The 14th annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge is upon us and the Big Ten is looking for its fourth consecutive series victory after losing the first ten occurrences of the event. Last year, they dominated, going 8-4 including Ohio State's blowout of Duke in Columbus. Let's take a quick look at this year's matchups.
(21) Minnesota at Florida State
Minnesota is coming off of a 5th-place finish in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament, losing to Duke in the first round but coming back to beat Memphis and Stanford in consolation games. Rodney Williams has taken over as the Gophers' inside threat, as Trevor Mbakwe continues to regain his form, averaging 14.1 points and 6.1 rebounds early in the season. They're also holding opponents to under 60 points a game through seven games.
Florida State was shocked in their opener, getting upset by South Alabama, 76-71. They have responded with four straight wins, including two in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, defeating both BYU and St. Joseph's. Terrance Shannon provides the Seminoles with a big boost off the bench, averaging 10.8 points in relief appearances in all five games this season.
Prediction: Florida State 65-60
Iowa at Virginia Tech
If you don't count Nebraska, Iowa has the worst Challenge record of the Big Ten teams, standing at 2-9. They have lost six in a row. They've jumped out to a 5-1 start this year but are coming off their first loss to Wichita State.
Virginia Tech, like usual, hasn't really played anyone so far, sporting a 5-0 record with their biggest win coming over Rhode Island. While the schedule is still the same, the coaching is different as James Johnson has settled in where Seth Greenberg was booted out. Erick Green is averaging 24.4 points a game in the early season, one of the top scorers in the country.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 78-65
(18) North Carolina State at (3) Michigan
The first of three marquee matchups take place in Ann Arbor as the Wolfpack take on the Wolverines. Penn Staters have seen what NC State is all about after the drubbing they received in Puerto Rico. They have since lost to Oklahoma State by 20 and only beat UNC-Asheville by two on Friday night.
Michigan won the Preseason NIT title, defeating Pitt and Kansas State in Madison Square Garden to prove they are worthy of top-5 treatment. Trey Burke is averaging 16.4 points a game and is sandwiched in the scoring lead between the sons of NBA stars Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III. This Michigan team is good. If the NIT wasn't their coming out party, this game will be.
Prediction: Michigan 70-63
Maryland at Northwestern
For now, Maryland stays on the ACC side of the Challenge and comes into this game with a 4-1 record, their only loss being a three-point defeat to Kentucky on opening night. Northwestern comes in 6-0 after winning the South Padre Island Invitational, beating TCU and Illinois State to take home the title. Reggie Hearn is shooting 16-28 (58%) from three early on.
Prediction: Northwestern 58-57
Nebraska at Wake Forest
Yawn. But I guess someone needs to win.
Prediction: Wake Forest 69-61
(14) North Carolina at (1) Indiana
Indiana is coming off of a Legends Classic championship while North Carolina came home from Maui with the third-place trophy after losing to Butler in the semifinals. Preseason player of the year candidate Cody Zeller is averaging 15.2 points a game and is accompanied in double figures by four of his teammates.
James McAdoo has picked up where Cody's older brother, Tyler, left off for the Tar Heels, averaging 16.8 points and 8.8 rebounds a game, but was foul-prone when having to take on Butler's Andrew Smith in Hawaii. He'll have to do much better against Zeller if the Tar Heels want to win this game.
Prediction: Indiana 88-82
Virginia at Wisconsin
Both teams come into the game with two losses on the year. Wisconsin's defeats came at the hands of top-15 teams Florida and Creighton. Virginia lost to Delaware. Plus, this game is in the Kohl Center.
Prediction: Wisconsin 60-50
Purdue at Clemson
Wednesday night's "Yawn".
Prediction: Clemson 80-59
(13) Michigan State at Miami
Once again, not counting Nebraska, Miami has the worst resume in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, only winning once in five tries. They do have five men scoring in double-figures on the season, but lost to Florida Gulf Coast early on.
After losing to Connecticut overseas in their first game, Michigan State has won four straight, including defeating (7) Kansas by three on a neutral court in Atlanta. The Spartans have two early all-Big Ten candidates in Keith Appling and Derrick Nix.
Prediction: Michigan State 77-65
Georgia Tech at (22) Illinois
Georgia Tech came home with third-place honors in the DirecTV Classic and are 4-1 on the season with their only impressive win coming against a down St. Mary's squad. Illinois is 6-0 and just won the Maui Invitational. Brandon Paul is lighting up the score sheet, averaging 18.7 points a game.
Prediction: Illinois 85-70
Boston College at Penn State
This is a rematch from last year, one that Penn State took 62-54 in Boston. Penn State is without Tim Frazier, but BC lost to a Bryant team on Sunday that went 2-26 last year. The basket-bros will give a further detailed preview tomorrow.
Prediction: Penn State 55-51
(4) Ohio State at (2) Duke
The biggest game of the Challenge is the last one, pitting top-5 teams and national title contenders Ohio State and Duke against each other. Last year, Ohio State wiped the floor with a young Duke squad, winning 85-63 in Columbus. Duke isn't so young anymore and this game is taking place in Cameron Indoor.
DeShaun Thomas is averaging 24 points a game early on and girls (and guys) are still swooning over Aaron Craft. But Duke has already proven they are a national championship-caliber team, defeating (3) Kentucky, Minnesota, A-10 favorite VCU and (2) Louisville early on. Mason Plumlee is averaging a double-double (19.8 ppg, 10.0 rpg) and Seth Curry is rounding out into the shooter that his older brother was at Davidson.
Prediction: Duke 80-70
Challenge Prediction: Big Ten 7-5
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