Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, April 6, 2015

It?s all right there for Wisconsin: The national championship.

[ MORE: Twitter: Badgers, past and present, react to national semi win ]

The Badgers will look to win the Big Ten?s first title since Michigan State cut down the nets in 2000. Since then, the Big Ten has played for the title five times. Indiana lost Maryland in 2002; Illinois lost to North Carolina in 2005; Ohio State lost to Florida in 2007; Michigan State lost to North Carolina in 2009; Michigan lost to Louisville in 2013.

Here are six keys to Wisconsin downing Duke-college hoops? royal program–to win the program?s first national championship since 1941. Bo vs. Coach K … Frank vs. Jahlil … Sam vs. Justise … Let's tip off!

1. Avoid foul trouble. Yes, the return of Traevon Jackson has bolstered Wisconsin?s shallow roster. Still, this isn?t a deep team-especially up front. It will be imperative for Frank Kaminsky, in particular, to avoid foul issues for a team that is famous for its ability to play defense-and rarely foul. This may be difficult, as the Badgers try to contain 6-11, 270-pound man-child Jahlil Okafor, who may be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. How often do the Badgers double Okafor? How often do they front the freshman sensation? These are vexing queries. The Badgers also must deal on the perimeter with Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook. The Duke guards can?t work unfettered. Is Bo Ryan?s team quick enough for the task? We are looking at you, Josh Gasser and Bronson Koenig. Bottom line: However Wisconsin defends, it must avoid multiple fouls.

2. Contain Okafor. Easier said than done. Wisconsin will have to play its typically tough help-man defense, rotating over to double-team at times. And it must be a team effort from the likes of Frank Kaminsky, Nigel Hayes and Duje Dukan. In the team?s first meeting this season, Okafor hit 6-of-8 shots for 13 points to go along with six rebounds in an 80-70 win on Dec. 3 in the Kohl Center. If Okafor goes for 20 and 10-and shoots 10 free throws in the process–Wisconsin may be in trouble.

[ MORE: Video: Wisconsin fans greet Badgers | Video: Badgers dance, again ]

3. Sam being Sam. No player has broken out more in March than Sam Dekker, the lithe and athletic 6-9 wing player has rocketed to superstar status. Dekker?s ability to slash and shoot has been impressive. And his length can be burdensome to opponents as a defender. In five tourney games, Dekker is averaging 20.6 points. He will need another big effort tonight. Make Duke play defense for extended stretches-then Dekker can kill ?em with a bucket late in the shot clock.

4. Frank being Frank. The 7-foot senior has lived up to his billing as the nation?s best player in the Big Dance, averaging 22.2 points in five games. He sliced up Kentucky?s vaunted big men for 20 points and 11 rebounds. Kaminsky and Dekker can count on seeing zone defense, man defense ? anything to confuse and negate the dynamic duo?s effectiveness. The Blue Devils will turn to the likes of Amile Jefferson, Jahlil Okafor and Marshall Plumlee to try to keep Kaminsky and Dekker in check. But, can the Badger twosome really be thrown off its game? Haven?t these guys seen it all by now? This is your night, Frank, in what has been your year. Is he really gonna go out with a fizzle?

5. Come down off the cloud. Wisconsin?s 71-64 win over unbeaten Kentucky on Saturday sure had the feel of a national championship game. Do the Badgers-who have won 11 in a row and taken down blue bloods like North Carolina, Arizona and Kentucky along the way–still have something in the tank? Can Wisconsin get up for another huge game in a 48-hour period vs. a Duke club that has lost just one time since Jan. 28?

6. Never let 'em see you sweat. Wisconsin has stared down adversity on occasion in the NCAA tourney. And, the Badgers never have flinched-rallying from deficits vs. UNC, Arizona and Kentucky. Frank Kaminsky is a senior ? Josh Gasser is a senior ? Sam Dekker is a junior … these guys are men who aren?t fazed by the moment-good or bad. Conversely, Duke is a lot like Kentucky, relying on freshmen for key roles-Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones. The Badgers won?t blink. Will the Blue Devils?


Read more NCAA Tournament posts below:

[display-posts tag="ncaa-tournament" posts_per_page="10"]

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.