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Week 4 BTP Game of the Week: Notre Dame at Michigan State

The Big Ten / ACC Challenge Continues and Conference Play Begins

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Michigan State Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Last week saw the development of a narrative that the Big Ten is actually bad at basketball, compared to their peers in the East. This narrative is overblown. In reality Big Ten teams have largely held serve, winning games they are supposed to win and losing games they are supposed to lose. It shouldn’t be an indictment on the entire conference that Iowa lost a couple games in the Caribbean to decent mid-major teams or that Archie Miller mistakenly told his team their game against Indiana State was an exhibition.

Ok, so the Big Ten has underwhelmed and some of the teams at the top of the standings haven’t played a respectable opponent yet (s/o Rutgers and Illinois). But, don’t let that distract you from the excellence at the top of the conference. Michigan State is fantastic even without Player-of-the-Year performances from Miles Bridges. Minnesota has a couple of quality wins and seems to be the best bet to push the Spartans for the Big Ten title.

As of this writing, the league is off to a rough start in the Big Ten/ACC challenge, down four games to zip. The league as a whole cannot seem to win close games, which is concerning but not a reason to slam on the dreaded PANIC BUTTON.

Don’t bury the Big Ten yet. Or do. We can always dig them back up in mid-March.

Either way, at least tune in to watch these games.

Game of the Week

Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Michigan State Spartans

How do you like two teams facing off following respective Thanksgiving week tournament victories? Notre Dame outlasted Wichita State to claim the Maui Invitational, while Michigan State conquered the “Victory Bracket” in Portland at the PK80.

The triple threat of Bonzie Colson, Matt Farrell and TJ Gibbs leads the Irish. Together they have contributed an average of 53 points per game thus far. This is an experienced team with a fantastic coach and a Player of the Year candidate.

Having said that, Michigan State is better. The Spartans have six players who can go for 20 on any given night. They have a fantastic coach and a Player of the Year candidate. It will be fun to watch their suffocating defense challenge the potent offense of Notre Dame.

Honorable Mention

Miami Hurricanes at Minnesota Golden Gophers

A rare matchup of top-15 teams playing a non-conference campus game, it’s almost shocking this doesn’t qualify as the Game of the Week.

How’s this: If Jim Larranaga comes out as says he will start three players against the Gophers, I will officially promote this game to BTP GOTW. Deal?

Penn State Nittany Lions at NC State Wolfpack

Shout out to Penn State Basketball, a perennial little brother in their own league and especially on their own campus. The football team “underwhelmed” this year with two losses (eye roll…) and the basketball conference has “underwhelmed” so far with many losses (additional eye roll…) so maybe this is the Nittany Hoopers year. They hung in there with a great Texas A&M team and crushed rival Pitt (who is very down this year, but still, a rivalry is a rivalry). North Carolina State really misses Dennis Smith Jr. but will pose a test for Penn State, who will need to win on the road a lot this year to prove they are legit.

Worst Game of the Week

Boston College Eagles at Nebraska Cornhuskers

When the basketball gods, in all their infinite wisdom, bestowed upon us the Big Ten/ACC challenge, they couldn’t have envisioned that we would screw it up this badly. This game is a travesty and shouldn’t count towards the record of either conference.

I kid, I kid. That this is the “worst game of the week” says a lot more about “the week” than this game, which actually has a few redeeming qualities. It should be a very even matchup, albeit between two cellar-dwellers who don’t play particularly exciting styles of basketball. Both programs have held their own in this event, with Boston College holding a 6-3 record and Nebraska slightly less impressive at 3-3. The Eagles are searching for their first win in the Challenge since 2012, having sat out a couple years. The Big Ten better hope they don’t get it if they want to mount a comeback.

Season Stats

Game of the Week Appearances by Team:

  • Michigan State – 2
  • Wisconsin – 1
  • Purdue – 1

Game of the Week Honorable Mention Appearances by Team:

  • Minnesota – 3
  • Penn State – 1
  • Northwestern – 1
  • Wisconsin – 2
  • Maryland – 1

Total Appearances by Team:

  • Michigan State – 2
  • Minnesota – 3
  • Penn State – 1
  • Wisconsin – 3
  • Northwestern – 1
  • Maryland – 1
  • Purdue – 1

Worst Game Appearances by Team:

  • Wisconsin – 1
  • Iowa – 1
  • Illinois – 1
  • Nebraska – 1