With the 2019 Big Ten-ACC Challenge wrapping up earlier this week, the BTPowerhouse staff got together for a roundtable discussion about the league and what fans should expect in the coming months.
See the full discussion below.
1. Wednesday night marked the end of the 2019 Big Ten-ACC Challenge, with the Big Ten coming away with an 8-6 win over the ACC. Do you think this was a win driven by favorable matchups, or is the Big Ten really that good? And do you have any other major takeaways about the conference as a whole?
Thomas Beindit: One thing I always try to remind people before this event is that it’s not a true comparison between leagues. And what I mean by that is that it’s really 14 matchups between two conferences, and they aren’t necessarily adjusted for competition. ESPN does a great job in choosing these matchups most years, but it never gets them perfectly. We don’t get to see 1 vs 1, 2 vs. 2, and so on each year. Sometimes, a really good team hosts a bad one at home. Sometimes, two great teams matchup. It all depends. And that’s why we have to keep these results in context.
With all that said, the Big Ten had an outstanding performance in this year’s Challenge. Teams like Ohio State and Purdue scored marquee wins and others like Indiana and Minnesota scored big wins as well. The Big Ten is as good as ever.
AJ Duncan: I think it is a mixture of both. When you look at each matchup you can see playing styles that would lend to helping or hurting a Big Ten team in said game. An example would be the Buckeyes play against North Carolina. Ohio State shot a much better percentage than North Carolina. Some of North Carolina’s misses were Ohio State’s defense but a little more of it was North Carolina just missing open looks. Ohio State had a smoother running offense and dominated the boards. All of these things can be attributed to effort, an off night, playing style, etc. I’m leaning more towards thinking Ohio State is a really good team that also had a great night. Really, I could break down every game one way or another but my long winded point is that one basketball game result is never due to all of one thing. It is mostly due to a little bit of everything.
Overall this event, combined with other play so far this season tells me that the Big Ten will have a strong top two tiers this season.The following teams can shuffle back and forth between these two tiers the whole season. Maryland, Ohio State, and Michigan are in tier 1. Then Purdue, Michigan State, and maybe Indiana look to be the teams in that 2nd tier. After that the conference takes a steady dip in quality. However teams like Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa could make up a solid 3rd tier and make the conference deep if they improve.
2. Ok, we have to start with Ohio State. That win on Wednesday was incredibly impressive. Going on the road and blowing out North Carolina? How good are the Buckeyes?
Beindit: Really, really good. This Ohio State team is legit. Kaleb Wesson has been fantastic upfront and DJ Carton and CJ Walker are doing work in the backcourt as well. But more importantly, Ohio State has emerged as one of the most impressive defensive units in the country, currently sitting at second nationally in defensive efficiency. And we probably still haven’t even seen this team’s final form, considering how many young guys contribute. This team is more than capable of making it to the final weekend in the NCAAs.
Duncan: The Buckeyes have looked really good. That game kind of just snowballed on North Carolina. Like I mentioned above, it was a poor shooting night for them. Had the Tar Heels shot the ball better, I still think the Buckeyes would have pulled out the win. They played great and look like real Big Ten contenders
3. A few other teams like Indiana, Minnesota, and Purdue scored their best wins of the year as well during this year’s Challenge. Who else were you impressed by?
Beindit: As noted above, Indiana scored a great win over Florida State last week. I really like what I’ve been seeing out of Bloomington. This looks like the best group of Hoosiers since Archie Miller took over. It’s still early, but I think Indiana gets back to the Big Dance this year.
Duncan: I was impressed by Maryland. I think Notre Dame will be a solid team this year. Maryland dominated them. The Terps pass the eye test as a team that has skill and athleticism. However, they don’t seem all that deep and they haven’t played any great teams yet. Solid teams but no great ones. I’m trying to temper my expectations until I see a little more of Maryland’s season.
4. Michigan State was clearly regarded as the league’s best team coming into the season. However, the team is only 5-3 through eight games. Do you think the Spartans were overrated or is it too early to tell?
Beindit: Still too early to tell. Michigan State still has an outstanding coach and one of the best rosters in college basketball. The Spartans just need to find a few role players that can show up on a nightly basis. Malik Hall and Aaron Henry have shown signs, but neither has done it on a consistent basis this year. If the Spartans are going to deliver, Izzo needs to figure that out. The good news is the team doesn’t have a major challenge for roughly the next month.
Duncan: This time of year is always too early to tell with Michigan State. Tom Izzo has proven over and over again that he is tremendous at molding his teams into a great finished product in March. He has a talented and experienced group with a great leader.
5. Is there anybody else you’re worried about the Big Ten?
Beindit: Wisconsin is the team that fans should be worrying about right now. We thought teams like Nebraska and Northwestern would have down years, but the Badgers were hoping to get back to the NCAA Tournament this season. Wisconsin is far from out of that conversation at this point, but with each loss, things are getting tougher. Saturday’s matchup against Indiana will be a big one for the Badgers.
6. It’s still early, but have your predictions for the Big Ten changed at all? Who do you think is better than you expected? Who is worse?
Beindit: Ohio State and Michigan are both better than I expected. I thought the Buckeyes could get a borderline top 10 team and that the Wolverines would get some top 25 votes here and there, but both currently look like top five squads. That’s great for the Big Ten and should mean big things in the months to come. On the flip side, the struggles of teams like Nebraska and Northwestern haven’t really been surprising. I guess Illinois and Michigan State have underachieved a bit so far, but things otherwise look about how we projected.
Duncan: Michigan is better than I expected but that’s about it .