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Saturday Morning Power Bar: Big Ten Claims ACC Challenge

Our weekly Saturday Morning Power Bar series, which looks at happenings around the Big Ten and topics of interest for BTPowerhouse's staff.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This will be the first in a new weekly series looking at some general topics around the Big Ten.  Obviously, the name of the post plays on the BTPowerhouse name, but hopefully there will be some solid content in these posts on a weekly basis.  There are no set parameters for what are and are not appropriate topics and it is largely going to be topics of interest for me on Saturday morning.

For this week, the story and chatter around the Big Ten is focused on the 2014 Big Ten - ACC Challenge and for good reason.  One can make a pretty strong argument that it is the biggest non-conference event in college basketball and gives us at least a few great matchups every year  This year, we were blessed with a boatload of great matchups and two extra games as well with the additions of Maryland and Rutgers.

The major story was the Big Ten's dominating Monday and Tuesday nights and its ability to win the event outright by a final tally of 8-6.  This was the Big Ten's first Challenge win in 3 years, but more notably, this was the 6th year in a row that the ACC failed to win the Challenge.  The last two years have been ties between the conferences..  The ACC has not won the Challenge during the Obama Administration.

There are a few things to make of this, but for me, I think it's pretty telling on the direction of the Big Ten.  The Challenge has no doubt been competitive, but when you take a step back and look at the directions of the two conferences, I think the Big Ten's rise has been very telling.  This is no longer a blip or a couple of good years brought on by a team landing a big recruit.  The Big Ten continues to prove itself year and after year.

Just think about this.  Over the last few years, the ACC and Big Ten have went through some pretty big conference expansion, but the Big Ten continues to trend upward.  Despite each side going through some significant changes, the Big Ten has continued to perform.

First, let's look at the teams added by the Big Ten over the last few years.  The conference brought in Maryland, Nebraska, and Rutgers.  The Terps have some decent history and had a national title in 2002, but between these three programs, these teams have just 3 combined Final Four appearances.  None of these three programs are in the Top 50 for all-time college basketball wins.  On top of that, Nebraska has never won an NCAA Tournament game and Rutgers' last appearance was in 1991.  In all reality, outside of the early 2000s, none of these three programs can really claim anything close to elite status.

On the other side, the ACC added two powerhouse programs in Louisville and Syracuse.  They also added Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, who have both historically been very good.  In fact, all four of these programs are in the Top 50 for all-time college basketball wins and three are in the Top 15.  Every addition made by the ACC has consisted of a good program and two of the programs - Louisville and Syracuse - are certainly elite right now.  Just look at a comparison between the additions.

New Conference Addition Stats

Conference

ACC

Big Ten

All-Time Wins

6,959

4,070

All-Time Wins Average

1,739

1,356

National Titles

4

1

Final Fours

17

3

NCAA Tournament Record

188-141

46-37

NCAA Tournament Appearances

135

37

Regular Season Conference Titles

50

23

Weeks Ranked

1,700

415

That chart is extremely telling on the difference between the ACC and Big Ten's recent additions.  Even if you acknowledge that conference titles and NCAA Tournament performance can sometimes be a fluky standard to compare historically, the difference in wins is dramatic.  On average, there is about a 400 all-time win gap between each team.  Even in terms of rankings, the ACC additions have been ranked almost 1,300 more weeks than the Big Ten additions.  On paper, when you look at that, it's hard to imagine the ACC would trend downward.

Unfortunately for the ACC, that's exactly where we are right now.  Despite adding four good programs, the ACC has failed to win the Challenge since 2008.  And how about those newcomers?  Despite clearly adding more historically rich programs the Big Ten's new additions are sitting at 4-2 and the ACC's new additions sit at 4-3.  Obviously, there are issues with who joined when and who they played, but for the Big Ten's new additions to be beating the ACC's new addition in record is pretty noteworthy.

There's also one other thing to note.  The ACC currently has 15 members, but the Big Ten only has 14 members.  As a result, this means that the ACC gets to keep one team out of the Challenge on a yearly basis.  Typically, the ACC keeps its lowest performing team from the year prior out of the Challenge.  This is clearly an advantage for the ACC.  It may not mean anything in a given year, but over time, you are going to get more favorable matchups because you keep a "weaker" team out of the event.  This makes the Big Ten's run even more impressive.

The Big Ten - ACC Challenge is not something that is all telling, but it is a chance for two of the nation's best conferences to face off and see who comes out on top.  As of late, the Big Ten has been trending up and with several programs on the rise, the Big Ten may be in a position to do even more damage in the next few years.