The twelve-game Big Ten/ACC Challenge tips off tonight with the top four ranked teams in the nation; Duke, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio State all in action. After losing the first ten challenges, the Big Ten looks for their fourth straight win in this battle of power conferences. To be completely blunt; they should have zero problem doing so as the Big Ten has far more depth than the ACC.
Minnesota (6-1) at Florida State (4-1), 6:15, ESPN2
After being upset in their opener versus South Alabama, the ‘Noles have rattled off four straight wins. What this game will really come down to is how the Gopher guards play. When Andre Hollins is hitting for 41 points like he did in the Battle 4 Atlantis upset of Memphis, Minnesota is incredibly tough to beat. If the backcourt turns the ball over a ton and takes bad shots, they are prime for the picking. I feel like I shouldn’t trust Minnesota on the road but I’m going to…
Prediction: Minnesota 60, Florida State 58
Iowa (5-1) at Virginia Tech (5-0), 6:15, ESPNU
Don’t be fooled by VA Tech’s unblemished record; they haven’t really played anyone worth a crap yet. Still the Hokies under first year head coach James Johnson are ninth in the nation in offense led by senior point guard Erick Green who is averaging 24.4 points per game. The Hawkeyes are coming off a loss to Wichita State in the Cancun Challenge Championship game and rely more on their depth with nine players logging at least 13 minutes a night. I think Iowa is able to slow the Hokies down in this one.
Prediction: Iowa 72, Virginia Tech 64
N.C. State (4-1) at Michigan (5-0), 6:30, ESPN
The Wolfpack aren’t as good as I thought they would be this year and could be headed on the verge of becoming a train wreck if Mark Gottfried doesn’t get his team to tighten things up on the defensive end. Meanwhile, the Wolverines are better than I expected and one of the best teams in the country. I have a feeling this one could get ugly early on especially if Michigan can get the thin N.C. State team in foul trouble early on.
Prediction: Michigan 83, N.C. State 68
Maryland (4-1) at Northwestern (6-0), 8:15, ESPN 2
How weird and stupid is it going to be in two years when Maryland is representing the Big Ten in this game? This game could very well come down to how the Wildcats’ 7-0 Alex (Olah) handles the Terps’ 7-1 Alex (Len.)
Prediction: Maryland 69, Northwestern 65
Nebraska (4-1) at Wake Forest (3-2), 8:15, ESPNU
Nobody is actually going to take the time to watch this game so I’m not going to waste anyone’s time with some sort of true insight.
Prediction: Wake Forest 57 Nebraska 53
North Carolina (5-1) at Indiana (6-0), 8:30, ESPN
These two teams can hang points on the board in a hurry as both ranked in the top ten in the nation in scoring. UNC will be without key reserve P.J. Hairston who suffered a knee injury in practice on Sunday which limits them a bit. The Heels’ defense is suspect at best which means they must outscore a pretty stout Hoosier team that has only allowed more than 61 points in a game once this season and that came in an overtime victory against Georgetown. I’m taking the HOO-HOO-HOOSIERS.
Prediction: Indiana 86, North Carolina 77
Virginia (4-2) at Wisconsin (4-2), 6:00, ESPN2
An interesting coaching contest here featuring the Badgers’ Bo Ryan and the Cavs’ Tony Bennett who was an assistant under Ryan at UW where his dad, Dick was head coach. Ryan usually hates when the elder Bennett is brought up in any press conference setting so that’s a fun sidenote. As for the actual game, UVA just doesn’t have the talent to hang. First to 50 wins?
Prediction: Wisconsin 59, Virginia 46
Purdue (2-3) at Clemson (4-1), 6:15, ESPNU
It has been tough sledding for Matt Painter’s crew having already lost to Bucknell, Villanova, and Oregon State. Neither team really has a go-to scorer which is a hindrance for both squads. Since the Tigers played Gonzaga pretty tough at the Old Spice Classic and is hosting this game; they get the nod.
Prediction: Clemson 62, Purdue 57
Michigan State (5-1) at Miami (3-1), 6:30, ESPN
Coming off a lackluster win against Louisiana-Lafayette, Tom Izzo pretty much called out his players. Izzo knows what he is doing so my guess is Sparty responds appropriately against the Hurricane team that I think has a legit shot to make the tourney this year.
Prediction: Michigan State 66, Miami, FL 59
Georgia Tech (4-1) at Illinois (7-0), 8:00, ESPN2
First year head coach John Groce led the Illini to the Maui Invite title and they have truly been one of the surprise teams of the season so far. Illinois has gotten terrific guard play from Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, and Tracy Abrams thus far. The Yellow Jackets did pick up a nice victory in the third place game of the Anaheim Classic by knocking off Saint Mary’s, but they just don’t have the offensive firepower to keep up with the Illini.
Prediction: Illinois 72, Georgia Tech 61
Boston College (2-4) at Penn State (3-2), 8:15, ESPNU
You figured the season ending loss of Tim Frazier was going to be the downfall of the Nittany Lions… but not so fast. Penn State is coming off an impressive win against the same Bucknell team that upset Purdue. Meanwhile, BC lost at home to Bryant on Sunday.
Prediction: Penn State 59, Boston College 56
Ohio State (4-0) at Duke (6-0), 8:30, ESPN
The Buckeyes absolutely smacked the Blue Devils around last year in Columbus. That won’t be the case this year. Duke is far too battled-tested having already recorded wins against Kentucky, Louisville, Minnesota, and VCU. Ohio State is really going to have to clamp down on the defensive end and find a way for Deshaun Thomas not to be bothered by the length of Duke’s frontcourt.
Prediction: Duke 80, Ohio State 68
FINAL SCORE: BIG TEN 8, ACC 4
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag.)
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.Follow paulmbanks