Monday is set to be an exciting one for the conference, as the 2022 ACC-Big Ten Challenge begins in full force, with two matchups in prime time. Minnesota will face off against Virginia Tech in the early game and Pittsburgh and Northwestern will wrap things up.
Let’s take a look at the schedule.
Game of the Day:
- Time/TV: 9:00PM ET (ESPN2)
- KenPom Spread: Northwestern by 9
While attracting little national attention, Northwestern has quietly jumped out to a relatively impressive 5-1 start to the season. The Wildcats beat Georgetown on the road, Liberty on a neutral court, and the team’s sole loss came against a really good Auburn squad by a single point. The success has pushed Northwestern up nearly 30 spots on KenPom already.
The question is whether Northwestern can keep that success going. And Monday offers a nice challenge for that proposition as the Wildcats host Pittsburgh at home. The game looks completely winnable on paper and the Panthers have yet to beat a quality opponent so far this season. As long as Northwestern shows up and plays decently, it should be a win.
The key here will be Northwestern’s defense. The Panthers have been rough on both sides of the ball so far, but have shown some decent production outside the arc as of late. Slowing down Jamarius Burton and Blake Hinson there will be key. If the Wildcats hold up, this could easily be a double-digit win.
- Pick: Northwestern
-Minnesota Golden Gophers at Virginia Tech Hokies
- Time/TV: 7:00PM ET (ESPN2)
- KenPom Spread: Virginia Tech by 12
Things haven’t gone all that well for the Gophers so far this season. Despite entering Monday’s game with a 4-2 record, the team has struggled against its toughest foes and has barely avoided missteps against weaker teams like Western Michigan and Cal Baptist. It’s led to a colossal drop in the team’s KenPom rating (now 154th nationally) and a significant decrease in optimism in Minneapolis regarding the team’s chances.
The good news is things aren’t over yet and Minnesota has a chance to get back on track on Tuesday with a huge resume opportunity against Virginia Tech. Unlike Minnesota, the Hokies have looked pretty solid. Virginia Tech enters Monday with a 6-1 record and has already knocked off Penn State and Old Dominion. A misstep against Charleston a week ago was a low point, but the team is still sitting at 35th nationally on KenPom.
If Minnesota is going to pull off the upset, it’s going to have to come from the team’s defense. The Hokies rank 18th in offense nationally and have a really good backcourt led by Sean Pedulla. The team avoids turnovers and gets into high percentage looks. Ta’Lon Cooper and Braeden Carrington are going to need to play well. Otherwise, there’s a real possibility this one gets ugly.
- Pick: Minnesota
Picks Record: 46-9-0