It’s that time of year once again. Annual bragging rights between two of the most historically powerful basketball conferences is up for grabs as the Big Ten/ACC Challenge is upon us. With the addition of Nebraska to the Big Ten fold all teams from each conference will meet, meaning the winning conference must gain seven wins to take the challenge out right. Going into action this year the ACC owns the challenge overall with a 10 to 2 advantage. However the Big Ten will be looking to make it three straight with another win this year. Can the Big Ten pull it out or will the ACC get the better of the action once again? Here are my thoughts and predictions on both games:
Michigan at Virginia (Tuesday 7 p.m. ESPN2)
Michigan is starting out hot with sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr. leading the way, averaging 17.2 points per game. The Wolverines have an impressive victory over Memphis on its resume and come in off a 79-63 win over UCLA. The Virginia Cavaliers come in off an impressive 68-42 win over UW-Green Bay, but it also has a bad loss to TCU. I think Michigan wins this one convincingly.
Prediction: Michigan 71, Virginia 55
Northwestern at Georgia Tech (Tuesday 7:15 p.m. ESPNU)
The Wildcats are unbeaten, but have been rather unimpressive, winning by just five against Stony Brook and four against Tulsa. Northwestern comes in led by senior forward John Shurna, who is averaging 21.2 points per game, and junior guard Drew Crawford, who is averaging 19 per game. Georgia Tech hasn't been all that great this year, so I say Northwestern wins a close one.
Prediction: Northwestern 61, Georgia Tech 58
Illinois at Maryland (Tuesday 7:30 p.m. ESPN)
Illinois may be 6-0, but their competition has been less than stellar. Maryland's competition hasn't been good either outside of Alabama, but the Terps are just 3-2. But with Maryland at home, I just have a feeling the Terps win a close one.
Prediction: Maryland 72, Illinois 67
Miami at Purdue (Tuesday 9 p.m. ESPN2)
The Boilermakers are always tough at Mackey Arena. Purdue lost to a good Alabama team earlier, but the Boilermakers also beat a good Iona team and has mostly crushed everybody else. Miami is solid, but they just lost to a below average Ole' Miss team. This one is at Mackey, so I doubt this one is close.
Prediction: Purdue 73, Miami 54
Clemson at Iowa (Tuesday 9:15 p.m. ESPNU)
Clemson has struggled out of the gate, losing two out of its first five to the College of Charleston and Coastal Carolina. Iowa hasn't started particularly strong either, being blown out by Campbell last week at home. This is a tough one, but I'll go with the home team as Iowa generally plays well at home.
Prediction: Iowa 72, Clemson 64
Duke at Ohio State (Tuesday 9:30 p.m. ESPN)
This is the headliner of the tournament and I doubt it will disappoint. Duke is battle tested, having to hold off MSU, Michigan, Belmont, Tennessee and Kansas. This is the third top 15 team Duke has played in as many games. On the other hand, Ohio State has played only one good team. The Buckeyes won that one over Florida and blew out everyone else. Being at home makes all the difference in this one. I think Ohio State wins this game in a nailbiter.
Prediction: Ohio State 76, Duke 72
Indiana at North Carolina State (Wednesday 7:15 p.m. ESPN2)
The Hoosiers have played surprisingly well to start the season and is coming off an impressive 75-59 victory over Butler. North Carolina State only has one loss and that was to a very good Vanderbilt team. They followed by their only loss of the season with a nice win over Texas. Sophomore forward C.J. Leslie is averaging nearly 17 points per game and will come up big in this one.
Prediction: North Carolina State 74, Indiana 63
Penn State at Boston College (Wednesday 7:15 p.m. ESPNU)
This one is hard to predict as both teams are so bad. Any time you score 10 points in a half, you are not good. But on the other side, any time you struggle to beat New Hampshire and UC Riverside, you aren't very good. I guess I will pick the Nittany Lions for no reason at all.
Prediction: Penn State 54, Boston College 50
Florida State at Michigan State (Wednesday 7:30 p.m. ESPN)
With this one in East Lansing, Michigan State has to have the edge. Michigan State is on a four game losing streak after dropping its first two to ACC powerhouses North Carolina and Duke. Florida State is not far removed from scoring 41 in a loss to Harvard. I just don't see Michigan State losing at home.
Prediction: Michigan State 72, Florida State 60
Virginia Tech at Minnesota (Wednesday 9:15 ESPN2)
With the loss of Trevor Mbakwe for the season, Minnesota is looking for answers. Virginia Tech lost to the only solid team it played this season. Williams Arena is a tough place to play, so I'll say the Gophers win it even with Mbakwe being injured.
Prediction: Minnesota 65, Virginia Tech 60
Wake Forest at Nebraska (Wednesday 9:15 p.m. ESPNU)
Nebraska gets its first taste of the challenge when it hosts Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons don't look that impressive once again. Nebraska is 4-1 and hasn't looked great, but hasn't looked terrible either. The lethal guard combination of Bo Spencer and Dylan Talley will win this one for the Cornhuskers.
Prediction: Nebraska 67, Wake Forest 55
Wisconsin at North Carolina (Wednesday 9:30 p.m. ESPN)
Harrison Barnes is doubtful for the game, but unfortunately for Wisconsin, Tyler Zeller and John Henson are healthy. The Badgers struggled guarding the paint against BYU, so expect Zeller and Henson to have great days and more than make up for the loss of Barnes. The matchup between Kendall Marshall and Jordan Taylor will be a good one. Taylor will need to be Superman for the Badgers to win. Wisconsin will keep it close for awhile, but UNC pulls it out in the end in Chapel Hill.
Prediction: North Carolina 82, Wisconsin 69