The Big Ten ACC Challenge is one of the best interconference sporting events in the world. Every year, the ACC and Big Ten are in the conversation for the best conference in college hoops. This year is no different, as seven of the top ten teams in the AP Top 25, including four of the top five are from these respective conferences. That is not including Michigan, who likely will be top ten by the time the first game tips on Monday. Overall, there will be 14 games played, December 2nd through the 4th.
Illinois is a team that enters the season with some tournament aspirations. They return their best player, Ayo Dosunmu, and add a nice freshman big in Kofi Cockburn. Brad Underwood keeps them competitive and brought his aggressive defense from his past gigs. They enter this game 6-1, with the only loss coming on the road at Arizona. They have decent wins at Grand Canyon and over Nicholls, but nothing to write home about.
Miami is trying to erase the memory of last season. They return their star guard, Chris Lykes, and add impact transfer Kameron McGusty. They have also had some big games from Dejan Vasiljevic who has in the gym range. Miami got crushed by Louisville in game one, then won four straight, but have since been throttled by Connecticut and Florida.
Illinois, 81 Miami, 73. This should be a dog fight. Both teams are scrappy and both teams play hard. Illinois has better post play and that will take them over the top here.
Minnesota comes into this game at 3-4 with close losses to Depaul, Utah, Butler, and Oklahoma. They are a sophomore led team, utilizing Daniel Oturu and Marcus Carr the most. This will be a tough year as they are replacing their three best players from last season. They have enough talent to remain competitive and keep games close, but not quite enough to get over the top.
Clemson is another team that is dealing with significant departures from last season. They have started out better than expected at 5-2, with close losses to Virginia Tech and Colorado. This team is led by their wings, mainly Tevin Mack and Aamir Simms. They really have no post presence or size beyond their wings.
Clemson 66, Minnesota 63. The Tigers will have a hard time dealing with Oturu, but guards win in college. Mack and Simms do just enough to sneak out this win at the Barn.
Boston College enters this game at 4-3 with losses to Belmont, Depaul, and Saint Louis. They are led by graduate transfer Derryck Thornton, who has scored the ball well all season. They also have a decent post presence in Nik Popovic who is very good with the ball. Ultimately, they just do not have a lot of talent, especially since they lost Wynston Tabbs to a season-ending injury.
Northwestern is another team lacking talent. They are super young and are in the midst of a steep learning curve with losses to Merrimack, Radford, and Pittsburgh. They are led by Pete Nance and lacrosse sensation Pat Spencer. Spencer is a graduate transfer that was once the best lacrosse player in the nation and wanted to try to play college hoops for a year. He is leading the Wildcats in assists.
Boston College 71, Northwestern 65. Boston College has more experience and talent. They will force enough turnovers and hit enough shots.
Syracuse is led by star forward Elijah Hughes but they seriously lack offensive playmaking. When in doubt, they throw it to Hughes and hope he can make something happen. The key to Syracuse’s offense will be the aggressiveness and shotmaking of Buddy Boeheim. So far, Syracuse is 4-3 and coming off two losses in Brooklyn at the NIT Season Tip-Off. In both losses, they could not get consecutive stops and struggled to score.
Iowa has a very experienced team, led by Luka Garza, Joe Wieskamp, and Jordan Bohannon. These three are all capable scorers and will play a big part in beating the Syracuse zone. Iowa is shooting it well and recently had a good win over Texas Tech. Iowa has a history of being very inconsistent, so it is a mystery of when they will show up.
Iowa 72, Syracuse 71. Iowa struggles to shoot it in the Dome but does just enough inside to hang on. Expect some sort of heroic play by Bohannon to seal the deal here.
Louisville is the best team in the country. They are led by Player of the Year candidate, Jordan Nwora, who has gotten off to a great start. As a team, the Cardinals are shooting a blazing 42 percent from three and 59 percent from two. They have held opponents to just 36 percent shooting, but admittedly, they have played a weak schedule.
Michigan is the hottest team in the nation right now. They ran through a loaded Battle 4 Atlantis with great wins over North Carolina and Gonzaga. Juwan Howard has his guys playing great, led by Isaiah Livers. They shoot lights out from three and defend the three extremely well.
Louisville 85, Michigan 80. This game has instant classic written all over it. The Cardinals are the home team so that gives them the slight edge, especially considering they beat Michigan State there last year. The winner of the Nwora and Livers matchup wins the game. This will be the most exciting Big Ten ACC Challenge game.
Indiana comes into this game completely untested. They have been scoring at will to start the season, with four players averaging over 12 a game. The Hoosiers are led by Trayce Jackson-Davis and Aljami Durham who combine for a nice inside-out game. They also have the ability to play 11 guys and continually throw fresh bodies at opponents.
Florida State is coming off a six-game winning streak, after losing their opening game to Pittsburgh. They have two nice wins over Florida and Tennessee. They are led by M.J. Walker and Trent Forrest but have struggled offensively overall. The Seminoles are entirely reliant on their aggressive defense to turn other teams over and win them games.
Indiana 73, Florida State 67. Assembly Hall is a tough place to play. Indiana has more talent and will ride the crowd to a hard-fought victory here.
Pittsburgh is a tough team to figure out. They have phenomenal guards but lack consistent play. They have some good wins and some bad losses, entering this matchup at 6-2. The Panthers are very young, so the inconsistencies are to be expected, but they compete every night and are very physical.
Rutgers is the Pittsburgh of the Big Ten. They are a team that will fight and tries to out-tough their opponent for 40 minutes. They also have two great guards with slightly more experience than Pittsburgh’s guards.
Pittsburgh 61, Rutgers 58. Pittsburgh does just enough to win this backyard brawl. Look for Trey McGowens to make some big plays down the stretch. This will be the Big Ten ACC Challenge game that breaks the referees’ whistles.
Michigan State is off to a slow start. They have struggled to find the Robin to Cassius Winston’s Batman. They lack a consistent outside scoring threat and have an inexperienced rotation of big men. Ultimately, this has resulted in two tough losses and some close games. The Spartans still have Cassius Winston when all is said and done. With the patented fastbreak, they still have been putting up plenty of points.
Duke started off great, then took a bad loss at home to Stephen F. Austin. Their great defense has really struggled in the last week as they are allowing straight-line drives to beat them. The offense has been consistent and they get a big game from a new player almost nightly. Unfortunately, Cassius Stanley will miss about a month after injuring his hamstring against Winthrop. That is a big loss for the Blue Devils because Stanley seemed to play his best in the biggest games when he was needed most.
Michigan State 88, Duke 80. The Spartans do enough to win the Elite Eight rematch at home. Cassius Winston wins the point guard dual and the track meet. This will be the Big Ten ACC Challenge game that breaks the scoreboard.
Purdue is still trying to replace Carsen Edwards. They are led by Jahaad Proctor, a High Point transfer, who has been scoring with ease. Unfortunately, they just do not have much scoring. They enter this game at 3-3 with losses to Marquette and Texas. This will not be an easy game for Purdue. They will need Proctor to have a monster game and find some scoring from another wing.
Virginia is back to being the dominant defensive team of years past. They have not allowed their opponents to score more than 55 points this season. For college, that is absurd. It is also extremely necessary for them because they have had difficulty scoring. Adding to that problem, Braxton Key is out for the foreseeable future after having surgery. They need Casey Morsell to score the way he did in high school for Virginia to take the next step as an offense.
Virginia 53, Purdue 47. No that is not a misprint. Virginia will double the post and force a wing to make shots for Purdue. They will not be able to and Virginia rides their defense to a low scoring win. This will be the Big Ten ACC Challenge game that people think is at half-time when it ends.
Georgia Tech is led by sophomore superstar Michael Devoe. They enter this game at 3-2 with two very close losses to Georgia and Arkansas. They lack any size or rim protection, but they have very aggressive guards and can switch all across the court. This is another team that will bring the fight to the court every night.
Nebraska is in the midst of a large rebuild in year one of the Fred Hoiberg era. They have a staggering 14 new players on the roster. This has resulted in a 4-3 start with some bad losses. They will undoubtedly get this figured out, but Hoiberg needs time.
Georgia Tech 81, Nebraska 68. The Yellow Jackets have more talent and more chemistry right now. Michael Devoe is the best player on the court and it will show. This will be the least-watched Big Ten ACC Challenge game.
Maryland is extremely talented, but still somewhat young. They have high hopes to compete for a title this year and it is games like this that they will need to show their ability and win. The Terrapins have a great guard in Anthony Cowan and a talented big in Jalen Smith. They will need some help from Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala to elevate the offense. The Terrapins start slow in every game, struggling mightily in the first half. They will need to get that straightened out as the year goes on.
Notre Dame is led by veterans Rex Pflueger, John Mooney, and T.J. Gibbs. They like to control the tempo and mainly do so by playing through Mooney. He is a monster on the glass and has shown a nice post-game. They also use their experienced guards to find their way into the lane and make big shots.
Maryland 77, Notre Dame 66. Maryland has too many bigs and will use the home crowd to make a big run late in the first half. Aaron Wiggins has a monster game. This will be the most drastic change from first to second half Big Ten ACC Challenge game.
Penn State is led by seniors Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins. These two bring a dominant paint presence and tons of physicality. Stevens is a stud and can score in a variety of ways. They have had some nice games from some underclassmen so far this year as well, which has greatly improved the offense. Make no mistake though, this team goes as Stevens goes.
Wake Forest is led by guard Brandon Childress and wing Chaundee Brown. Both of these guys can really score and seem to perform well in the biggest moments. They just lack a scoring punch outside of these two. If Childress is ineffective, they really struggle.
Penn State 68, Wake Forest 60. Lamar Stevens is just too much and the supporting cast of Penn State is just better. The Nittany Lions tough this one out.
North Carolina State has a top-five guard in the country in Markell Johnson. They have a few other guards that can really score and a very athletic team that can cause some matchup problems. Kevin Keatts always has his team ready to play hard and that keeps them in a lot of games if they are struggling to score.
Wisconsin is struggling in the first year without Ethan Happ. They have no one they trust to throw the ball to when they need a basket. Their patented inside-out style of play has taken a bit of a hit because Nate Reuvers is not as good of a passer as Happ. It also does not help that their good shooters are ice cold from three to start the year. It seems like it will be a long year in Madison.
North Carolina State 65, Wisconsin 57. The Wolfpack are just better and their guards win the day as they take this game.
North Carolina is led by freshmen Cole Anthony and Armando Bacot. Anthony has been great to start his freshman campaign and can score at will. Unlike past years, the Tar Heels are completely reliant on Anthony to run their offense and do not have any wing scorers to help him out.
Ohio State is loaded at the guard position and have Kaleb Wesson to man the paint. They get after it on the defensive end and then run in transition. The Buckeyes have more than enough perimeter talent to cause nightmares for UNC.
Ohio State 70, UNC 63. Ohio State uses their perimeter depth to spoil Cole Anthony’s night. The Buckeyes are just too much as they leave the Dean Dome with a win. This will be a Big Ten ACC Challenge game decided by guards.
In true Big Ten ACC Challenge fashion, the games are split 7-7. There are some very even matchups this year that can go either way. At the very least, it makes for great entertainment. Without a doubt, the must-see games are Duke versus Michigan State, Louisville versus Michigan, and North Carolina versus Ohio State.