To the college basketball fan, it's the most primitive (and competitive) form of interleague play. For the thirteenth consecutive season, the Big Ten/ACC Challenge graces the college hoops ledger.
After coming up short in each of the first ten installments of this nonconference rivalry, the Big Ten is now looking for its third straight win in the series. The ACC still leads the all-time series 72-47, and it resumes again Tuesday night. However, we'll give you a little preview of what to expect in each contest first. The first six games take place Tuesday, while the final six will be on the menu to close out November on Wednesday night.
Game #1: Miami at Purdue - Jim Larranaga has a signature nonconference win against Rutgers to go with the long-range proficiency of former Villanova marksman Malcolm Grant and the solid passing skills of former Rice guard Durand Scott, but the Hurricanes come into this one off a surprising overtime loss against Ole Miss. On the other side of the court, Purdue has started much better than expected after losing JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore. Robbie Hummel has returned to the brilliance displayed before his two knee injuries; and sharpshooter Ryne Smith, who shoots 52 percent from beyond the arc coming into this contest, has emerged as Matt Painter's second option. Pay close attention to Lewis Jackson as well, as the Boilermaker point guard averages close to five assists per game.
Game #2: Northwestern at Georgia Tech - These two teams share a common opponent in LSU, (Northwestern beat them, while Georgia Tech lost to the Tigers in the Charleston Classic) but that's about it. The Wildcats will use their 1-3-1 zone to stifle the Yellow Jacket attack led by Kammeon Holsey and Mfon Udofia, while Glen Rice Jr. looks to continue his streak of productive performances off the bench. For Northwestern, John Shurna and Drew Crawford will look to put on a shooting clinic early and often in Atlanta. The highlight matchup will come inside, however, as Luka Mirkovic goes up against Georgia Tech big man Daniel Miller, who averages three blocks per game.
Game #3: Illinois at Maryland - Bruce Weber and the Illini are still looking for a signature nonconference win after close calls against Richmond and Illinois State, but the general consensus in Champaign has to be a positive one, especially given the breakout start to the year that big man Meyers Leonard has enjoyed. While Brandon Paul hasn't been able to get on the roll many had hoped he would, Bradley transfer Sam Maniscalco is more than living up to the high expectations set out for him when he replaced Demetri McCamey in the lineup. Maryland comes in off a 3-2 start to Mark Turgeon's first campaign in College Park, one marked by the loss of Pe'Shon Howard to a broken foot and blowout losses to Alabama and Iona in the Puerto Rico Tipoff. Terrell Stoglin has really broken out to average 21 points per game, while Sean Mosley and freshman guard Nick Faust have held the fort as solid supporting cast members through the first five games for the Terps. This really could be one of the more entertaining games in this competition.
Game #4: No. 15 Michigan at Virginia - John Beilein hits the road one more time after an impressive showing this past week at the Maui Invitational, where the Wolverines defeated Memphis and UCLA and nearly beat Duke as well. While the Cavaliers are getting a double-double per night average from Mike Scott, the rest of Tony Bennett's team hasn't been able to match his stats through Virginia's 5-1 start. For Michigan, the combo guard play of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. (averaging 28 points and eight assists per game combined) will complement the lethal outside shooting of Zack Novak in what could be a deceptive rout for the maize and blue.
Game #5: Clemson at Iowa - Clemson has shown no sign of falling off following their NCAA Tournament appearance last season; but despite the stellar guard play of Andre Young and Tanner Smith, losses to College of Charleston and Coastal Carolina are major question marks early in the season for the Tigers. Iowa is no different, as Fran McCaffery's Hawkeyes were soundly and shockingly defeated by low-major Campbell at home by the final of 77-61. Iowa will need their outside shooting (they shoot 39 percent as a team from three) to bury a Clemson team that has only managed an average of 67 points per game while shooting just 61 percent from the free throw line.
Game #6: No. 6 Duke at No. 3 Ohio State - Both of these teams will ultimately move up in the polls now that North Carolina has been upset by UNLV, but this would still be the marquee matchup of the series this year. Mike Krzyzewski's bunch has been nothing short of dominant with their big wins over the likes of Belmont, Michigan State, Tennessee, Michigan and Kansas; and comes in off a stellar Maui Invitational run. The Blue Devils will engage in an outside shootout by using Andre Dawkins and Tyler Thornton against William Buford of Ohio State. The Buckeyes will look to get Aaron Craft involved early and often in attempts to find Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas inside so the two bigs can establish themselves against Duke's combination of the Plumlee brothers and Ryan Kelly. There's nothing like a potential Final four preview this early in the season, and this game does more than just live up to the hype.
Game #7: Indiana at North Carolina State - Tom Crean heads into Raleigh 6-0 after the Hoosiers convincingly defeated the media's golden boy and program (Brad Stevens and Butler) earlier tonight. Cody Zeller and reserve swingman Will Sheehey will be the keys to victory for the cream and crimson against a Wolfpack unit led impressively by point guard Lorenzo Brown, who has averaged six assists and three steals per game to go with thirteen points per game and a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio. This is a matchup where the loser has as much to gain as the winner; and if the early performances of both schools are any indication, both will be on the right side of the bubble come March.
Game #8: Penn State at Boston College - The Nittany Lions started out a surprising 3-0 under new coach Patrick Chambers, defeating a more talented team in LIU along the way; but have fallen off since then with blowout losses to Kentucky and St. Joseph's. After Tim Frazier, Penn State really does not have a proven second option; but against a BC team that suffered an inexplicable 36-point home loss to UMass, it may not be necessary. Steve Donahue's young team is still trying to find themselves, as their 2-4 record suggests; and the signs of improvement are still a long way away in Beantown.
Game #9: No. 22 Florida State at Michigan State - After fighting Harvard in a defensive stalemate and almost shocking UConn in the Battle for Atlantis, Leonard Hamilton's Seminoles get a true road game when they travel to the Breslin Center. Michael Snaer is making the motor run for FSU, but the last two games have shown just how much Chris Singleton and Derwin Kitchen meant to this team. Tom Izzo takes on his third ACC opponent of the year after starting the season on board the USS Carl Vinson against North Carolina in the Carrier Classic and being the team Mike Krzyzewski got his 903rd win against in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden. The Spartans have been cold from the three-point line to start the year, but the versatility of Draymond Green and continued maturation of underclassmen Keith Appling and Branden Dawson should be enough to propel Sparty to a victory here.
Game #10: Virginia Tech at Minnesota - The Hokies caught a break today when Trevor Mbakwe was injured in the consolation game of the Old Spice Classic for the Golden Gophers. Erick Green has been the perfect complement for senior Dorenzo Hudson in Seth Greenberg's system; and the two guards will team with Dorian Finney-Smith to take on Andre and Austin Hollins, who now have more of a role for Tubby Smith in Mbakwe's absence.
Game #11: Wake Forest at Nebraska - Jeff Bzdelik has the Demon Deacons on the rise after a 4-2 start marked by a strong showing in the Old Spice Classic behind the sharp outside shooting of C.J. Harris and Travis McKie. On the other side of the court, Nebraska is starting to turn the corner on their non-league schedule in their first season as a Big Ten institution. While it is Jorge Brian Diaz that picks up most of the attention for the Huskers, their X-factor is sharpshooter Brandon Richardson. In four games, the senior guard has made seven of the twelve trifectas he has attempted thus far. If Richardson can match the duo of Harris and McKie, Nebraska will be competitive much longer than people envision.
Game #12: No. 11 Wisconsin at No. 1 North Carolina - Heaven for fans who love good point guards, as Kendall Marshall will battle the best point man in the Big Ten when he matches up against Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor. The Tar Heels will have the edge on the boards with John Henson and Tyler Zeller; but if Wisconsin can get them into foul trouble the way UNLV did last night when the Rebels upset UNC, it becomes a totally different ballgame. Harrison Barnes will also be a factor. The sophomore sensation appeared to be injured last night after leaving the game on crutches, but should be ready to go Wednesday night. Pay attention to the marksmen on the bench. When Ben Brust (Wisconsin) and P.J. Hairston (North Carolina) get into the game, it could be bombs away for both sides. Reggie Bullock has also been hitting outside shots better this season while Leslie McDonald has been on the shelf. If all goes well, this game could be way better than Duke/Ohio State the night before.
The Way I See It: Predictions
Purdue defeats Miami
Northwestern defeats Georgia Tech
Illinois defeats Maryland
Michigan defeats Virginia
Clemson defeats Iowa
Duke defeats Ohio State
NC State defeats Indiana
Penn State defeats Boston College
Michigan State defeats Florida State
Virginia Tech defeats Minnesota
Wake Forest defeats Nebraska
North Carolina defeats Wisconsin
Day 1: Big Ten wins 4-2
Day 2: ACC wins 4-2
Overall: Tied 6-6