Since its incarnation 10 years ago, the ACC-Big Ten Challenge has been one-sided with the Atlantic Coast Conference winning each of the nine challenges played to date. This year is shaping up to be no different as a much stronger ACC looks to cap a blissful decade of dominance. The Big Ten is poised to score at least a few wins this year though. We break down the challenge, game by game.
Monday, December 1 - No. 19 Wisconsin (5-1) at Virginia Tech (4-2)
With a heartbreaking loss to Xavier still fresh in their minds the Hokies will look to upset the Badgers in Cassell Coliseum. Tech forward Jeff Allen (16.8 ppg, 10.5 rpg) and the rest of the Hokies' frontcourt will look to keep much-hyped Badger forward Marcus Landry (12.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg) and a Wisconsin team that is eighth in the country in rebounds in check for most of the night. In the end, though, guard Trevon Hughes (14.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg) and the balanced and efficient offensive attack of Wisconsin that has seven players averaging over five points a game, should be no match for the Hokies whose true guards are shooting under 25 percent from the field this season.
Predicted Winner: Wisconsin
Tuesday, December 2 - No. 5 Duke (7-0) at No. 9 Purdue (5-1)
After a close win against a Rhode Island, the Blue Devils have dominated their last four opponents. Nothing new for Duke this early in the season but the Blue Devils have defeated all opponents (aside from the Rams), including Michigan and Southern Illinois, by 15 points or more this season. Purdue almost defeated No. 13 Oklahoma in the championship of the NIT Season Tip-Off and is perhaps the best team in the Big 10 right now with guard E'Twaun Moore (16.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and forward Robbie Hummel (14.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg) playing up to their preseason hype. Although this looks to be the most exciting game of the entire challenge, Duke just has too many offensive weapons while the Boilermakers rank near the bottom of the in the country with 37 rebounds per game.
Predicted Winner: Duke
Tuesday, December 2 - Clemson (7-0) at Illinois (6-0)
Good matchup with two middle-of-the-road teams facing off in Champaign. Clemson has routed just about every team they've faced thus far this season and Trevor Booker (14.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg) is looking like one of the best forwards in the country at the moment. This is a strong looking offensive team that can hurt you just as much beyond the arc as they can down low. The Fighting Illini, although able to do just about everything good and nothing well, are a terrible three point shooting team should be handed its first loss of the season in this one.
Predicted Winner: Clemson
Tuesday, December 2 - Ohio State (3-0) at No. 24 Miami (4-1)
A very intriguing matchup. Miami has looked strong in every game this season and was able to hang with No. 2 Connecticut in the Paradise Jam semifinals. Ohio State, who has only played three games this season, is currently first in the country in points allowed after holding Samford to 22 on Saturday. Center B.J. Mullens (5.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg) is thought to be one of the best freshmen in the nation but has only received a little over 16 minutes per game this season. He should see more minutes against the Hurricanes, the Buckeyes first real test this season. With Mullens being showcased for the first time down low, sophomore guards Evan Turner (12.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg) and Jon Diebler (10.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg) should bring enough offensively in the backcourt to hold off a good a very good rebounding Hurricanes team in a tight game.
Predicted Winner: Ohio State
Tuesday, December 2 - Virginia (3-2) at Minnesota (6-0)
The Cavaliers are undoubtedly the worst team in the ACC this season but a strong performance against a very good Syracuse Orange team has the Cavs in an optimistic state of mind after losing to Liberty a week ago. Cavaliers forward Mike Scott has become a force to be reckoned with down low (12.0 ppg, 11.2 rpg) and star Sylven Landesburg (20.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg) is looking like one of the best freshman in the conference. Minnesota has played solidly all season and boasts an electrifying offensive threat in guard Lawrence Westbrook (14.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg) and has an above average rebounding frontcourt that is one of the best in the country in blocks with nearly seven averaged per game.
Predicted Winner: Minnesota
Tuesday, December 2 - Iowa (6-1) at Boston College (4-2)
Both teams have played above preseason expectations to this point of the season but the Eagles really shined in the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden, defeating a better-pound-for-pound UAB team and holding their own against No. 9 Purdue. Guards Tyrese Rice (18.2 ppg, 5.0 apg) and Rakim Saunders (11.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg) have not disappointed offensively this season for BC and the Eagles as a team are in the top 40 percent of every offensive statistical category this season. The Hawkeyes, although boasting one of the highest field goal percentages in the country are ranked 317 in total rebounds per game (32.7) whereas the Eagles are in the top 80.
Predicted Winner: Boston College
Wednesday, December 3 - No. 1 North Carolina (6-0) vs. No. 6 Michigan State (3-1) (Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan)
The centerpiece of this year's challenge would have been a lot more hyped had Michigan State not gotten trounced by Maryland or North Carolina not handedly defeated No. 8 Notre Dame last week. The Tar Heels are in the top 30 of every major offensive statistical category and have five players that average fourteen or more points a game including the best player in the country, forward Tyler Hansbrough (21.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg). Simply put, UNC is the best team in the nation and should remain undefeated against forward Raymar Morgan (19.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg) and a Michigan State team that is coming off its biggest win of the season against Oklahoma State.
Predicted Winner: North Carolina
Wednesday, December 3 - Indiana (3-2) at No. 24 Wake Forest (5-0)
In perhaps the most lopsided game of the entire challenge, The Demon Deacons, one of the best teams in the ACC are pitted against the mediocre to poor Hoosiers of Indiana. Two of Indiana's three wins have come against IUPUI who they defeated by three points and Division II Chaminade who they defeated by two. Indiana is predicted to finish in the basement of the Big 10 and have many speculating as to whether or not they'll win twelve games this season. The Demon Deacons played less-than-stellar against UTEP last week but have all the ingredients of Sweet Sixteen-team. Sophomore guard Jeff Teague (22.4 ppg, 4.4 apg) has stepped up this season and emerged as a team leader while the Deacons as a team have the second best field goal percentage (54) in the nation.
Predicted Winner: Wake Forest
Wednesday, December 3 - Michigan (5-1) at Maryland (4-1)
Another intriguing matchup in a game that is virtually a toss-up. Both teams have played very inconsistent basketball thus far this season. Even though Maryland destroyed No. 6 Michigan State, they were soundly defeated by No. 10 Gonzaga the next day. Michigan defeated No. 4 UCLA a week and a half ago but needed overtime to take care of Savannah State this past weekend. The explosive guard-forward tandem of Manny Harris (22.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg) and DeShawn Sims (15.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg) give the Wolverines, one of the best free throw shooting teams in the nation, the slight edge in this one.
Predicted Winner: Michigan
Wednesday, December 3 - Florida State (7-0) at Northwestern (3-1)
Even though the Wildcats have two of the top four returning Big 10 scorers from last season in forward Kevin Coble (11.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and guard Craig Moore (15.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg), they have not been able to find much success on the basketball court lately. Aside from losing to Butler by four points, they have been untested this season. Although the Cats rank among the most accurate shooting teams in the country, they are almost dead last in the country in rebounds per game. The Seminoles are a much more balanced team and already have wins against several major conference teams including California and Cincinnati. Guard Toney Douglas (19.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and the Noles should come out on top in this one.
Predicted Winner: Florida State
Wednesday, December 3 - Penn State (6-1) at Georgia Tech (4-0)
The Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech are top five in the
country in defensive rebounds (31) and steals (11.3) per game and are top
thirty in field goal percentage (54). They look like a complete team at the
moment even though they needed overtime to defeat Mercer earlier this season.
Forwards Zachery Peacock (12.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg), Alade Aminu (15.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg),
and Gani Lawal (19.3 ppg, 11.5 rpg) make up one of the best frontcourts in the
ACC and will simply overpower the Nittany Lions, who specialize in three-point
shooting, down low.
Predicted Winner: Georgia Tech
Challenge Prediction: ACC wins, 7-4