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Big Ten/ACC Challenge: Wednesday Previews, Open Thread

It’s another 4-4 tie heading into the last day of inter-conference challenge play. Can the Big Ten cement its place as the best of the best in college hoops?

Virginia v Maryland
Who would’ve thought in 2002 that 16 years later, we’d have to pretend to care about a matchup between these two teams?
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Things just got...interesting? More interesting?

We plow ahead into Day 3 of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, and the picture is, cloyingly, clear as mud. Michigan State took a loss on the road to an inspired Louisville team playing good ball for Chris Mack, but Penn State took down a ranked Virginia Tech club at home. So we’ll call it a mixed bag at 4-4?

Earlier this week I wrote that this was the chance for the Big Ten to flip the college basketball narrative before it heads into the 20-game slog that is the conference basketball slate. With results largely failing to overwhelm, the conference gets one more chance to cement itself atop the college basketball landscape, as Big Ten teams take on three ranked opponents again tonight, with home-court advantage in two of those matchups.

Is it too late for the conference, now that a Brand Name like Sparty has crashed and burned on the road? Probably not, and perhaps there isn’t as big a window as I think there is in tonight’s games—unless, say, the Big Ten swept all three ranked opponents. But it’s been a compelling series so far, and tonight shouldn’t disappoint.


Nebraska Cornhuskers 68, Clemson Tigers 66

Boston College Eagles 68, Minnesota Golden Gophers 56


Penn State Nittany Lions 63, [13] Virginia Tech Hokies 62

The Nittany Lions, looking sharp in pink-on-black uniforms (a nod to the school’s original colors from 1887-1890ish), stifled the Hokies’ offense and pulled off a slight shock upset, bolstered by the return of Mike Watkins to the lineup.

An active Penn State defense forced 15 turnovers, including 6 by standout guard Justin Robinson, and while they struggled to run the Hokies off the three-point line, they controlled the glass, winning the total rebounding battle and nabbing a 40% oreb rate (which is good good good). Lamar Stevens was particularly active on the offensive end, grabbing 5 offensive boards to underpin his 14 points, and while Josh Reaves turned the ball over 6 times, Myreon Jones was ridiculously good off the bench in relief, with 18 points on 4/8 shooting from deep.

While Penn State missed a series of free throws late—including the front end of a 1-and-1 by Myles Dread—that could have salted the game away, their lockdown defense allowed just two fast-break points and frustrated a Hokie attack that only used 7 players. The Lions, with the return of Watkins, might have the depth and grit to really frustrate teams in the Big Ten—it’ll be their shooting that determines how far they’ll go.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish 76, Illinois Fighting Illini 74

Illinois trailed by 7 with just over a minute to go, but closed the gap to the eventual two-point loss. Unfortunately, this was...well, expected:

Thumpasaurus: That’s how far down the game winner was:

But again; ‘sall good. Predictable. Maybe not even the best fake rally of the year (Gonzaga was a way better team). I’m numb to fake rallies, especially with Underwood.

Here’s how predictable the ending was. With the team looking limp and lifeless with 8 minutes to go, TCR tweeted this:

Louisville Cardinals 82, [9] Michigan State Spartans 78 (OT)

Hey look! Teddy Valentine was back on the sidelines for an Big Ten game! (But not because he is reffing Big Ten games—he is not.) You’ll be stunned to learn he inserted himself into the game at the stupidest times. Better yet, though, he brought out the best in Dan Dakich:

Andrew Kraszewski: Last night was, in a nutshell, the worst MSU is capable of.

They turned it over 11 times in the first half, Cassius Winston and especially Josh Langford had disastrous shooting nights, and soooo many bunnies were missed by everyone on the roster. So it goes.

[22] Wisconsin Badgers 79, NC State Wolfpack 75

beezer07: In a very...odd game, Wisconsin pulled out a come-from-behind win at home against NC State. Down 12 at one point in the second half, shortly after the OTE Twitter sent some snarky-ass garbage about a 9-point lead putting the game out of reach, Wisconsin began a very slow comeback.

Unlike what you might expect as the reason for the slow comeback, Wisconsin was pouring it in for a while in the second half. Problem was, NC State answered every single huge Wisconsin possession with one or two of their own. The tide finally turned when Brad Davison drew his 3rd and 4th charges, and Happ made a few free throws, and Wisconsin took the lead and held on, despite NC State’s really, really good offensive performance.

Ethan Happ made it 7/7 on the season by recording yet another double double, this time 19 points (despite a bad “dumping it in from two feet from the hoop” shooting night) and 11 rebounds, although 11 turnovers in the last two games for him is not great. D’Mitrik Trice shot 4/5 from 3, scoring 18 points, and NC State repeatedly left Aleem Ford wide open from 3, enabling the pretty tall guy to go 4/7 from 3.

All in all, a pretty good win against a team that looks like they’ll be in the top...4? 5? in the ACC this year.

MNWildcat: What I’m really intrigued about from that game, Beez, is how NC State dragged wisconsin out of their comfort zone with the press, but somehow wisconsin’s water found its level. By my count, wisconsin had 67 possessions (avg. 65.1/gm) and NC State had about 69 (nice, but avg 73.5/gm)...but it sure didn’t feel like that in the first half, did it? I wish I would’ve checked halftime, because I’d bet they were on pace for a lot more.

Either way, any game in which you shoot 52% from deep (11/24!) ain’t too bad, is it?

Update: I think I count 36 or 37 possessions in the first half. So yeah.

beezer: Yeah the first half was tough for Wisconsin. Turned it over 7? 8? times, and NC State’s press really bothered Wisconsin when trying to get set on offense. I only remember a couple steals, but Wisconsin clearly wants to get down, get set, and run their pick and roll, and a press made that tough.

For years people have said how important it is to get Wisconsin out of their comfort zone, but Wisconsin doesn’t really have a problem playing faster if necessary. They just prefer to play slow. It’s one reason they’re often a trendy upset pick in the NCAAT, despite only getting upset in the Bo years like twice in the R64 or R32. Everyone looks at a team that wants to run up and down and assumes white-ass Wisconsin can’t run, or something?

[14] Iowa Hawkeyes 69, Pittsburgh Panthers 68

Stewmonkey13: The Iowa/Pitt game was a very dumb game. In the first half Iowa’s defense was non existent, and Pitt took advantage, shooting an absurd 69% effective field goal percentage. Meanwhile, Iowa feasted at the line.

In the second half, the defensive effort stepped up, and the game got super ugly; both teams scored more than 40 in the first half, while also failing breach 30 points in the latter half. The refs were incredible inconsistent, and seemed to blow whistles without even knowing why. Consequently, things got a bit chippy.

Tyler Cook had a completely forgettable game, while Nicholas Baer was the catalyst for the comeback and sealing the win.

beezer: Sounds like Friday’s game should be a grind!

[3] Duke Blue Devils 90, Indiana Hoosiers 69

The less said about this game, the better. Its most redeeming quality was that the first 8 minutes or so were not broadcast on ESPN because Michigan State and Louisville were tarting their was to a bad, bad finish.

Candystripes for Breakfast (at 10:10 CT): Well, looks like Indiana is well on the way to getting blown out. Glad I made no effort whatsoever to try and watch this.

beez: There are 17! articles or video clips about Duke on the NCAAM home page before you get to a single article or clip about the Wisconsin-NC State game. Fucking ESPN.


Syracuse Orange at [16] Ohio State Buckeyes

SU: 3-2, KP 20 | OSU: 6-0, KP 26
6:15pm | ESPN2 | OSU -5 | O/U 134.5

James Snyder: Ohio State is quietly 6-0 this season, with the Cincinnati win looking better and better.

Syracuse will be a huge test for the Buckeyes, because of that pesky zone defense. Ohio State’s offense has yet to gel this season, but the Buckeyes have been fantastic on defense, holding every team to 63 or less.

If Ohio State figures out the zone defense early, they could easily move to 7-0. If they don’t, expect a low scoring game that could potentially not reach 120 combined points. I am also going to be watching the attendance for this game...


Bake a cake with this game.

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25 votes total Vote Now

Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Miami-Florida Hurricanes

RU: 4-1, KP 114 | Mia: 5-1, KP 21
6:15pm | ESPNU | Mia -11.5 | O/U 138.5

...nah. The Knights haven’t left New Jersey before tonight and have hardly looked impressive in their wins over Eastern Michigan—which did feature a 4-point first half defensive effort! Way to go!—and Boston.

Maybe Rutgers’ sizeable front line—led by the height of Eugene Omoruyi (15.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg), can frustrate the Canes, but Miami has height of its own in senior C Ebuka Izundu. Guard Chris Lykes (19.3 ppg, 3.3 apg, 2.3 spg) paces an attack that will push the pace and disrupt Rutgers from getting into its defensive sets. On their home floor, I like the Canes—even if the Knights could drag this into the mud and try to cover it in a low-scoring affair.


Did these Big East foes miss each other?

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[4] Virginia Cavaliers at [24] Maryland Terrapins

UVA: 6-0, KP 3 | MD: 6-0, KP 33
6:30pm | ESPN | UVA -3 | O/U 129

DJ Carver: Maryland gets to play the ugliest form of basketball known to man on the challenge this year when they face Virginia.

Maryland will need another hot shooting performance from three from their freshman guards to pull Virginia off of their pack line defense if they want to win this game. Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith can win this game inside but the bigger question is can Maryland get them the basketball? If they can’t, they’re going to need to rely on hot shooting or their bigs cleaning up on the boards to have a shot at winning.

I’m very intrigued to watch Maryland’s improved defense against actual competition as Maryland has only played one Top 100 Kenpom team so far this season and they looked more like rutger than anything.


In the ACC-ACC Challenge, I’ve got...

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Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Northwestern Wildcats

GT: 4-1, KP 77 | NU: 5-1, KP 46
8:15pm | ESPNU | NU -8 | O/U 130

The ‘Cats will get theirs through Vic Law and Dererk Pardon. Lather, rinse, repeat.

These two teams reprise last year’s 52-51 wrestling meet in Atlanta with a rematch in Welsh-Ryan Arena, and...well, don’t expect much different. Whether the ‘Cats can coax a little more production out of their supporting cast (transfer F A.J. Turner in particular has struggled from deep, and Law has made one more three than transfer G Ryan Taylor on 13 fewer attempts) will affect if they are wholly dependent on Law and Pardon, or can in fact score enough to put a similarly-challenged offense (GT is 203rd in AdjO but 14th in AdjD) to bed.

Jose Alvarado is back and maddening for the Jackets, efficiently distributing the ball, and Brandon Alston and James Banks III will be tough defensive matchups for Law and Pardon, respectively. Don’t expect much out of this—though you should expect the ‘Cats to defend home court and build on their runner-runner wins against La Salle and Utah.

Has the season turned a corner after an uncompetitive loss to Fresno State in which the lack of a dedicated ball-handler was exposed by the Bulldogs’ press? If not, an already-long season could get longer.


Pick the nerds:

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[19] Purdue Boilermakers at [15] Florida State Seminoles

Pur: 5-1, KP 13 | FSU: 5-1, KP 14
8:15pm | ESPN2 | FSU -3.5 | O/U 149.5

Boilerman31: Purdue gets its first true road test of the season heading to Tallahassee. This should be another chance to see how Carsen Edwards are advancing.

Florida State isn’t lacking in the size department. Their length will give Purdue issues. It will be crucial for Matt Haarms to stay out of foul trouble and for Ryan Cline to get quality looks.

If this goes well, Purdue will be in good position for a win. If not, Purdue will be in for a long night.


The better complement to Old Gold is...

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[11] North Carolina Tar Heels at [7] Michigan Wolverines

UNC: 6-1, KP 4 | MI: 6-0, KP 7
8:30pm | ESPN | Mich -3.5 | O/U 147

This will be a good game. It will be on ESPN. You should watch it.

If you’d like to write things about Michigan basketball that would supplant this tripe, write a Fanpost or something and help us out :)



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38 votes total Vote Now

Here’s your open thread for the night. Let us know your picks in the comments, and behave.