With the release of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge schedule for next year, we finally have some actual games to talk about in anticipation for the upcoming season.
As such, I thought it would be fun to take a break from my weekly breakdown of the news surrounding Penn State, Rutgers, and Maryland hoops for my initial reaction on the ACC foes the three will see come November.
Penn State home to Virginia Tech
On paper, this could be a nice little RPI and resume builder for a Penn State team that fancies itself an NCAA Tournament contender.
Both Jon Rothstein of FRZ Sports and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic have the Hokies well inside their respective way-too-early preseason Top 25’s, and it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see head coach Buzz Williams lead Virginia Tech to a top 3 ACC finish for the first time since 2006-’07.
With the game taking place in State College, a competitive Lions team will find itself with a great opportunity for an early season non-conference marquee win.
So that’s the good news.
On the flip side, my reaction to seeing Tech listed as Penn State’s opponent garnered the following reaction: Boringggggggg.
After next season, the Lions will have competed in 18 of the 20 Big Ten-ACC Challenge’s with Clemson, Georgia Tech, Boston College, and Virginia Tech being its assigned opponent a whopping 13 times.
So you can understand my ‘been there, done that’ attitude about this matchup.
And while I understand that a game with an ACC blue-blood like Duke or North Carolina would only happen once pigs fly across the freshly frozen sky of Hell, seeing a new face in Chris Mack’s Louisville Cardinals or an old foe in Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange would have been a nice change of pace.
All-in-all, it could definitely be worse (read: Pitt) however the lack of intrigue for a program desperately vying for headlines leaves me wanting more.
Gut Reaction: Meh
Rutgers away to Miami
Every winter thousands of card caring AARP members from the New York-New Jersey metro area make the rite of passage trek from the cold and unforgiving Northeast to the sunny beaches of South Florida.
Come this November, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights will eek ever so closer to gaining official snowbird status when it visits Coral Gables for the second time in three years during Big Ten-ACC Challenge play.
In their 2016 matchup, Rutgers was out dueled by the Hurricanes, who used an 18-point performance from Ewing, N.J. native Davon Reed to down the Knights 73-61.
That loss was followed up with a home defeat to Florida State in last year’s Challenge, leaving the Knights without a win in the annual event since its first appearance as members of the Big Ten in 2014.
But if there was ever a time for the Knights to snap that losing skid, this year’s contest with The U might be ripe for the picking.
Rutgers is catching Miami as it heads in the wrong direction. Yes, the Hurricanes are coming off a season that saw itself national ranked for much of the year and firmly in the NCAA Tournament. However, the Canes are losing two key pieces in Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown Jr. to the NBA Draft, and a third, Ja’Quan Newton, to graduation.
The Knights, meanwhile, are trending in the right direction. No, this upcoming Rutgers team isn’t going to contend for the NCAAs (or the NIT, for that matter) but it will be a group looking to continue its positive momentum after last year’s Big Ten Tournament run and a sneaky good recruiting class.
For any program looking to elevate itself, it’s good to have tangible goals. And I see no reason that claiming a significant road victory can’t be one for the Scarlet Knights next year.
With some good fortunate down in South Florida, Rutgers may be able to cross that off its to-do list before Big Ten play even gets underway.
Gut Reaction: Color me intrigued
Maryland home to Virginia
You know that awkward feeling of returning home to see friends from high school after a few years apart? When everyone looks the same, only they’re not and you have no idea what to talk about?
That’s what I imagine playing in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge is like for Maryland. It’s a yearly glimpse at the program you used to be. A reminder of where you came from. A brief visit from the ghosts of conference alignment past.
As far as trips down memory lane go, though, this should be a good one.
Who would have thunk it that the Virginia Cavaliers, last season’s overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, would be relieved not to see the words “Baltimore County” after “Maryland” on its upcoming schedule?
But these are crazy times we live in. And no one will soon forget last season’s, eh, historical hiccup from Tony Bennett’s team.
Reminiscing aside, the Cavs are going to be a-okay.
Virginia will be running it back with three of its four biggest contributors from last season’s three loss team in Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, and De’Andre Hunter.
It’s pretty rare for a team that dominated arguably the best conference in college basketball to be out for blood, but I have a feeling this Cavaliers team will be doing just that. And as luck would have it, the Terps will be one of the first big scalps for Tony Bennett’s team to take.
That’s because, even with the loss of Kevin Huerter to the NBA, Maryland returns two key pieces in Anthony Cowan and a motivated-to-improve-his-draft-stock Bruno Fernando. And while replacing the sharp shooting of Huerter will be a tough pill to swallow, it’ll be made easier by one of the better incoming freshmen classes in the country.
Whether all of that adds up to Mark Turgeon having a team that can finally pick up its first challenge win as one of the good guys remains to be seen.
However, for a slate of Big Ten-ACC Challenge games that will include some really juicy matchups, there’s a case to be made that this Terps and Cavs clash in College Park might be the best of the bunch.
Is it November yet?
Gut Reaction: Must-See TV