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November 30, 2011
Even growing up in Minnesota, a state littered with its own basketball history and roots, made it difficult to escape the college basketball Mecca otherwise tabbed as North Carolina.
Michael Jordan went there. Dean Smith coached there. North Carolina won the hearts of many college basketball fans with it's baby blue and white color configurations.
It's also won a number of national championships.
So for a guy like Jordan Taylor, a preseason All-American playing at Wisconsin, shunning the likes of North Carolina out of his childhood mind was anything but an easy task.
"I think it's impossible if you have ESPN not to follow them," Taylor said earlier this week. "They had Joseph Forte and Brendan Haywood, but there were some years they didn't make the tournament and they were still on ESPN more than a lot of teams.
"They're one of the most storied programs in college basketball history."
Assistant coach Lamont Paris spent most of his formative years during the latter half of the 80's and early half of the 90's. He spent his college career playing at Wooster before earning his masters in Recreation and Sports Management at Indiana State.
As a college basketball player and a college basketball fan, Paris, like Taylor, couldn't escape the product that is Tar Heel basketball.
"I had a couple friends in high school that had North Carolina as their favorite team," Paris said. "We always watched them. There's a lot that goes with that name. They get a lot of TV time and media play. It will be fun to go in there and play and have a chance to win with a team that if we play well we're very capable of winning."
The last time the Badgers walked into a famed arena outside of their Big Ten comfort zone - - a trip to play Duke inside Cameron Indoor - - they didn't come out on the winning end. In fact, UW was rocked from start to finish before leaving Durham with a 82-58 loss.
None of the key contributors on this team had anything to do with that loss back in 2007.
"It's just one of those things where you've kind of got to get your looking around at the gym and the banners done right away," Taylor said. "Then get down to business. We're going down there to play a basketball game."
North Carolina, ranked as the nation's No. 1 team this time a week ago, is fresh off a 90-80 loss in Las Vegas to UNLV. The Tar Heels, much like the Badgers, rarely lose back-to-back games at any given point throughout a season. They're currently ranked No. 5 nationally in both polls, but most analysts agree on the fact the Tar Heels will be a force throughout the remainder of the season.
So of all the things to look forward to with Wednesday night's game, the fact that North Carolina isn't going to be No. 1 doesn't lend any sort of credence. Wisconsin, also a top-10 program, is simply focused on doing what it does and doing it well.
That will ultimately give the Badgers a chance to win.
"Obviously it would be fun to go down there and play the No. 1 team in the country," Taylor said. "Just because you don't get the chance to go on the road and play the No. 1 team in the country too often. If we can go down there and beat them on their home court it would be a big win for us whether they're No. 1, No. 3 or even unranked.
"They've just got a lot of talent. It would be a great confidence booster for our team."