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Big Ten-ACC Challenge Preview and Open Thread

Can the Big Ten defend its title?

NCAA Basketball: Texas-Pan American at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports


Minnesota (6-0) at Florida State (5-1)

6pm || ESPNU || FSU -9.5

Fresh off a comfortable win over Illinois in New York, the Seminoles (KP 38) play host to the Gophers in an intriguing matchup of teams bouncing back well in 2016. Florida State likes to get out and run, and they’re extremely efficient scoring the basketball (KP 16).

Most of that is due to 6’7” guard (!!!) Dwayne Bacon, whose 18 points per game and nearly 50% clip from deep have led the Seminoles to their 5 victories. Were his length not enough, there’s also 6’10” forward Jonathan Isaac, a freshman who’s averaging 15 ppg and shooting 50% from downtown himself.

This is length Minnesota hasn’t seen on the season: Florida State only has one player on the roster who’s under 6’4”, and two centers over 7’ see time for the Seminoles. Amir Coffey and Reggie Lynch will have their hands full, but the balanced Minnesota attack could make this one a game if they can come out shooting hot. Take the over, whatever it is.

Pick: Florida State to cover.

Wake Forest (5-1) at Northwestern (4-2)

8pm || ESPNU || NU -4.5

Continuing the “Not The Year” tour, the Wildcats (KP 50) play host to a Demon Deacons squad (KP 62) that can score the basketball in bunches. The length of Greek freshman forward Konstantinos Mitoglou (6’10”) will trouble whichever Wildcat draws that assignment, as Mitoglou averages 10 points and 7 boards per game, though he’s not terriblly efficient shooting.

The Deac to really watch out for if you’re Northwestern is 6’10” forward John Collins, who is close to a double-double a game (18.8 ppg and 8.5 rpg) and is a force on the offensive glass. The ‘Cats rotation of Dererk Pardon, Gavin Skelly, and Barret Benson will have their hands full.

Pardon (7.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg) has been tough inside, with nearly 3 blocks per game, but it’s Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey doing the heavy lifting offensively for the ‘Cats, pouring in 17.7 and 15.5 respectively, while each averaging over 5 boards. Bryant McIntosh needs to get back on track—he’s shooting under 35% from the field and just barely over 20% from deep, but Chris Collins loves to run his offense through the junior point guard. Northwestern’s cast of many is plucky on the court and has woken up offensively—keeping the game at their pace (KP 316, vs Wake’s 68) could allow them to ease by the Deacs at Welsh-Ryan.

Pick: Northwestern to cover oh god what have i done


Pitt (5-1) at Maryland (7-0)

6pm || ESPN2

A matchup of Kenpom’s number 55 and 56 teams should make for some entertaining basketball in the early slot on Tuesday night. The Panthers are a better team on offense than Maryland, but the Terps bring a better defense to the table.

Pitt’s got a lengthy set of wings to trouble the Terrapins, as F Michael Young (6’9”, 23.3 ppg), F Jamel Artis (6’7”, 19.3 ppg), and G Cameron Johnson (6’8”, 11.2 ppg) can get to the rim and finish—all are shooting at least 46% from the field, and Johnson is 16/29 from three on the year. Look out for freshman Sheldon Jeter on the glass, too.

Kevin Stallings’ club’s first and last job, as always, is to contain Melo Trimble and keep him from penetrating into the lane. The senior guard is just 34% from deep and still takes up a hefty portion of the Terps’ offense. More pleasing for the Terrapins has been the development of Kevin Huerter, whose double-double helped Maryland escape Richmond on Friday.

Pick: Pitt

Georgia Tech (4-1) at Penn State (4-3)

6pm || ESPNU

Just hold your nose and we’ll make it through this just fine, I promise. The Yellow Jackets (KP 106) play stout defense, but that’s about all they do moderately well. Penn State (KP 102), meanwhile, is quietly on a two-game winning streak, with victories over Colgate and George Washington.

Josh Pastner’s club relies inside on junior C Ben Lammers, who is averaging a double-double (17.6 ppg, 10.8 rpg) and swats 5.6 shots per game. That’s impressive. On the outside the Jackets get 19 a game from G Josh Okogie, who takes the majority of Georgia Tech’s shots but isn’t particularly efficient (47.8% FG%, 27.3% 3pt%). Lammers and Quinton Stephens clog up the middle and have the height to give Penn State a tough time.

I couldn’t have told you a thing about Penn State other than that they lost to Albany, but the Nittany Lions have found a nice little balanced attack, with four players averaging double-digits. They’re still led by Shep Garner’s 14.3 ppg, but freshman G Tony Carr has been a nice surprise, averaging 14.3 points as well. Freshman forward Mike Watkins will have his hands full underneath, but this one comes down to Pat Chambers’ squad getting out and imposing its pace on the Yellow Jackets. If they can get a little more efficient shooting the basketball (41.8% from the field and just 35% from deep), they’ll pick up the home win.

Pick: Georgia Tech

#22 Syracuse (4-1) at #17 wisconsin (5-2)

6:30pm || ESPN

Well, enjoy watching the murder of offensive basketball unfolding before your very eyes, because it’s grabby vs. grabby in madison!

The Orange (KP 9) come in doing what they always do, playing lock-down defense in the Boeheim Zone (AdjD #6) and grinding the game to a halt. Andrew White III (15.8 ppg) does the most scoring for the ever-deep Orange, who run nine players over 13 minutes a game and share the ball (19 apg). Look for sophomore forward Tyler Lydon and senior forward Tyler Roberson to fly in from the wings and create problems for the badgers.

They face a different-looking wisconsin team, which hasn’t shot the ball nearly as efficiently as in years past—they’re just 31.6% from deep and have seemingly abandoned the perpetual motion aspect of the Bo Ryan swing offense. Bronson Koenig in particular has been relied on for the badgers, but he’s shooting just 42% from the field and 25% from deep—that’s not pretty. Ethan Happ is still close to a double-double a game (11.9 and 9.4), and he’ll need to impose his will inside that Syracuse zone to free up outside shooters.

Pick: wisconsin, 45-42

North Carolina State (5-1) at Illinois (4-3)

8pm || ESPNU

The Wolfpack (KP 53) enter the Challenge quietly contending for a bubble spot in the NCAA Tournament. They’ve only lost to Creighton so far on the year and have a soft non-conference that could put them at 12-1 going into ACC play.

Dennis Smith Jr. leads the Pack, having not been held under 20 points in two weeks and coming off a 13/22, 30-point, 7-assist, and 6-rebound game against Loyola (CHI). The freshman is joined by guards Torin Dorn and Terry Henderson, both of whom average 17.3 ppg and are threats to check it from downtown. Abdul-Malik Abu anchors the Wolfpack interior, though Mike Thorne Jr. could cause problems for the 6’8” junior.

The Illini (KP 92)...well, they’re giving it their best. Malcolm Hill remains Malcolm Hill (18.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg), and Leron Black has made the most of his return to action, netting a double-double in the loss to Florida State. Jim Groce’s club doesn’t do anything particularly well and has been hampered by a proclivity for turnovers, but Illinois still shoots the three-ball well enough that they can play themselves into this one.

Pick: North Carolina State

Iowa (3-3) at Notre Dame (6-0)

8pm || ESPN2

The Fighting Irish (KP 29) can score the basketball with aplomb, and Mike Brey’s club continues to get outstanding play from Bonzie Colson (17.2 ppg, 9.7 rpg) and gritty, lunch-pail, gym-rat, coach’s-kid performances from guards Steve Vasturia and Matt Farrell.

What’s most striking about the Irish is just how efficient they are with the basketball—they only turn it over 8 times a game and have assisted 111 of their 180 made shots (61.7%). That’s rather good. Matt Farrell is the main culprit there, dropping over 50 cents per contest.

As for the Frantic Frans, well, they’re gonna run and chuck and be really exciting, if nothing else. Losses to #7 Virginia and Memphis in the Emerald Coast Classic shouldn’t deter you from tuning in to a Hawkeyes game, because Peter Jok (25.3 ppg) and Tyler Cook (13.7 ppg) put up points and shoot the lights out of the damn gym. The problem is that no one else has materialized for the Hawkeyes, who run a strong 9-man rotation but get very little production anywhere else. Dom Uhl in particular (6.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg) has disappointed me—I thought the junior from Frankfurt would be able to do a little more inside on the year.

It takes a disciplined performance (for 40 minutes, Northwestern.) to beat the Irish, and I don’t know if Iowa is quite there yet. This game will pit athletes against athletes, though, and is probably worth a glance.

Pick: Notre Dame

Michigan State (4-3) at #5 Duke (6-1)

8:30pm || ESPN

Tom Izzo can’t even apologize to his club for this scheduling nightmare. The Blue Devils (KP #1) dropped a thrilled to Kansas but have been unstoppable everywhere else, and their offense brings a strong five-man rotation of players averaging double-digits per game.

There’s Ted Cruz Jr Grayson Allen, sure, but he’s not shooting the ball particularly well despite averaging 16 points a game (38.1% FG, 30.6% 3pt). Instead it’s 6’6” sophomore guard Luke Kennard who does the most damage (17.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg) for the Blue Devils, while Amile Jefferson patrols the interior.

If there’s hope for the Spartans, it’s that Duke runs a thin rotation—just six players have played in all seven of Duke’s games. Unfortunately, since this is at Cameron Indoor, there’s no hope any of them will get into foul trouble. And so it’s on Miles Bridges once again to drag Michigan State kicking and screaming into this one. The Flint freshman’s 17.4 and 8.7 per game have paced the Spartans so far, but the lack of size inside and whatever the hell that ending to the Wichita State game was belies a jittery State club. Eron Harris has rounded into some nice form, but scoring’s going to have to come from a third or fourth option if Michigan State is going to pull this off.

Pick: Duke


We’ll get Wednesday previews to you soon!

Virginia Tech (5-1) at Michigan (5-1)

6:15pm || ESPN2

#15 Purdue (5-1) at #14 Louisville (5-1)

6:15pm || ESPN

Rutgers (6-0!) at Miami (4-2)

6:15pm || ESPNU

Nebraska (4-2) at Clemson (3-2)

8:15pm || ESPNU

#3 North Carolina (7-0) at #13 Indiana (4-1)

8:15pm || ESPN

Ohio State (6-0) at #6 Virginia (6-0)

8:15pm || ESPN2

As always, here’s your open thread for the next three days of Big Ten shootyhoops! Usual rules apply; let’s see if we can salvage a conference tie here. Thanks for making OTE your home for Big Ten hoops coverage!

—MNW and the OTE Squeakyfouls Staff