After last nights debacle, the Big Ten will aim for at least five wins to win the challenge once again. That mark could be a bit difficult as there appears to be two relatively tough matchups for the conference, but the Big Ten will look to persevere and hold strong.
Kicking off the night we will see future Big Ten member Maryland travel to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes. As noted yesterday, Mark Turgeon has been building a contender at Maryland and should have a good team on his hands. There's still some room for improvement, especially with next year's recruiting class, but this Terrapin squad is on it's way to bigger and better things (as well as the Big Ten). That being said, they still might be a bit overwhelmed here against the Buckeyes, especially since the game is in Columbus. For all of the talent Maryland has it's likely not enough to hang for an entire 40 minutes versus Ohio State. Maryland has been close to the big upset before, but has fallen short several times recently (besides when facing Duke). Look for Ohio State's backcourt to bring it's suffocating defense out and for the Buckeyes emerging frontcourt to take care of business down low. It'll be a challenge, but this Ohio State team is still capable of winning this game easily enough.
Also opening the night off will be Wisconsin at Virginia and Northwestern at North Carolina State. Wisconsin has seen contributions spread around their entire roster and seems to be flirting with the idea of an up-tempo offense as the team has gone back and forth from a considerably faster pace back to the dreadful crawl of former Badger teams. Virginia is actually a formidable opponent for Bo Ryan's team, especially when you realize that Wisconsin hasn't looked as good away from Madison. To make things even more interesting is Virginia's head coach Tony Bennett is a former assistant under Ryan and his team is holding opponents to 53 points per game. Can you say first to 60 wins?
At 7:30 will be Northwestern at North Carolina State. Neither team has been impressive and this could be one of the uglier matchups tonight, but Northwestern will likely face a major test as they have to travel out to Raleigh for this one. With Crawford struggling with back spasms and an offense lacking consistency outside of Jershon Cobb, it's going to be interesting to see if Cobb will have to lead the team again or if anyone else will step up. If the rest of the starting rotation can hit some shots the Wildcats can compete here, but if the team once again relies solely on one or two players than Northwestern will fall below 500 after tonight.
The marquee game of the night by far will be North Carolina at #1 Michigan State, though the game has lost a bit of luster as multiple Tar Heel upsets have dropped them from the rankings. Now we have an unranked team that has lost to Belmont and UAB traveling to face possibly the most balanced team in the country. Tom Izzo and the Spartans have already taken down Kentucky and will look to impress on the national spotlight once again. Roy Williams may have had Izzo's number recently, but look for Izzo to pick up a win here. The Spartans have a couple of All-American caliber players in Adreian Payne and Gary Harris Jr., while the hot starts from Keith Appling and Branden Dawson add even more to the table. Expect a balanced Spartan attack to dismantle a North Carolina team that has struggled since their opening win against Oakland.
Purdue, like Minnesota, will look to bounce back from last weeks disappointing results. While the Boilermakers saved faced and came back to beat Siena, this team cannot afford to drop the game tonight against Boston College. Luckily the game is in West Lafayette, an extremely tough place to play for any opponent. Both of these teams are looking to get back to the tourney and will be hungry for the win. Purdue starting center A.J. Hammons is coming off of a monstrous performance on Sunday and will likely be the key to tonight's game. When Hammons is on he's not only a major scoring threat down low, but his ability to block shots can create major headaches for opponents. The Boilermakers will need to get it together in the backcourt, though, as the team has rushed far too many ugly shots and has struggled recently with decision making. If Purdue can increase their efficiency outside a bit and not make mental mistakes on defense, look for them to pull off the win here. Even when Purdue struggled last year they easily handled Clemson in their Big Ten / ACC Challenge matchup.
Closing out the night is Miami traveling up to Nebraska. This isn't the same Hurricane team as last year, not even close, but Nebraska is still working on crawling out of the Big Ten basement. Miami's team has struggled so far this season and scoring seems to be a major issue for them, but they are facing a Nebraska squad that just snuck by Northern Illinois this weekend. Nebraska's ability to win will likely depend on how well Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields play, but the game is winnable when you consider how poorly Miami has fared early on. If Nebraska wants to continue to improve they will need to win games like these, though I'm still unable to predict them to win here.
So with six games on the night it looks like the Big Ten should add wins from Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Purdue. Northwestern and Nebraska are capable of winning tonight, but I think they're going to come up a bit short. When all is said and done it looks like we could have an anti-climatic 6-6 Big Ten / ACC Challenge.