The twelve-game Big Ten/ACC Challenge tips off Tuesday night with the headliner being a battle of top three teams as #3 Duke visits #2 Ohio State. After losing the first ten challenges, The Big Ten looks for their third 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 then the ACC.
Michigan (5-1) at Virginia (5-1), 6:00, ESPN2
The Wolverines played well in Maui, beating Memphis and UCLA by double digits and hanging with Duke in a seven-point loss. Freshman point Trey Burke has taken control of this team early on and is someone to watch out for this season. The Cavaliers suffered a hiccup at the Paradise Jam Tournament, being upset by TCU in the opening round. They have relied on their defense all season long, allowing just 45 points per game but Michigan just has too many weapons.
Prediction: Michigan 67, Virginia 58
Northwestern (5-0) at Georgia Tech (4-2), 6:15, ESPNU
If the Wildcats lose this game, we should just officially burst their bubble now and save the trouble of waiting until March to do so. Northwestern does need someone other than John Shurna and Drew Crawford to step up though. That duo is averaging more than 40 points per game.
Prediction: Northwestern 69, Georgia Tech 57
Illinois (6-0) at Maryland (3-2), 6:30, ESPN
The Terps have really struggled early on with only seven scholarship players due to Pe’Shon Howard’s injury and the suspension of freshman Alex Len. The Illini are going through a transition year of their own but just have more talent and depth. Meyers Leonard could have a big day since Maryland does not have a lot of size or skill inside.
Prediction: Illinois 76, Maryland 54
Miami (4-1) at Purdue (6-1), 8:00, ESPN2
This early in the season, I think how battle tested a team is plays an important role in these “marquee match-ups.” The Boilermakers survived a tough stretch against tourney caliber teams Iona, Temple, and Alabama at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with a 2-1 record while the Canes have only played weaker power conference teams, Rutgers and Ole Miss. I think Purdue has the length and quickness to slow down Miami’s talented backcourt of Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant which has carried the load so far this year.
Prediction: Purdue 82, Miami 69
Clemson (3-2) at Iowa (4-2), 8:15, ESPNU
The Tigers have a pair of concerning losses already on their resume (home versus Charleston and Coastal Carolina.) The Hawkeyes do as well as they were blown out by Creighton and then lost by 16 to Campbell. Iowa does have eight players averaging at least seven points per game while Clemson is not a very deep team.
Prediction: Iowa 79, Clemson 78
Duke (7-0) at Ohio State (6-0), 8:30, ESPN
I think this game ultimately comes down to whether the Plumlee brothers can stay out foul trouble and contain Jared Sullinger inside. Ohio State has the athletes and defenders on the wing to slow down the Blue Devils three-headed backcourt of Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, and Austin Rivers including the pest Aaron Craft who will cause headaches for Curry or Tyler Thornton at the point. OSU should also take advantage of William Buford size and strength advantage over Dawkins or Rivers. This should be a dandy of a game.
Prediction: Ohio State 82, Duke 77
Indiana (6-0) at North Carolina State (5-1), 6:15, ESPN2
The Wolfpack picked up an impressive win over Texas and hung with Vanderbilt at the Legends Classic. C.J. Leslie’s return provided a big boost but Lorenzo Brown is also one of the more underrated “can do-it-all” players in the nation. IU is coming off a huge win over Butler but otherwise, have not really been tested. If this game were in Bloomington, I’d pick the Hoosiers but since it’s in Raleigh…
Prediction: N.C. State 83, Indiana 75
Penn State (5-2) at Boston College (2-4), 6:15, ESPNU
This is easily the worst of the 12 games in the challenge as it features two of the worst offensive teams in the country. First to 50 wins?
Prediction: Penn State 57, Boston College 53
Florida State (4-2) at Michigan State (4-2), 6:30, ESPN
The Spartans opened their season with back-to-back losses against UNC and Duke while FSU just lost to Harvard and UConn at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Expect this to be a grind it out, physical game featuring two teams that really get after it on the glass. Since this one is at The Izzone…
Prediction: Michigan State 62, Florida State 56
Virginia Tech (5-1) at Minnesota (6-1), 8:15, ESPN2
Trevor Mbakwe is out for the season so Minnesota is pretty much out for the season as well. It is a major blow as the Gophers will have to rely on more production from their young backcourt that is still trying to figure itself out. The Hokies are led by their experienced backcourt of Erick Green and Dorenzo Hudson which gives them an edge.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 68, Minnesota 53
Wake Forest (4-2) at Nebraska (4-1), 8:15, ESPNU
Things I would rather do than watch this game; sleep in a pit of tarantulas, listen to people talk about how great Tim Tebow is for two straight hours, sleep with Rachel Nichols.
Prediction: Nebraska 71, Wake Forest 63
Wisconsin (6-0) at North Carolina (5-1), 8:30, ESPN
A battle of different styles; UNC likes to get out in transition at every possible opportunity while the Badgers excel executing in their half-court offense. Through six games, Wisconsin has shot lights out from three (47.2%) with pretty much every player they put on the floor capable of knocking down a triple. This Badger team doesn’t have the size it has in recent years which gives the Heels an advantage with John Henson and Tyler Zeller inside. Plus, Carolina is going to be looking for a major bounce back game after losing at UNLV. Harrison Barnes did roll his ankle in that game so if he is at all limited, UW has a very realistic chance of pulling off the upset.
Prediction: North Carolina 81, Wisconsin 71
TOTAL: Big Ten 9, ACC 3
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 on the web.