The 2017 Big Ten/ACC challenge began yesterday with the ACC jumping out to a 2-0 lead. The competition will get into the thick of things on Tuesday, as five games between the two conferences will take place. The ACC holds an 11-5-2 advantage since the challenge was created in 1999.
Having success on Tuesday will be crucial for each conference in terms of winning the challenge. Let’s see what we have in store for what should be an exciting day in Big Ten hoops.
Big Ten Game of the Day
Purdue Boilermakers vs No. 16 Louisville Cardinals
Time/TV: 8:00PM ET - ESPN
KenPom Spread: Purdue (-7)
While the majority of the ranked opponents in each conference play on Wednesday, Purdue and Louisville's matchup provides us with what should be a thriller between two top 20 teams.
The major difference between the Boilermakers and the Cardinals so far is who they have played.
Though Louisville is 4-0, it has yet to face a Power 5 opponent. The Cardinals have played George Mason, Omaha, Southern Illinois, and Saint Francis. None of these wins really do anything for Louisville’s resume. However, it’s worth noting that the Cardinals haven’t dominated these inferior opponents either. Besides a 42-point win over SIU, Louisville has won by 12 or less in their other three victories this season.
The talented forward trio of Deng Adel, Ray Spalding, and Jordan Nwora will now have to adjust from playing underwhelming opponents to a Purdue squad that has already been tested early in the season.
After losing two straight nail-biters by a combined seven points, the Boilermakers bounced back with a marquee 89-64 over no. 2 Arizona. Though the Wildcats are struggling right now, the magnitude of Purdue’s win over Arizona is extremely significant.
In contrast to Louisville, Purdue’s effectiveness has been balanced between its guards and forwards. In fact, three of the Boilermaker’s guards (Carsen Edwards, Dakota Mathias, and P.J. Thompson) are each averaging at least 10 points per game this season. Forward Vincent Edwards and Center Isaac Haas are each averaging at least 14 points and five rebounds per game as well.
The bottom line is Purdue’s talent runs very deep this season. This should be an extremely competitive game. But, the Boilermakers will be the popular pick.
Pick Against The Spread: Purdue
- Time/TV: 7:00PM ET - ESPNU
- KenPom Spread: Florida State (-5)
Both of these teams will put their perfect records on the line in this one. Even though neither team has lost a game yet this season, it has been hard to tell how good Rutgers and Florida State really are this season. That’s because neither team has faced legitimate competition so far this season. With all respect to Colorado State, who the Seminoles blew out earlier this season, the Rams have lost a number of key pieces from last season’s 24-win campaign. This game could be an indicator as to which of these unbeaten teams is for real this year.
Pick Against The Spread: Florida State
- Time/TV: 7:00PM ET - ESPN2
- KenPom Spread: Even
The Wildcats have been exploited after beginning the season ranked 19 in the AP Poll. There is no reason to believe that this Northwestern team filled with talent and experience won’t find its rhythm this season. But, frankly, the Wildcats have looked far from sharp through six games this season. Northwestern is 0-2 against Power 5 teams, which includes an embarrassing 85-49 blowout against Texas Tech. Three of the Wildcats wins against mid-major schools came down to the wire as well. Hitting their stride for the first time this season against a 3-1 Georgia Tech squad, who barely lost to UCLA, would be huge for Northwestern.
Pick Against The Spread: Georgia Tech
Illinois Illini at Wake Forest Demon Deacons
- Time/TV: 9:00PM ET - ESPNU
- KenPom Spread: Wake Forest (-3)
The Brad Underwood era of Illinois basketball has gotten off to an extremely smooth start. The Illini are a perfect 6-0 and have already collected victories over a stingy Depaul team and Marshall, who won 20 games last season. Illinois has five players averaging over 10 points per game so far. The headline there is freshman guard Mark Smith’s impressive start to his collegiate career. Smith is averaging 12 points per game and has scored at least 13 in all but one of the Illini’s games.
After earning a birth to the NCAA Tournament last season, Wake Forest has been the worst team in the ACC so far this season. The 2-4 Demon Deacons began the season by losing three straight games to Georgia Southern, Liberty, and Drake. Since this game will be played away from Assembly Hall, it will be a little more difficult for Illinois to pick up a win. However, the highly confident Illini have to like their odds of winning a second consecutive Big Ten/ACC challenge contest.
Pick Against The Spread: Illinois
- Time/TV: 9:00PM ET - ESPN2
- KenPom Spread: Virginia Tech (-8)
After dropping two straight games in the Cayman Islands, the Hawkeyes picked up a much-needed 95-85 win over UAB before returning to Iowa City. Sophomore guards Isaiah Moss and Jordan Bohannon have been doing the heavy lifting for Iowa this season. Moss and Bohannon are leading the Hawkeyes in scoring, with averages of 15.8 and 14.5, respectively.
Facing the Hokies away from home will be no easy task for Iowa. Besides losing leading scorers Zach LeDay and Seth Allen, Virginia Tech has essentially all of its key contributors from last season’s NCAA Tournament campaign.
Pick Against The Spread: Virginia Tech