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12/1 Big Ten Basketball Preview: B1G/ACC Challenge Concludes

Preview Wednesday’s Big Ten action.

NCAA Basketball: Tarleton State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

There are six more games today as the 2021 Big Ten ACC Challenge officially wraps up. Let’s take a look at the upcoming games for tonight.

Game of the Night

#24 Michigan Wolverines at North Carolina Tar Heels

  • Time/TV: 9:15 PM ET (ESPN)
  • Spread: Michigan -1.5

One has to wonder if the recent woes for Michigan basketball were some kind of trade off to help their football team finally pick up a win against Ohio State. I kid, I kid, but the Wolverines already have a pair of losses to Seton Hall and Arizona, while they struggled considerably last week on their way to a 65-54 win over Tarleton State that was closer than the score indicated. There’s a common theme here, with the Wolverines shooting 3 of 15 from three against Seton Hall, 1 of 14 from three against Arizona and then 6 of 18 against Tarleton State. The Wolverines are shooting 29.1% from three, 66.9% from the line and committing just under 15 turnovers per game to highlight a surprisingly inefficient start to the season. Eli Brooks and Hunter Dickinson have both looked good, but no one else is averaging more than 8.8 points per game and the Wolverines desperately needed additional playmakers to step up.

North Carolina is also 4-2, with two losses against Purdue and Tennessee. The Tar Heels look like they have the foundation for a good team down the line, but there’s some question as to how long it’ll take for them to get there. The offense has been thriving so far, though, shooting 41.4% from three and averaging 83.2 points per game. Unlike Michigan, the Tar Heels have considerably more options on the offensive side of the ball, with five guys averaging double figures.

Michigan will likely end up being the better team between these two, but with their offensive woes and no one else currently stepping up past Brooks and Dickinson, it’s hard to see Michigan heading to North Carolina and picking up a win tonight.

Pick: North Carolina

The Rest

Louisville Cardinals at #22 Michigan State Spartans

  • Time/TV: 7:15 PM ET (ESPN)
  • Spread: Michigan State -5.0

Michigan State bounced back from a season opening loss to Kansas with five straight wins, including a narrow win over Loyola Chicago and a win over a ranked by Connecticut Huskies. They ended up losing by 17 to Baylor over the weekend, but Michigan State more then held their own until the Bears pulled away down the stretch. The Spartans have relied heavily on their defense, holding opponents to 58.8 points per game since their loss to the Jayhawks. Forward Gabe Brown has led State in scoring in four of their seven games this season, while Marcus Bingham Jr. is averaging 10.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. The Spartans still need to limit turnovers (15.7 per game) and improve from three (32%), but the defense has helped Michigan State take care of business.

Louisville should be familiar to Big Ten fans as they just knocked off Maryland on Saturday. Wins against Mississippi State and Maryland over Feast Week were huge for the Cardinals after they dropped a game to Furman and struggled to get past Detroit. Similar to the Spartans, the Cardinals don’t shoot particularly well from deep (29.8%) and turn the ball over (14.8 per game). Unfortunately for Louisville, they don’t have the Michigan State defense to help bail them out.

Pick: Michigan State

Nebraska Cornhuskers at North Carolina State Wolfpack

  • Time/TV: 7:15 PM ET (ESPNU)
  • Spread: North Carolina State -6.5

Nebraska has rolled off four straight wins after a 1-2 open that included losses to Western Illinois and Creighton. The Cornhuskers are led by Bryce McGowens, who is averaging 17.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Tonight they’ll have to go on the road to face a high flying Wolfpack team that is averaging 77.8 points per game and has four players averaging at least 11.7 points per game. Dereon Seaborn has been a force early this year, averaging 18.8 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game. Nebraska has been playing a bit better the past two weeks, but they don’t have the offensive firepower to hang with North Carolina State tonight.

Pick: North Carolina State

Virginia Tech Hokies at Maryland Terrapins

  • Time/TV: 7:15 PM ET (ESPN2)
  • Spread: Even

It’s been an entertaining start for Maryland this year, with five of their seven games being decided by single digits. That’s not a particularly good thing for the Terps, though, as it includes close loses to Louisville and George Mason, as well as narrow wins against George Washington, Hofstra and Richmond. It seems whoever Maryland faces they play close, regardless of who is the better team. Tonight they face a Virginia Tech team coming off of close loses to two ranked teams in Memphis and Xavier. The Hokies probably should win tonight, especially considering Maryland’s dreadful outside shooting (28.5%). But look for Maryland to take advantage of playing on their home court tonight.

Pick: Maryland

#23 Wisconsin Badgers at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

  • Time/TV: 9:15 PM ET (ESPN2)
  • Spread: Wisconsin -3.5

Tonight the Badgers look to build from their run through the Maui Invitational that included wins against Texas A&M, Houston and Saint Mary’s. The Badgers have excelled defensively this season, not giving up more than 63 points in any of their six games. That’s huge as Wisconsin is shooting 39.5% from the field and only 28.8% from three. Johnny Davis and Brad Davison combine to average north of 33 points for a team that is scoring just under 68 points per game.

On the other side of the ball is a Georgia Tech team that has home court and has shown they are capable of getting hot from beyond the arc. Unfortunately for the Yellow Jackets, though, they have been turnover prone (13.3 per game) and struggle from the free throw line (63.5%). Mix that with Wisconsin’s impressive defense and the Badgers should pick up another big win tonight.

Pick: Wisconsin

Miami Hurricane at Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Time/TV: 9:15 PM ET (ESPNU)
  • Spread: Penn State -5.5

Penn State will look to win back to back games for the second time this season tonight against Miami. Penn State has been back and forth this season, winning last time out against Oregon State but already dropping games to LSU and Massachusetts. The Nittany Lions are led by Sam Sessoms and Seth Lundy, both of which currently average 15.3 points per game, while John Harrar is adding 10.7 rebounds per game. Penn State has a pretty tight rotation, with only seven players averaging at least 10 minutes per game so far this season. The Hurricane are pretty reliant on a handful of seniors, including Kameron McGusty, who is currently averaging 17.6 points per game. The experienced and dynamic backcourt should be capable of getting past the Nittany Lions.

Pick: Miami