Game of the Day:
-No. 6 Illinois Fighting Illini at No. 10 Duke Blue Devils
- Time/TV: 9:30 PM EST (ESPN)
Perhaps this might upset Hawkeyes fans, but ultimately the fact Illinois-Duke is a top-10 matchup gave this game the edge in my mind. While both teams have a loss to a top-10 team already this season, both have a lot of talent to contribute to this matchup.
Duke is led by a lot of youth, to the surprise of no one. Sophomore Matthew Hurt leads the Blue Devils with 19 points per game and 8.7 boards. Freshman Jalen Johnson is second in scoring with 13 points and matches Hurt on the boards with 8.7 per game. Freshman DJ Stewart is averaging 11.3 points per game and 4.7 rebounds. The young team is averaging a staggering 17.3 turnovers per game thus far as well.
Illinois obviously has the tandem of Dosunmu and Kockburn. Dosunmu is averaging 23.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game. Duke will likely need to replicate Baylor’s defensive performance against the Illini’s point guard to get the win in this one. However, Cockburn down low should be able to help neutralize Duke’s big men. Cockburn is averaging 13 points and 9.8 boards per game. Overall Illinois is an elite team on the offensive glass. They grab 47.2 percent of their own misses so far, and can hit it from deep with a 45.1 percent average from three so far.
This matchup shouldn’t disappoint fans, and will likely be tight throughout.
- Pick: Illinois
- Time/TV: 5:00 PM EST (ESPN2)
The 3-1 Boilermakers matchup against the 2-0 Hurricanes for the first time since 2011 in the Challenge. That was a 76-65 win by the Boilermakers in Mackey Arena. Purdue should have Eric Hunter making his debut today after missing the first four games of the season with a knee injury. Purdue is led by Sasha Stefanovic’s 14 points per game and 3.8 assists. Trevion Williams is averaging a double-double with 10.5 points and 11 rebounds per game. Zach Edey (13.8), Jaden Ivey (12), Brandon Newman (12), and Isaiah Thompson (10.5) are all also averaging double-figures.
The Hurricanes are led by Isaiah Wong’s 18.5 points per game, while Chris Lykes is second in scoring with 15.5 points but first in assists with 5.5 per game. Two other Hurricanes players are averaging double-figures. The danger here for Miami is that Lykes, who is a deadly three-point shooter going 5-11 so far this season, hurt his ankle against Stetson and may not play. If he does see the court, it could be a big impact in terms of his explosiveness. Miami is also down their senior big Sam Waardenburg who is out for the season and freshman guard Earl Timberlake is also out with an injury. Another freshman, Matt Cross, seemed to get banged up against Stetson as well. While he is expected to play, it may impact his 10.5 points and 5 rebounds per game thus far in the season.
- Pick: Miami
-Boston College Eagles at Minnesota Golden Gophers
- Time/TV: 7:00 PM EST (ESPNU)
1-3 Boston College visits Dinkytown to take on the 4-0 Golden Gophers. The two teams faced each other two years ago at Boston College and the Eagles managed a 68-57 upset. BC has faced a gauntlet in their early action this season. The Eagles suffered close losses to No. 3 Villanova and St. John’s, but were blown out 90-70 by Florida. Their lone win was over Rhode Island, 69-64. Wynston Tabbs leads the Eagles with 15.5 points, but four others are averaging double-digit scoring. Stefon Mitchell leads BC in rebounding with 8 boards per game, but BC averages 31.5 as a team. The Eagles also struggle with ball control, averaging 15 turnovers per game.
Minnesota is led by Marcus Carr’s 26.5 points along with his team best 6 assists, and features just two other players who average double-digits. The Golden Gophers are averaging 39 rebounds per game, but have hardly faced a difficult schedule in comparison to Boston College. Liam Robbins leads the Gophers with 7.2 rebounds per game, and also averages 2 blocks. While the Gophers get the home-court advantage here, and it will be BC’s first true road game, I don’t think their schedule has prepared them for this one yet.
- Pick: Boston College
-No. 16 North Carolina Tar Heels at No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes
- Time/TV: 7:30 PM EST (ESPN)
This one is obviously the other marquee matchup of the night. 3-0 Iowa’s high-octane offense led by Luka Garza versus 3-1 North Carolina’s rebounding powerhouse.
North Carolina is fifth in the country with its 49 rebounds per game, and is third in the country on the offensive boards. This is particularly important for the Tar Heels as they average just 41.9 percent field goal percentage and just 27.1 percent from three-point range. Garrison Brooks leads in scoring and rebounds with 12.2 and 8.5 respectively.
Meanwhile, Iowa is obviously led by Luka Garza’s 34 points per game, which is also leading the country. Garza’s stat sheet so far this season also includes 9.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game, but the Hawkeye big is shooting 76 percent from field goal range and even manages 62.5 percent from being the three. However, Iowa has managed this against a rather weak slate of opponents so far this season. To get the win against its first true test of an opponent, Iowa will need to buckle down on the boards defensively and get more out of its supporting cast like Wieskamp and Patrick McCaffery.
- Pick: North Carolina
-No. 22 Ohio State Buckeyes at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
- Time/TV: 7:30 PM EST (ESPN2)
The 3-0 Buckeyes visit South Bend to take on the 1-1 Fighting Irish. Due to having two games cancelled related to COVID-19, the Irish play just their third game of the season in this matchup, and look to keep their 3-0 home court record perfect in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Notre Dame is not quite at the level fans have expected out of Mike Brey this season, but are by no means an easy out. Prentiss Hubb leads the Irish with 20.5 points per game and 5 assists. Nate Laszewski is averaging a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. The Irish lack much depth, though, as their starters average 30+ minutes per game.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes are led by Justice Sueing’s 15 points per game and 2 steals, while Duane Washington Jr. is just behind in scoring with 14.7 points. Overall, four Buckeyes are averaging double-digits while seven are averaging at least 5 points per game overall. The depth should be a huge advantage for Ohio State in this one and expect them to try and leverage it with drawing Notre Dame’s bigs into early foul trouble.
- Pick: Ohio State
-Penn State Nittany Lions at No. 15 Virginia Tech Hokies
- Time/TV: 9:00 PM EST (ESPNU)
The Hokies managed a marquee early season win already with an upset of No. 3 Villanova. Tech’s 4-0 record is buoyed by a mixture of strong offensive performance and shutting down the paint on defense while limiting second-chance points. Tech is 32nd in the NCAA in points per 100 possessions, and limits turnovers to just 11.5 per game. Keve Aluma leads the team in scoring with 17.8 points, but the team overall relies on spreading the ball around with 13.5 assists per game across seven players who average at least 6.8 points per game.
The Nittany Lions, meanwhile, sit at 2-1 after an overtime loss to Seton Hall Sunday. Seth Lundy leads the team in scoring with 22.3 points, and seven players average at least 7.3 points per game or more. Penn State is a three-point happy team, with 96 attempts already on the season (35th in the NCAA). They also do a good job crashing the glass on both ends, averaging 38 rebounds per game. However, I don’t think they have quite the chops right now to go toe-to-toe with Tech and get the win.
- Pick: Virginia Tech
-Syracuse Orange at No. 21 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
- Time/TV: 9:30 PM EST (ESPN2)
Jim Boeheim’s squad visits Piscataway with a shorthanded squad, but Rutgers is likely to be without Geo Baker themselves. The 3-0 Orange are expected to be missing leading scorer Buddy Boeheim and his 21 points per game due to contract tracing. Center Bourama Sidibe is also out after suffering an injury and undergoing surgery last week. In their absences, Alan Griffin is the leading scorer on the court for Syracuse with 16.7 points per game, while Quincy Guerrier is averaging a double-double with 16.3 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Rutgers, meanwhile, still features leading scorer Ron Harper Jr. in Baker’s absence. Harper is averaging 21 points per game and 7.7 rebounds, while Jacob Young is second in scoring with 15.3 points, but leads the team in assists (5.7) and rebounds (2.7). The Scarlet Knights feature a more athletic and deep roster available tonight than Syracuse, but will have to win the battle at the boards and rely on Mulcahy to pick apart the zone defense with his passing.
- Pick: Rutgers