ACC-Big Ten Challenge Preview

As has been noted by many voices in many publications/forums – this has hardly been much of a “challenge” for the ACC. The Big Ten has always lost, and has usually been crushed. Many believe that this year will be different, and we at SFN agree.

Rather than predict each game in standard format, I will instead steal a page from numerous political forecasters and use the following designations – Safe (an upset would be shocking), Likely (upset not expected, but we could see it happening), Lean (predicted winner is a favorite, but not a huge one), and Tossup (anything could happen – who the hell knows).

Game 1: Penn State at Virginia (Monday, 7:00, ESPN2)

Penn State has early, bad home losses to UNC-W and Tulane. Virginia’s early losses (vs. Stanford, at South Florida) are somewhat more respectable. Neither team figures to be great shakes this year, but I’ll go with the home team – especially since Penn State hasn’t played a road game yet.

Verdict: Lean ACC.

Game 2: Wake Forest at Purdue (Tuesday, 7:00, ESPN)

This looked like a possible trap game for the Top Ten-ranked Boilermakers…until Wake Forest got spanked by the College of William and Mary over the weekend. In its first road game of the year, I wouldn’t expect much from the Deacs.

Verdict: Safe Big Ten

Game 3: Maryland at Indiana (Tuesday, 7:30, ESPN2)

Maryland has disappointed early, with neutral court losses to its only two decent opponents (Cincy, Wisconsin). We like Tom Crean alot, and fully expect him to turn Indiana around. But having lost to Boston University and George Mason already, it’s safe to say that the 2009-10 Hoosiers still kind of suck.

Verdict: Likely ACC.

Game 4: Northwestern at NC State (Tuesday, 7:30, ESPNU)

Despite being relegated to “the U,” this is actually one of the more compelling non-marquee matchups. Northwestern has been tagged by many as likely (or at least realistically possibly) to make its FIRST EVER trip to the Big Dance this season. Additionally, the Wildcats are the more tested team coming into Raleigh, posting a 2-1 mark against legitimate foes (wins over Notre Dame and Iowa State, with a loss to Butler). But the Wolfpack hasn’t looked like the expected complete doormat in the early going, and has the home court advantage. Neither team has been scoring many points in the early going, so this might be a closely contested game – but not exactly aesthetically pleasing. Nobody knows for sure whether Northwestern can beat a major conference opponent on the road, or whether NC State’s improved defense can stand up to a more legitimate offense. As such, it must be called a coin flip.

Verdict: Tossup.

Game 5: Michigan State at North Carolina (Tuesday, 9:00, ESPN)

North Carolina has certainly looked rough early on, as many expected due to questionable/inexperienced guard play. To that end, the experienced, guard-heavy Spartans look like a matchup nightmare. But there is also no question that the Holes have serious mojo against Sparty, and who knows what Michigan State’s mindset will be like on Tuesday night. Still, college basketball is a guard’s game, and I don’t expect UNC to begin to turn the corner until mid-to-late January (my advice would be to make Marcus Ginyard the starting and primary PG).

Verdict: Lean Big Ten.

Game 6: Virginia Tech at Iowa (Tuesday, 9:30, ESPN2)

Like Maryland, Virginia Tech returns one of only two upperclassman, dynamic, game-changing guards league-wide. Also like Maryland, the Hokies have disappointed early (bad loss to Temple, needed overtime to dispatch with freaking DELAWARE). But at the end of the day, Iowa is a bad team that lost its best players from last year’s bad team. This does not bode well for the Hawkeyes. They did make a cool 3/4 court shot before the halftime buzzer against Texas, though.

Verdict: Likely ACC.

Game 7: Illinois at Clemson (Wednesday, 7:15, ESPN)

This is a battle between two teams that are usually very well-coached, but lacking in elite talent. Neither team has a bad loss or defining win as of yet (although Clemson did edge Butler), and I give the slight edge to the home Tiggers.

Verdict: Lean ACC.

Game 8: Boston College at Michigan (Wednesday, 7:30, ESPN2)

Michigan has disappointed early, losing to Marquette and Alabama – and falling out of the Top 25 in the process. Still, they look to lick their wounds at home against a Boston College team that has been a walking disaster to date.

Verdict: Safe Big Ten.

Game 9: Minnesota at Miami (Wednesday, 7:15, ESPNU)

Tubby Smith has a gritty, solid Golden Gopher team. Much like NC State, Miami hasn’t played like the expected doormat or really been tested yet. I remain skeptical of the Canes, and give very little credit for their home court “advantage.”

Verdict: Lean Big Ten.

Game 10: Duke at Wisconsin (Wednesday, 9:15, ESPN)

Duke has easily looked like the class of the ACC so far, but is also ripe for a letdown after pasting Arizona State and UConn to win the Pre-Season NIT. History is also on the Devils’ side, having never lost a Challenge game. That said, Wisconsin has already beaten Arizona and Maryland, and will exert significant defensive pressure on Duke’s thin guard rotation. Also remember that said guard rotation relies on heavy minutes from a kid who should be a high school senior. Caveat emptor.

Verdict: Lean ACC.

Game 11: Florida State at Ohio State (Wednesday, 9:30, ESPN2)

Conference pride could come down to the Seminoles on the road. Having graduated Toney Douglas, I would typically be very nervous about this possibility. But the Noles have looked pretty good early, winning the Old Spice Classic this weekend. Non-Douglas players stepped up during last year’s ACCT run, too. Since the Greg Oden class left, the Buckeyes have struggled to find consistency, on both ends of the court.

Verdict: Tossup.

There you have it. According to my rankings, the ACC should be favored to win 5 games (2 “Likely,” 3 “Lean”), and the Big Ten 4 (2 Lean,” 2 “Safe). That leaves 2 swing “Tossup” games, which the Big Ten would have to sweep in order to win, barring any upsets. However, the Big Ten’s 4 predicted wins are “safer” than the ACC’s 5 – meaning that holistically, we are looking at a pure coin flip.

PS: If you are energized by the Wolfpack’s 5-0 start and want more NC State Basketball talk, then this entry from earlier today has taken off.

About BJD95

1995 NC State graduate, sufferer of Les and MOC during my entire student tenure. An equal-opportunity objective critic and analyst of Wolfpack sports.

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11 Responses to ACC-Big Ten Challenge Preview

  1. jbpackfan 11/30/2009 at 3:18 PM #

    I posted a preview last night- ACC will eek out another one, 6-5.

  2. tvp1 11/30/2009 at 3:22 PM #

    This looks about right. My only real quibble is putting BC-Michigan as safe B10. I think Michigan was overrated coming into the year and BC may have righted the ship in winning at Providence. That seems more like a lean/likely B10 win than a mortal lock.

  3. SeaWolf 11/30/2009 at 3:31 PM #

    Kind of nit-picky, BJD, but Penn States losses were neutral court games in Charleston.

  4. BJD95 11/30/2009 at 3:51 PM #

    Yeah, I can see how BC/Michigan would be a “Likely” – but I respect Michigan’s home court advantage, and I think Rakim Sanders’ availability is in question.

  5. ryebread 11/30/2009 at 5:38 PM #

    I’ve gone on record prior to the season starting saying the Big 10 would win this year’s challenge. I’ve seen nothing that suggests otherwise. Here’s my breakdown:
    – PSU @ UVA: UVA — home team gets this one
    – WF @ Purdue: Purdue wins this easily. I don’t think Wake’s ready for this tough game on the road.
    – Maryland @ IU: Both teams have disappointed. Toss up, but if I have to pick a winner, I’ll go with MD.
    – NW @ NCSU: Toss up between teams that are a bit ahead of schedule. I’m afraid that NW gets this one.
    – MSU @ UNC: Sparty looks better to me. UNC is at home. I’ll go with MSU in a rather close game.
    – VT @ Iowa: Two teams that have disappointed. I’ll go with the home team. Iowa
    – Illinois @ Clemson: I think Clemson eeks this one out. Home court is a huge part of my pick here.
    – BC @ Michigan: Michigan. BC has shown me nothing.
    – Minn @ Miami: I’ve not seen either team play. I’ll go with Minn due to Tubby. I think he can out coach Haith.
    – Duke @ Wisconsin: Tough match up for Duke given that Wisconsin’s game more closely resembles football than basketball. At Duke, no question. On a neutral court, I’m still picking Duke. At UW? Ugh. I wouldn’t put a dime on this game, but will pick Duke because they look like the best team in either league right now.
    – FSU @ Ohio State: FSU typically lays an egg against non-conference teams on nationally televised games. I don’t see them winning this on the road.

    Final Count: 7-4 Big 10. That seems like too big of a gap, but when I look back through, I still don’t see how the ACC wins it.

  6. tvp1 11/30/2009 at 11:26 PM #

    UVA loses. That really puts the ACC behind the 8 ball. Our game is basically a must-win for the conference.

  7. 66pack 12/01/2009 at 9:56 AM #

    8-2 or 9-1 for big 10

  8. cc4ncspack 12/01/2009 at 11:32 AM #

    State by 3 with a 3 – point shot by Horner in the last seconds.

  9. waxhaw 12/01/2009 at 1:17 PM #

    Even knowing that UVA lost, there is no way the Big 10 wins 8 games.

    Also, over the last few years, ESPN and others have downplayed our victory over the Big 10. By the end of the year, it has meant nothing in head to head NCAA bids, press, etc.

    If we happen to lose for the first time ever, I’d be willing to bet that the opposite happens. We’ll hear all year long how the ACC is terrible.

  10. Lunatic Fringe 12/01/2009 at 1:41 PM #

    The most question marks that I can remember for ACC basketball across the board in a long while. It seems like every team has question marks at either guard or post play and each team is relying on a newcomer to sure up the line-up.

    Clemson and Duke may be the most well-rounded teams at this point, but still require some contributions from newcomers and will have there share of losses by the end of the season.

    It is going to be a tough year for ACC to get a lot of teams into tournament with a deep Big TEleven and Big East. The good news is that the PAC 10 appears to stink this year.

  11. nycfan 12/01/2009 at 4:39 PM #

    The Big Ten really has to win it this year and my guess is by a significant margin.

    As an aside, however, while I agree UNC looks very rough (and HOPE they turn the proverbial corner in January) and fully expect the guard factor + the revenge factor + Delvon Roe v. Roy factor to end up in an unfortunate outcome for UNC, BUT I have to assume that BJD suggests that Ginyard take over as PG b/c he hates UNC so much and has seen in games this season that Ginyard is not capable of running the team.

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