Well well well. The B1G tarted the challenge off in good fashion, 2-0 last night with Rutgers taking down Clemson and Nebraska taking down FSU with Karl Hess as teh referee nonetheless. I'm not sure what to make of Rutgers as they try to figure out if they want to compete at the D1 level or not even score 10 in a half, so I guess back to waiting. In the mean time, I'll take your win in the challenge and go with it.
Tonights games are as follows:
Pittsburgh at Indiana || 7:00pm EST || ESPN2/WatchESPN
Indiana vs. Pitt is going to go one of two ways: either a defensive struggle, which probably favors the Panthers, or a 40 minute highlight reel, in which case Indiana is favored if they hit shots. Being able to keep Pitt off the offensive boards is going to be a fairly important task for IU, as anything more than a close battle there is not good given the team's height and occasional defensive struggles.
The key for Indiana is getting James Blackmon Jr. going early, because when he's on, the rest of the team seems to be on as well. Even if they don't get going early, JBJ is going to be important from the start. With luck, Indiana will get a few shooters firing successfully early and often, and beat Pitt by double digits.
-Candystripes for Breakfast
Minnesota at Wake Forest || 7:00pm EST || ESPNU/WatchESPN
There is a reason this game is on ESPNU, and that reason is that the ACC wants to hide the travesty that is Wake Forest. Wake Forest this year has been blown out by 30 against Arkansas, lost by 4 to Iona, and lost by 7 to Delaware State. Minnesota is their first actual opponent of the season, and it should be ugly for Wake. I would expect Minnesota to win this one in very convincing fashion, and anything short of that should really make us re-think the Minnesota predictions for the year.
Syracuse at Michigan || 7:30pm EST || ESPN/WatchESPN
One of the truly "jump ball" games in the B1G ACC Challenge is going to be fascinating, because I love watching the patience of Beilein-coached teams against the slowly suffocating zone of Syracuse.
Some certainties for this game -
- Michigan is going to shoot a lot of 3’s against an all-game zone defense…and that’s ok, because that’s kind of usually the Wolverine offensive plan. If they make 50% of their three point shots, game over.
Rakeem Christmas is going to create major matchup problems. Can Ricky Doyle and Mark Donnal and Max Bielfeldt slow Christmas?
- This will be a slow-paced basketball game, just like the 2013 Final Four matchup, and just like Beilein likes it.
Where did we think Michigan hoops would be at this time? This is an extremely young team, but all of Beilein’s teams have been young of late, because the stars keep developing fantastically quick and leaving for the NBA. The back-and-forth game versus Villanova showed a talented defensive squad with some real work to do offensively against top-level teams. I would say this team is a little ahead of where we imagined them to be.
Illinois at Miami (FL) || 9:00pm EST || ESPN2/WatchESPN
In a big test for Illinois, they travel to South Florida to take on Miami in what will almost assuredly be an empty arena. Miami is trying to be the Iowa State of sorts, relying on transfer talent to keep them at the pace they were on a few years back. Transfer Angel Rodriguez is second on the team in scoring, second in rebounds, and first in assists, proving how clutch he can be in Miami's upset of then #8 Florida by scoring 24 points to go along with a few rebounds, assists, and steals, but none bigger than his 3 consecutive three's to bury Florida for good with a few minutes go.
NC State at Purdue || 9:00pm EST || ESPNU/WatchESPN
The Boilermakers are coming off a big overtime win over BYU in which AJ Hammons hit a game winner with 2 seconds to go. After dispatching some very poor teams in the first few games, Purdue played three games in three days against decent competition. Kansas State built up a huge lead in the first half with the help of Purdue's terrible play and many turnovers. Purdue came back a little in the second half, but the Wildcats held on. Purdue beat Mizzou handily in Tuesday's game, and then beat BYU in a tough OT game on Wednesday.
Purdue has been looking better this year than last, but the season is still in its early stages. The addition of 7'2" Isaac Haas has been a lot of help. Hammons is prone to foul trouble, so it is nice to have another big body to put in. The Boilers have a lot of depth at the guard and small forward spots, with Rapheal Davis and Vince Edwards being early season standouts. It will be interesting to see if Purdue can build off of the momentum from their good showing in Maui; NC State should provide a good challenge, which is why they named this series of games the B1G/ACC Challenge.
Ohio State at Louisville || 9:30pm EST || ESPN/WatchESPN
In the second marquee matchup of the night, #16 OSU travels south to take on #6 Louisville in what will most likely be a high octane game. This is literally the game of strength vs. weakness for both teams. Louisville excels in the post with Montrezl Harrell and Chinanu Onuaku dominating the paint while OSU excels with guard play by letting Shannon Scott pass it endlessly to D'Angelo Russell to rain points on everyone. This could be a very enticing game for the B1G if OSU can keep Louisville in transition defense and now allow Onuaku and Harrell to get themselves established in the paint for defense.