The ACC Guru
ACC-Big Ten Challenge Preview & Predictions
Happy Monday and welcome back to the real world. I hope everyone enjoyed their long Thanksgiving Weekend and over-indulged on family, fun, food, and football (and basketball). It was a big weekend for the ACC in the sports world. The ACC Championship game is set as Wake Forest and Pitt will square off in Charlotte Saturday night, Duke beat Gonzaga Friday night in a game that felt like a National Championship, 3 ACC teams advanced to the Elite Eight in men's soccer (Clemson, Pitt, and Notre Dame), and Florida State is headed to the College Cup on the women's side.
Tonight begins the 23rd edition of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The ACC holds an overall record of 12-7-3, but after winning the challenge for the first 10 years, the ACC has only won twice since 2009. The Big Ten is going for their third win in a row in the contest, and there are exciting matchups this week. It starts tonight in Charlottesville and ends with 6 games on Wednesday night. I'm going to look at every game and predict each one, letting you know which conference has the best chance to win the ACC-Big Ten Challenge this year.
Iowa at Virginia- 7 PM ESPN2
In what should be a fantastic game, this features two very contradicting styles. Iowa plays at one of the fastest paces in the country and averages 97.2 PPG. Virginia plays the slowest pace in the country and this version of the Cavaliers seem to be figuring out Tony Bennett's defense. They beat Georgia and Providence last week and only allowed 95 points combined. This will be Iowa's first real challenge.
Virginia 64 - Iowa 60
Notre Dame at Illinois- 9 PM ESPN2
I'm still not sure what to think of Notre Dame. They've beaten up on 3 lesser teams and lost close games to the 2 good teams they've played. Illinois has not been as good as their #11 preseason ranking, but I think Kofi Cockburn will be too much inside for the Irish to handle.
Illinois 75 - Notre Dame 66
Indiana at Syracuse- 7 PM ESPN2
This is another game with contradicting styles. Syracuse can score a ton of points (but doesn't play much defense) and Indiana is pretty strong on the defensive end. They are 19th in adjusted defense on KenPom. The Orange seem to have plenty of talent, but haven't put it together yet. This game would go a long way for their NCAA Tournament chances, but I think Trayce Jackson-Davis will be able to do whatever he wants against the zone.
Indiana 81 - Syracuse 74
Big Ten 2-1
Minnesota at Pittsburgh- 7 PM ESPNU
Minnesota might be the worst team in the Big Ten. Pittsburgh is the worst team in the ACC. I'll be watching the other 2 games going on at this time.
Minnesota 65 - Pittsburgh 63
Big Ten 3-1
Florida State at Purdue- 7:30 PM ESPN
This is the game that I'm most excited about during the challenge. Purdue is one of the best teams in the country. They are able to dominate teams inside with Zach Edey and Trevion Williams. Jaden Ivey is one of the best guards in the nation and Stefanovic has incredible range. Florida State is the probably the longest team Purdue will play all year and should have the size and skill to hang with them. I'd like their chances more if they were at home.
Purdue 85 - Florida State 80
Big Ten 4-1
Clemson at Rutgers- 9 PM ESPN2
If you like defense, tune into this game. Clemson allows 61 PPG and Rutgers allows 62. Rutgers has lost 3 straight, but Ron Harper Jr. can go off at any time. Clemson lost to St. Bonaventure and West Virginia in the Charleston Classic, but they looked like a good team.
Clemson 57 - Rutgers 55
Big Ten 4-2
Northwestern at Wake Forest- 9 PM ESPNU
Both of these teams have been better than expected so far this year and both can score in bunches as they average over 80 PPG. Northwestern blew out a Georgia team that took Virginia to the wire last week. Wake's best win is over a struggling Oregon State team in overtime.
Northwestern 83 - Wake Forest 76
Big Ten 5-2
Duke at Ohio State- 9:30 PM ESPN
Duke has the biggest win of the year, knocking off Gonzaga the other night. Ohio State has been a little underwhelming so far, but neither of their losses are bad (at Xavier and a buzzer beater against Florida). This is a rare true non-conference road game for Duke and will help Ohio State keep it closer than if it would be otherwise.
Duke 77 - Ohio State 71
Big Ten 5-3
Louisville at Michigan State- 7:15 PM ESPN
Other than the inexplicable loss to Furman, this coaching staff has done a great job with Louisville with Chris Mack suspended. This will be his first game back and it will be a tough one. Michigan State played in the Battle 4 Atlantis last week and knocked off Loyola Chicago and UConn before losing to Baylor in the championship game. This should be a great game.
Michigan State 77 - Louisville 76
Big Ten 6-3
Virginia Tech at Maryland- 7:15 PM ESPN2
This should be another great matchup. Virginia Tech looked fantastic before back-to-back losses to Memphis and Xavier in Brooklyn last week. Maryland is coming off a loss to Louisville, but looks like they'll be a tournament team. This would be a huge win for the Hokies resume.
Virginia Tech 69 - Maryland 65
Big Ten 6-4
Nebraska at NC State- 7:15 PM ESPNU
I've been very impressed with NC State's ability to bounce back and compete since learning Manny Bates will be out for the season. They look like they're going to compete towards the top of the ACC this year and Dereon Seabron is a breakout candidate and leading the Wolfpack in Points, Rebounds, and Assists. Nebraska has lost their only game against real competition this year.
NC State 72 - Nebraska 58
Big Ten 6-5
Michigan at North Carolina- 9:15 PM ESPN
Both of these teams have been underwhelming so far this year. I'm surprised that both of these teams already have 2 losses, even if none of the losses are bad. This should be a fast-paced, high scoring game, that will be fun to watch. I'll give the slight advantage to the home team.
North Carolina 85 - Michigan 82
Wisconsin at Georgia Tech- 9:15 PM ESPN2
Wisconsin has been much better than expected and it's due to the breakout of Johnny Davis. He led the Badgers to the Maui Invitational title last week averaging 23.7 PPG over the 3 days. Georgia Tech has bounced back well and won 5 straight since losing their opener to Miami (OH). Michael Devoe can score in bunches. This should be an exciting game as well.
Wisconsin 63 - Georgia Tech 61
Big Ten 7-6
Miami at Penn State- 9:15 PM ESPNU
Our last game will decide the Challenge and should be a tight one. Penn State plays at the 10th slowest pace in the country and that alone should keep things close. Miami just gave up 63 points to Alabama in one half. They'll need to play much better to beat the Nittany Lions at home.
Penn State 67 - Miami 61
Big Ten wins 8-6