. Potential opponents at that November tournament are Bradley, BYU and Nevada.
UNLV and Marquette as well as UW-Green Bay are among the non-conference teams which will face the Badgers at the Kohl Center.
"I think I have one more game to schedule in December and a couple more in November and then we'll be able to go with it," Gard said.
The Big Ten schedule will be different because of the addition of Nebraska. The Badgers will play seven conference teams twice and four teams once. Gard said they have not been notified yet about the conference schedule breakdown.