2020-21 ACC Big Ten Challenge

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The ACC Big Ten Challenge will be held between December 8th and 9th. Last season, the Big Ten won 8-6 after a massive victory by Ohio State in the final game against North Carolina. Every year, this challenge pits several talented teams against each other and this year is no different. Will the Big Ten retain the crown?

2020-21 ACC Big Ten Challenge

Tuesday, December 8th

Purdue Boilermakers at Miami Hurricanes

Purdue comes into this game at 3-1 after losing to Miami but handling three inferior teams in Oakland, Valparaiso and Liberty. Freshman Zach Edey stole the show with his 7’4 frame but they also have Trevion Williams and Brandon Newman. Purdue is always tough, but this is a young team that is going to be figuring out their game along the way.

Miami is one of the more underrated teams in the ACC this year. They return Chris Lykes, one of the best scorers in college basketball, along with most of their team from last season. Unfortunately, they have only played two games, but they seem to be the more talented team. Isaiah Wong had a huge first game. The question for this game is can Miami deal with Purdue’s size.

Result: Miami sneaks out a win in a hard-fought game. Lykes is too tough and Miami’s rotation of forwards survives the punches.

Boston College Eagles at Minnesota Golden Gophers

The Eagles have been somewhat surprising to start the season. They return several talented players like Jay Heath and a healthy Wynston Tabbs. This has led to an impressive start, but a 1-3 record. They suffered close losses to Villanova and St. John’s and beat a good Rhode Island team. They play hard and have some talent, but have not gotten over the hump.

Minnesota will have the best player on the court. Marcus Carr is one of the best guards in America and is showing it with 29.7 points per game to go with 5 assists per game. Admittedly, the Gophers have not played anyone good. While Carr is balling, Gabe Kalscheur and Both Gach need to play better. If they do, Minnesota is a legitimate tournament team.

Result: Carr plays like the best player on the court and carries Minnesota again. While the Eagles are competitive, they just do not seem to win games. Minnesota can also use film from that blowout Boston College just suffered to Florida.

North Carolina Tar Heels at Iowa Hawkeyes

North Carolina has definitely struggled to start the season. They played in the Maui Invitational and did not look good, ultimately losing to Texas in the final. The Tar Heels are not shooting well at all which allows their bigs to get doubled and the offense stalls. Caleb Love seems to be finding his own and the tempo is picking up so maybe the tide will change.

Iowa has not played a soul. Luka Garza has outscored Iowa’s opponents in the first half of their last two games. Make no mistake, they are crazy talented and very experienced. Joe Wieskamp has been solid in stretches, but he can do more if asked. It is worth noting, Jordan Bohannon does not look like himself yet. If they want to make a deep run, he becomes a very important player.

Result: North Carolina sneaks this one out in an upset. The forwards for North Carolina are very athletic and will contain Garza. On the other hand, Garza can’t guard Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot. North Carolina wins the most surprising game of the ACC Big Ten Challenge.

Ohio State Buckeyes at Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The Buckeyes have looked really solid thus far. They sit at 3-0 and have been led by Cal transfer Justice Sueing. Of course, Kyle Young and CJ Walker have been excellent, and adding to everything Sueing brings. All of this has happened without the talent of Seth Towns who may be joining the team soon. Buckeyes fans have a lot of reason to be excited.

Notre Dame is another team that has struggled in recent years. It does not appear that this is the year it turns around. They are 1-1 with that loss coming at Michigan State in a game that never seemed in doubt. Prentiss Hubb was outstanding, but it does not seem that Notre Dame has much of a punch behind him.

Result: Ohio State wins this relatively easily. The Buckeyes are more talented and deeper. The Fighting Irish keep it within earshot but they just do not have enough to win this game.

Penn State Nittany Lions at Virginia Tech Hokies

The Nittany Lions are 2-0 after a buzzer-beating win over VCU. They have gotten a ton out of Seth Lundy who was projected to be the next Lamar Stevens and is living up to that hype. Jamari Wheeler also has impressed, but ultimately this is a thin roster. This is more of a rebuilding year for Penn State than anything.

The Hokies have been one of the most impressive teams in the nation so far. Most of that is because they knocked off Villanova in overtime and looked good doing so. Virginia Tech is ranked 16th in the country at 4-0. Mike Young appears to have sped up the rebuilding timeline quite a bit. Keve Aluma has been unbelievable and the Hokies have a plethora of guards to help Aluma out.

Result: Virginia Tech wins this one by double digits. Penn State always plays hard but the Hokies are too deep and too talented. Aluma has another big game and the Hokies defense stifles Lundy.

Syracuse Orange at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Syracuse has struggled out of the gate but they are still undefeated. Buddy Boeheim is far and away the best player for the Orange and will need to play like it in this one. The biggest question for Syracuse is who is the second scorer. At this point, it seems to be Quincy Guerrier, but he is limited in range. The Orange have some serious growing to do.

Rutgers returns everyone of note from a surprise team last season that would have been tournament bound. They are led by two outstanding guards in Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. As with all Rutgers teams, they are as tough as nails and fight all game. So far, they have played well with all the expectations on them and handled their business. They have to shoot it better from three though.

Result: Rutgers survives the zone and wins this one. Baker and Harper are just too good and Syracuse will really struggle to score. This one can get out of hand quickly if Syracuse does not shoot it well.

Illinois Fighting Illini at Duke Blue Devils

Illinois has been mostly impressive this season. They had a rough game against Ohio but they ultimately survived. Other than that, they suffered a tough loss to a really deep Baylor team and then blew out two other bad teams. Ayo Dosunmu, Adam Miller, Kofi Cockburn, and the crew have been outstanding. Dosunmu looks every bit as good as that preseason All-American nod.

Duke has struggled mightily to start the year. They sit at 2-1 but have played two really bad games. They struggled to put away Coppin State and then looked really bad for 30 minutes against Michigan State. The Blue Devils have gotten absolutely nothing from their guard play and the veterans have been bad. Wendell Moore needs to improve mightily for Duke to come close to their aspirations. Jalen Johnson is every bit as good as advertised.

Result: Illinois dominates the guard matchup and wins this one. It will be a high scoring, up-tempo game, but Illinois just has too much talent and experience. This should be one of the most exciting ACC Big Ten Challenge games.

Wednesday, December 9th

Maryland Terrapins at Clemson Tigers

The Terrapins have looked much better than expected this year. They have gotten huge games from Eric Ayala and Hakim Hart. If that continues and Aaron Wiggins can find his stride, they can push for a tournament berth. The question is, how will they look once they play a good opponent. This will force them to answer who the go-to guy is.

Clemson is one of the more experienced teams in the ACC. They are led by All-ACC forward, Aamir Simms, who seems to dominate every game. The question is what do they have after Simms. In order to really compete in the ACC, Clyde Trapp will need to take a big leap. So far, Clemson has dominated on the defensive end, allowing a measly 50 points per game.

Result: Clemson wins a low-scoring, hard-fought game. Maryland will struggle to manufacture offense but this game will be close and tightly contested the whole way. Simms wins it late for Clemson.

Louisville Cardinals at Wisconsin Badgers

Louisville has looked phenomenal to start the year. They beat a good Seton Hall team and blitzed a pesky Western Kentucky team leading them to 4-0. Carlik Jones has started very strong for the Cardinals and freshmen big men, Jaelyn Withers and Dre Davis have too. When Louisville gets healthy, they are going to be very tough.

Wisconsin has a ton of experience and talent. Micah Potter might not get the praise but he is the most important player for the Badgers. Their guards are great with Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice leading the way. Wisconsin plays a really tough and competitive brand of basketball. This will undoubtedly be their biggest test of the season though.

Result: Wisconsin barely survives the Cardinals. The Badgers are definitely the better team but Louisville has everything they need to pull the upset. Louisville typically is the team to throw a wrench in the equation of this challenge and they may do it again. Wisconsin gets the edge because of their defense in this one. I expect this game to be the closest contest of the ACC Big Ten Challenge games.

North Carolina State Wolfpack at Michigan Wolverines

The Wolfpack can score in bunches. They are averaging 90 points per game and are extremely deep. Devon Daniels has been great so far and a different player has stepped up nightly to help North Carolina State. Jericole Hellems also deserves plenty of praise. They are much better than most people expected.

Michigan is tough to figure out. They started the year barely surviving Bowling Green and Oakland, then hammered Ball State. Juwan Howard had them playing great to start last year and then sputtered really badly towards the end. Isaiah Livers is a great player, but Howard needs to use a lot more of Chaundee Brown and Hunter Dickinson. The more you see of those two, the more games Michigan wins.

Result: Michigan’s defense will contain the Wolfpack. The Wolverines also score enough to pull away late. This is going to be a game player in the 80s and it will be close for the majority of the game. This is the most underrated game of the ACC Big Ten Challenge.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Nebraska Cornhuskers

The Yellow Jackets have looked horrendous to start the year. They are 0-2 with losses to Mercer and Georgia State. Additionally, they play Kentucky before this game takes place. There is no reason to be struggling this much with great guards like Michael Devoe and Jose Alvarado. They need to get these struggles figured out quickly and most of them are on the defensive end.

Nebraska is playing well in year two under Fred Hoiberg. They only have one loss which was by three to Nevada. The offense seems to be clicking and they have some more talent for Hoiberg. Teddy Allen and Trey McGowens make the offense very formidable.

Result: Georgia Tech rights the ship and finally sneaks one out. Nebraska is tough but the Yellow Jackets just can’t start 0-4. Devoe has a monster game and saves Josh Pastner for now.

Michigan State Spartans at Virginia Cavaliers

The Spartans look great to start the season. They really handled Duke at Cameron Indoor and are a dominant defensive team. There still are significant offensive questions but they have a ton of depth and should get a solid effort from a different player every night. As of now, Aaron Henry and Rocket Watts are the guys that carry the load.

Virginia has looked awful to start the year. They only have one loss but the offense is really bad and they lack any sort of go-to guy. Sam Hauser was supposed to be that, however, it has not happened yet. Kihei Clark has also really struggled. It may be time to change the guard and let Reece Beekman take the keys.

Result: Michigan State wins a game to 50. Both teams will really struggle to score it but the Spartans are better overall. Michigan State knocks off the third ACC team on their schedule in the first two weeks. This will easily be the lowest scoring ACC Big Ten Challenge game.

Indiana Hoosiers at Florida State Seminoles

Indiana has been a rollercoaster so far. They looked great early, then played a program-worst game against Texas at the Maui Invitational. They followed that up by hammering a good Stanford team. Trayce Jackson-Davis is an All-American and playing like so. Race Thompson also has stepped up big time. When will the guards follow suit? That is when Indiana makes the next leap.

Florida State has not played much, standing at 1-0, but they looked great in that one game. MJ Walker and Scottie Barnes may be the best duo in the ACC. The depth and length of the Seminoles cause problems for anyone and they will have plenty of success this year. If Florida State can score it as they did in their first game, watch out.

Result: The Seminoles roll. Florida State has too much and is too good. Leonard Hamilton will have something up his sleeve for Jackson-Davis and Walker and Barnes have a field day.

Pittsburgh Panthers at Northwestern Wildcats

Pittsburgh is 2-1 after beating Northern Illinois and Drexel but losing to St. Francis (PA). They are very talented with Xavier Johnson, Audiese Toney, and Justin Champagnie leading the way. The wins just have not come for whatever reason. The panthers are really struggling defensively giving up nearly 80 points per game and that will never result in wins.

Northwestern is trying to rebound from one of the worst years of the Chris Collins era. They sit at 2-0 but have played some really bad teams. Regardless, they can flat out shoot it and put up points in a hurry. The question is what happens when they play a team with talent.

Result: Flip a coin. I am going with Pittsburgh because of Xavier Johnson. To win, the Panthers will have to score a lot, but they have the talent to do so. Johnson plays well and Champagnie gets hot to win it.

Conclusion

The Big Ten wins again 8-6. They seem to be the better conference this year, at least at the top, as Duke, Virginia, and North Carolina have all struggled to start the season. Regardless, this challenge always provides us with great and competitive games and is must-see television.

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