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12/9 Big Ten Basketball Preview: ACC/Big Ten Challenge Day Two

NCAA Basketball: Western Michigan at Michigan State Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The second day of the ACC / Big Ten Challenge will feature five conference matchups and two replacement games.

Game of the Day

#4 Michigan State Spartans at #18 Virginia Cavaliers

  • Time/TV: 9:15 PM ET (ESPN)

Michigan State officially arrived when they beat a top ten Duke program at the beginning of the month. They almost faceplanted the next game out when they struggled to get past Detroit. The Spartans have been incredibly consistent throughout their first five games, scoring 75-83 points every game. Marquette transfer Joey Hauser has been huge for the Spartan, leading the team with 14 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Virginia has been consistently great, but they haven’t had a fantastic start so far this season. The loss to San Francisco at the end of November could be seen as a fluke, but they also struggled to get past Kent State last weekend. Virginia has always been a defensively minded team and that has occasionally caused problems when their offense falls flat. Leading the Cavs in scoring is Joey Hauser’s brother and former teammate Sam Hauser, who is averaging 14.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Tonight’s outing will provide not only a top 20 matchup between two powerhouse programs, but will also provide an interesting brotherly rival as well.

Tonight will be the fourth time these two teams played. The last two times they played came in the NCAA Tournament, with a 7 seed Michigan State knocking off a 2 seed Virginia in the second round and a 4 seed Spartans beating a 1 seed Virginia in 2014. Tom Izzo has historically gotten the best of Virginia, with their first win against Virginia also taking place while Izzo was head coach in East Lansing in the early 2000s.

Virginia’s defense has been great so far besides their inability to guard the perimeter against San Francisco. The problem is they haven’t found much of a rhythm on offense and have had to rely heavily on their defense. Playing against a Michigan State team that has a much better offense then anyone else they’ve played and that could prove problematic. If Virginia wants to bounce back and pick up a big win tonight they’ll need to rely on that defense.

Is Virginia defense good enough to upset Michigan State? Probably. But with the Spartans rolling, Virginia will likely need to find more production on the offensive side of the ball. It should once again be another close game between these two teams but the Spartans should have just enough offensive firepower to pick up the W.

Pick: Michigan State

The Rest

Rhode Island Rams at #13 Wisconsin Badgers

  • Time/TV: 4:30 PM ET (BTN)

The first game today will see Wisconsin playing Rhode Island in place of Louisville thanks to COVID-19. The last time out a top five Wisconsin team lost to in-state rival Marquette 65-67. They’ll look to bounce back against a 3-2 Rams team that has won three in a row after losing to Arizona State and Boston College at the beginning of the season.

Wisconsin is anchored inside by forwards Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter, who are averaging 14.0 and 12.8 points per game. D’Mitrik Trice is adding 11.8 points per game while shooting a solid 43.8% from three. The Badgers are a well disciplined team, committing only 8.5 turnovers per game. They’ll have to slow down Fatts Russel, the dynamic volume shooting guard that is currently averaging 17.6 points per game.

Rhode Island isn’t Marquette, but they’ll provide Wisconsin a solid challenge. Wisconsin has the experience and discipline to take care of business here.

Pick: Wisconsin

Maryland Terrapins at Clemson Tigers

  • Time/TV: 5:00 PM ET (ESPN2)

Maryland will look to improve to 5-0 against Clemson. The Tigers are by far the most difficult opponent for the Terrapins so far this season and will provide an interesting challenge for a Maryland team that has been rolling so far.

Through four games Maryland is shooting 56% (7th in the nation) and 42.5% from three (26th in the nation). The Terrapins offense has been rolling, led by Eric Ayala’s 15.3 points per game. The Terps have three guards averaging at least 10 points per game and forward Donta Scott is adding 11.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. They’ll be going up against a Clemson team that is holding opponents to 35% shooting from the field (24th in the nation), 29.2% from three and 50 points per game (4th).

So who will win? The dynamic offense that has been rolling against a medley of mid-majors? Or the more experienced ACC team with one of the nations best defenses? Considering some inexperience issues on Maryland’s side, this will provide an interesting challenge for Maryland. Clemson gets the edge with the game being at home.

Pick: Clemson

Toledo Rockets at Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 6:00 PM ET

Michigan was supposed to play North Carolina State but after a positive COVID test will instead play Toledo. The move makes sense when you consider that Toledo is a solid MAC team that is only an hour drive away from Ann Arbor. Toledo is 3-2, having lost two close games to Bradley and Xavier. The Rockets have been relatively consistent, winning the MAC West four times under current head coach Tod Kowalczyk.

The Wolverines bounced back nicely after struggling with Oakland and have shown plenty of promise. Isaiah Livers is leading the Wolverines with 16.3 points per game, while Hunter Dickinson has impressed with 14 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Michigan hasn’t exactly impressed from outside, shooting only 32.3% from three, but are still shooting 51.4% from the field. Marreon Jackson is leading Toledo in scoring, but has been an inefficient volume shooter, averaging 15 shots per game at 32%.

While Toledo is a decent MAC team, they have been somewhat sloppy so far this season and Michigan has more than enough talent to get past the Rockets.

Pick: Michigan

Indiana Hoosiers at #20 Florida State Seminoles

  • Time/TV: 7:15 PM ET (ESPN)

Indiana will travel to face a Florida State team that is still looking to get their season up and running. While COVID has caused plenty of cancellations, the Seminoles have only played one game so far this season. That lone game was a week ago against North Florida.

If the Hoosiers want to pick up a road win against a ranked Florida State program they’ll need to find some level of consistency. Trayce Jackson-Davis has been one of the best players in the conference, averaging 21.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. The problem is the team has struggled outside of Jackson-Davis. The Hoosiers have shot a dreadful 29.3% from three and outside of Jackson-Davis Indiana hasn’t found consistent production from their backcourt.

On the other side of the ball you have a Seminoles team with a ton of size that blitz the glass, scoring with ease inside and hauling in 47.2% of their missed field goal attempts. Mix that with limiting turnovers and you have a Seminoles program that has been highly efficient offensively, even if they’ve struggled shooting from three.

Indiana has gotten everything they’ve needed from Jackson-Davis. Can they find some production from their backcourt? They’ll need to find a way to score against a Florida State team that has had no problem scoring the ball. The inconsistency to score for the Hoosiers could prove problematic tonight on the road.

Pick: Florida State

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Time/TV: 7:15 PM ET (ESPN2)

Georgia Tech lost their first two games, dropping a four overtime thriller to Georgia State and then to Mercer by double digits. Then naturally they went and beat Kentucky by 17. That win against Kentucky makes sense when you realize the Yellow Jackets forced 21 turnovers while only committing six of their own.

Led by Moses Wright’s 24 points per game, Georgia Tech has had no problem scoring the ball. They’ll look to do the same against the Cornhuskers tonight. Nebraska’s Teddy Allen is leading the Cornhuskers with 19 points per game, while Dalano Banton is adding 13.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

Nebraska has looked a bit better than they did last year, but they still haven’t had much of an opportunity to show how much they’ve improved. Georgia Tech had a rough start, but the win against Kentucky could be a good launching point. Nebraska will likely have issues slowing down Moses Wright and if that happens it’ll be a long day for the Cornhuskers.

Pick: Georgia Tech

Pittsburgh Panthers at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 9:15 PM ET (ESPN2)

Northwestern will be hosting Pitt in what will be their most difficult game of the season so far. While the Wildcats haven’t had much of a challenge so far, they’ve also only played Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Chicago State. Pitt hasn’t had a great start, though, losing to St. Francis (Pa), almost losing to Drexel and then beating Northern Illinois by 30.

The Panthers yield a three-way attack of Audiese Toney, Justin Champagnie and Xavier Johnson, all averaging at least 17 points per game. Northwestern has benefited from William & Mary transfer Chase Audige, who is averaging 18 points and 6.5 rebounds per game so far.

Neither of these teams have been particularly good in recent years, but Northwestern should benefit from the game taking place at home. Even more so when you factor in a Wildcats team that features plenty of experience, as well as the addition of Audige.

Pick: Northwestern