It may not be November just yet, but an early Thanksgiving gift to college basketball fans came Monday.
The matchups for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for the upcoming season were announced early Monday afternoon. This is the 14th season of the Challenge, with the Big Ten winning the past three seasons.
Last season, the B1G was triumphant with ease with an 8-4 margin. This season, the Challenge will take place on Nov. 27 and 28 and will be presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Currently, nine teams total in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big Ten Conference are ranked in the preseason top-25, including five of the top ten in the nation.
The Tuesday Matchups:
North Carolina at Indiana: The premiere game of the event is on the first slate of games in the Challenge. Indiana is riding into the season as the top-ranked team in the nation. For the first time in a long time, the Hoosiers will have a ton of pressure on them to perform at a high level all season long. As for the Tar Heels, North Carolina is losing most of the scoring power and interior presence that made them so dangerous, yet they have a bevy of freshmen ready to contribute.
North Carolina State at Michigan: The Wolfpack crept into the NCAA tournament by reaching the ACC Tournament title game and performing well late in the season, even with a young squad. Now, NC State is the favorite in the ACC since it return the majority of its team. The Wolfpack will try and prove they are contenders against the Wolverines. Michigan have studs Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke back into the fold, with Mitch McGarry hopefully making an immediate impact as a freshman.
Minnesota at Florida State: With Trevor Mbakwe returning for Minnesota, the expectations for the Gophers are fairly high. Throw in the run the Gophers made in the NIT this past season, and Tubby Smith is expecting his squad to perform. Then, there is Florida State. The tricky ACC team that plays like a Big Ten team. The Seminoles finished third in the ACC last season. This is the fourth meeting between the two teams in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Maryland at Northwestern: The Wildcats may be losing John Shurna, but Drew Crawford is ready to take the reigns of leader of Northwestern. Northwestern has won its past four games in the Challenge. In their matchup, they face an extremely young Maryland team. The Terrapins have six freshmen coming in.
Iowa at Virginia Tech: This is a matchup of squads going in opposite directions. Virginia Tech fired Seth Greenberg late after the season and is in a rebuilding mode with the assistant coach. Iowa, on the other hand, had some amazing games in Big Ten play last season and will try and build upon that with most of the team returning and a solid recruiting class incoming. Va Tech is 2-0 in the Challenge against Iowa.
Nebraska at Wake Forest: The last matchup on the Tuesday slate of games is not a marquee matchup by any means. Wake Forest made a mistake last season by firing coach Dino Gaudio. Since then, the Demon Deacons have under-performed. Nebraska is about to see how capable Tim Miles can be as head coach. Many saw Miles smartly coach in the NCAA tournament in March, but it’s tough to tell in Miles can do it on the Big Ten stage.
Predicted Tuesday outcome: Big Ten 4, ACC 2
The Wednesday Matchups:
Ohio State at Duke: This matchup is the marquee matchup for Wednesday. It features two highly-touted programs and how they will fare without their best player from a season ago. Ohio State will have two juniors in Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft leading the way. The pick-and-roll duo will go against a Blue Devil team that has a lot of raw talent. Duke is still unsure of who will handle point guard this season.
Virginia at Wisconsin: Although Wisconsin will be without departing senior Jordan Taylor, coach Bo Ryan knows how to get a quality team together and contend in the top echelon of the Big Ten. This is a very interesting matchup because Virginia’s head coach, Tony Bennett, is the son of the former Badger coach, Dick Bennett. Some believe that once Ryan decides to retire, which won’t happen anytime soon after receiving an extension, that Bennett will be the leading candidate to replace him.
Michigan State at Miami: A year after coach Frank Haith left, the Hurricanes still sit in the middle of the ACC. Miami’s season ended in the NIT when they lost to Minnesota in the second round. However, Miami is returning a good chunk of its team. Michigan State has to figure out how to replace Draymond Green. Spartan fans aren’t too nervous because guard Gary Harris is heading to East Lansing to boost the offense.
Purdue at Clemson: The upcoming season is looking to be a rebuilding year for the Boilermakers with a good recruiting class coming in and Robbie Hummel leaving the program. Clemson is also rebuilding with a ton of freshman coming to Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Georgia Tech at Illinois: Both programs in this matchup have no problem with recruiting. Ever year, it seems that at least one of them get a premiere recruit. The issue is usually keeping and developing those types of recruits. Illinois will be entering its season with a new coach, John Groce from Ohio University. Georgia Tech really struggled to score last season and is expected to lean on incoming freshman to contribute right away.
Boston College at Penn State: The final matchup of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge features the worst teams from both conferences last season. The two teams combined for 21 wins. Boston College lost to Holy Cross, among others, in one of the worst records in a while for a ACC team. The Nittany Lions still have Tim Frazier at the helm to lead the scoring for Penn State.
Predicted Wednesday Outcome: Big Ten 4, ACC 2
Overall: Big Ten 8, ACC 4
It looks like the Big Ten is early favorites to win the ACC/Big Ten Challenge once again. The B1G is pretty solid from top to bottom, which will help against the middle of the Atlantic Coast Conference, as they only had four teams in the NCAA Tournament last season.
All games will be broadcasted on the ESPN family of networks. Times and networks are yet to be determined.
Here is the official press release by the Big Ten: http://www.bigten.org/sports/m-baskbl/spec-rel/051412aaa.html
Once Thanksgiving time hits, I'll be thankful...for more college basketball.