The 2019 BIg Ten-ACC Challenge was announced on Thursday and there’s a lot to be excited about the announcement. The Challenge is always one of the best non-conference events of the year, but this year’s slate looks particularly intriguing.
Here are a few major takeaways about the announcement.
1. The leagues pulled no punches at the top.
As I said above, the Big Ten-ACC Challenge is a fantastic event. No matter the year, there are going to be a ton of really fun matchups. There are simply too many quality programs to get a year without at least a few games that turn heads nationally.
With that said, however, we don’t always get the “money” matchups at the top of the slate. It’s happened before, but it’s rare to see the legitimate powerhouses face off in this event, especially in settings that fit the respective strength of the teams.
But that isn’t the case this year.
Not only are fans going to get Duke playing on the road against Michigan State, but they’re also going to get Virginia playing at Purdue. All four of those programs have seen tremendous success over the last few years and each game is actually a rematch of last year’s Elite Eight, where Michigan State beat Duke and Purdue narrowly fell to Virginia. Add in that the Cavaliers are coming off a national championship and things get even more intriguing.
There’s more to a good Big Ten-ACC Challenge than a few matchups at the top, but it’s hard not to be impressed by these two games. Fans are going to have to be ready to buckle up.
P.S. - Two of Purdue’s recent games in the Challenge have been against the defending national champions. Not exactly easy draws for the Boilermakers.
2. Things are going to be tough elsewhere for the Big Ten.
Generally speaking, I like Michigan State and Purdue’s odds of coming out of this event with wins next November. The Spartans could arguably be the nation’s number one team and the Boilermakers have been nearly unbeatable at home in recent years. Regardless of opponent, those are usually encouraging signs.
But outside of those two, things look pretty challenging for the Big Ten. Teams like Maryland and Penn State could have manageable games, but there’s a lot that could reasonably go wrong. All of Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, and Wisconsin are on the road and teams like Minnesota and Indiana have manageable opponents at home, but enter the season with mixed expectations.
Nobody knows who the Big Ten and ACC will look once the games tip for next season, but it’s hard to feel too good about this slate. It’s going to be a tough climb for the Big Ten to win this year’s Challenge.
3. There are some real opportunities for the Big Ten’s lower tier.
As I said earlier, we don’t know exactly how the league will look next season. Predicting college basketball teams is often like guessing weather in the midwest. Who knows how things will end up looking once we get there.
The teams that project for the bottom of the Big Ten next season, though, should be in good position to score some solid wins in this year’s Challenge. Rutgers goes on the road to face a rebuilding Pittsburgh squad, Illinois gets a home game against Miami (FL), and Nebraska and Penn State get opponents with mixed projections as well. All four of those teams can come out on top.
Whether this teams can get the job done is an absolute mystery. After all, teams like Nebraska are nearly impossible to project for next season with their roster turnover. But this should be good news for fans hoping their respective teams can overachieve next season.
I feel like I keep repeating myself, but the takeaway here is obvious. This is a great event every year and should be yet again this fall. And with the two blockbuster matchups featuring Michigan State and Purdue, fans should clear their schedules.