Just when you guys thought we were done covering basketball for a bit, it's about that time for the Big Ten - ACC Challenge games to be announced. With that said, what kind of bloggers would we be if we didn't attempt to predict the matchups before hand? Candy and I talked through the matchups and think we've come to an agreement! First, a quick run down of factors we took into consideration:
- Last season's final standings. This one seems obvious, but the challenge generally tries to pair teams together loosely based off of how they finished in the prior season. We also took some stretches with teams that are predicted to have much better seasons next year, which also would come into consideration. ESPN is in it for the money after all.
- Did the teams face off last year? While this isn't a complete disqualifier, we didn't think that it was in the best interest to face teams off year after year. For example, UNC/MSU facing off again would mean twice in three years and people get tired of that. Maybe.
- Are teams due a home game or away game? The committee will generally alternate teams year after year as best they can although that is not always entirely possible depending on what teams fall where.
- Keeping the home/away balance equal between conferences. This seems fairly obvious, but no need for either conference's teams to complain about unbalanced scheduling.
- If all else fails, and that starts happening towards the bottom of the standings, we used our own judgment especially with which ACC team to leave out since they have one more team than the Big Ten.
With the ground rules and assumptions out of the way, here are the final regular season standings from last season with an A or H next to each teams name to show whether they are due a home or away game in the challenge:
|1||Wisconsin (A)||Virginia (H)|
|2||Maryland (A)||Duke (H)|
|3||MSU (H)||Notre Dame (A)|
|4||Iowa (H)||Louisville (A)|
|5||Purdue (A)||UNC (A)|
|6||OSU (H)||Miami (A)|
|7||Indiana (A)||NC State (H)|
|8||Illinois (H)||Syracuse (H)|
|9||Michigan (H)||Pittsburgh (H)|
|10||Minnesota (H)||Clemson (A)|
|11||Northwestern (A)||FSU (A)|
|12||Nebraska (H)||Wake Forest (A)|
|13||Penn State (A)||Boston College (H)|
|14||Rutgers (H)||Georgia Tech (H)|
|15||Virginia Tech (H)|
So, let's get to predicting! We'll go top to bottom in the standings for order.
Game 1: Wisconsin @ Virginia. Again, this one is obvious since both teams finished first in their respective conference, but each team is also expected to have a bit of a dropoff in production so it will be a good litmus test for both teams.
Game 2: Maryland @ UNC. I really wanted to put Duke here as I'm sure most of you would have guessed, but I don't see Coach K and the ACC agreeing to that matchup given K's comments after Maryland left. This matchup also gives ESPN a matchup between two preseason Top 5 teams, so that will be very hard to pass up. This doesn't follow the home/away pairings, but this is an instance where we thought they would deviate to pit two top tier teams against each other for the TV ratings.
Game 3: Indiana @ Duke. This is another one that slightly deviates, but this also gives a bigger game in the challenge that will pit two preseason Top 10 teams against each other with Duke reloading after last season and Indiana returning most of its team while adding a five star center to bolster its interior play. It conveniently follows the home/away pairings, so that helped.
Game 4: Louisville @ MSU. This finally deviates some from pairing MSU with the Tobacco Road schools while conveniently giving ESPN a stellar matchup between two of the top coaches in the NCAA. The home/away pairing also works while putting last season's #4 in the ACC against the Big Ten's #3, so they're fairly close in the standings.
Game 5: Notre Dame at OSU. We skipped over Purdue here in favor of OSU since Purdue plays Notre Dame fairly regularly in the Crossroads Classic and both Notre Dame and Purdue are due away games. This is their off year so it could happen, but we sort of used our own judgment here that the conferences wouldn't put teams against each other that already have regularly scheduled meetings if they could avoid it.
Game 6: Miami @ Iowa. We've again skipped Purdue here due to the away game being due to Miami and Purdue, giving Iowa what would appear to be an easier matchup with Miami. Miami has fallen off the last few years, but this would give Iowa a solid chance at a decent win nonetheless.
Game 7: Purdue @ Pitt. The fall for Purdue ends! Pitt isn't the strength it once was in the former Big East, but they'll give Purdue a tough early season test on the road early on in the season. This also finally works for the home/away pairings, so there we go.
Game 8: NC State @ Michigan. This deviates from the home/away pairings, but we did that with MD/UNC and I don't think all three triangle schools get a home game in the Challenge. NC State/Michigan are two older programs that are in a bit of a slump, but both have the talent to rise up into the upper middle tier of their conferences next year, so this would be fun to see.
Game 9: Illinois @ Syracuse. Ok, I sort of purposely left Illinois down here because I wanted the game for alllll the Orange. They matchup in the standings and paired up perfectly for the home/away. Illinois is expected to make a bigger jump next year, so they could pull the "upset" over Syracuse at home.
Game 10: FSU @ Minnesota. This is where things start getting harder to matchup. FSU is in the same boat with Illinois as a rising team, and that matchup could totally happen, but in this case Illinois is already taken so FSU matches up with Minnesota for the home/away working and being fairly close in rankings.
Game 11: Wake Forest @ Nebraska. Honestly, we started going straight home/away here since it started getting weird towards the end with the same teams being there from the year prior. From this point on we matched up solely on home/away working out the best since all the teams are about on equal terms.
Game 12: Northwestern @ Boston College. Home/away worked and we got the private school vs. private school matchup. Yay for something else other than home/away? Yeah..
Game 13: Virginia Tech at Rutgers. Again, home/away worked and Virginia Tech can't/shouldn't be left out since they were last year.
Game 14*: PSU at Clemson or Georgia Tech. This matchup is Georgia Tech if home/away is more important to the conferences when selecting, or Clemson if rankings are more important. Either way, whichever team from the ACC is left out of this one is the team left out of the Challenge all together.
There we are! The committee who decides the matchups could make things interesting by changing things up with MD/Duke to make it spicey or make it very eh with a third Wisconsin/Duke matchup in a year. So who do you want your team to face in the Challenge?