Well, here it is. With college sports being run by mega-corporations, we find ourselves in the very last B1G/ACC Challenge, at least until the media rights get sold again. Please post your favorite memories and/or your favorite insult of Duke basketball or Jim Boeheim in the comments.
Monday, November 28th (0-2)
Virginia Tech 67, Minnesota 57
MaximumSam: One of those blah games where Tech was the better team, built up a double digit lead by halftime, and carried it through the entire second half. Jamison Battle never got going and the Gophs got clobbered on the boards. At least their freshmen got to play a bit.
BoilerUp89: Minnesota was overmatched in this one - which feels like it is going to be a theme in conference play. Virginia Tech played their game and let the Gophers talent deficit be the difference. Sean Pedulla led all scorers with 17 for the Hokies. Another dismal rebounding performance for the Gophers as they Hokies had 42 to their 27.
Pitt 87, Northwestern 58
MaximumSam: Well, that sucked. The Cats got run out of the gym by the previously inept Panthers, who went 14-22 from deep. Northwestern will probably look rough offensively against a team of fifth graders; this game just showed that if the other team gets hot, they are sunk.
BoilerUp89: Ouch. NU got embarrassed by a bad Pitt team. Pitt shot the ball really well from three - but if they only went 6-22 (27%), they STILL would have beaten the Wildcats by 5. Pitt won the rebounding battle by 11 despite shooting a lot better than Northwestern. Blake Hinson led the Panthers in scoring with 22 points and added 8 rebounds and 5 assists. At least Federiko Federiko played 16 minutes.
Tuesday, November 29th (3-3)
Clemson 101, Penn State 94 (2OT)
MaximumSam: The most fun game of the night featured a spirited effort from both teams. Jalen Pickett, Seth Lundy, and Cam Wynter were outstanding and nearly willed their team to a win. Unfortunately, the supporting cast just couldn’t get it going. Kebba Njie and Myles Dread put up goose eggs, with Dread going 0-6 from deep. They also had no answer for PJ Hall, who dropped 22 points in 25 minutes.
Maryland 79, Louisville 54
MaximumSam: Louisville is bad. Maryland had a double digit lead minutes into the game and that was that. They continue to be an interesting team of versatile scorers and defenders. But they might as well been playing North Maine Tech.
Illinois 73, Syracuse 44
MaximumSam: Well, I was looking forward to Illinois smashing Jim Boeheim, and they did, but this game was completely unwatchable. Syracuse went 15 of 54 from the field, which is unspeakably terrible. But Illinois seemed happy to match them, and missed 28 threes. God bless you if you watched this game from beginning to end. Somehow Coleman Hawkins got a triple double, so that’s cool, even though I could have probably gotten ten rebounds in this game just by standing vaguely near the basket.
Thumpasaurus: Coleman played a lot better than he did in the early games. He was more in control, turned it over less, passed it better. This game is more about how bad Syracuse is. The Illini had a horrific shooting night, bricking three after three after three. Some were open, many weren’t. I think this Illini team is currently overrated and I think they played a pretty bad game...which tells you all you need to know about Syracuse.
How in the hell did the bottom fall out of the ACC like this? Cuse, Louisville and Florida State is one incredible trifecta.
Virginia 70, Michigan 68
MaximumSam: Michigan was in this one the whole way and was up 11 at halftime. Unfortunately, they never seemed able to stop Virginia from getting in the lane, and their lack of point guard options were really pronounced late in the game, when they looked inept. For the umpteenth game, Hunter Dickinson and Jett Howard looked good, but the surrounding cast isn’t doing much.
Iowa 81, Georgia Tech 65
MaximumSam: Kris Murray apparently wanted everyone to know that he isn’t just Kroger brand Keegan. He dropped 31 points on 18 shots and pulled down 20 rebounds. Iowa needed it, too, because Tech stayed within shouting distance until late.
Wake Forest 78, Wisonsin 75
MaximumSam: I said Wisconsin could win this game if they neutralized Tyree Appleby. Readers, they failed in this endeavor. Appleby dropped 32 on 16 shots, to go along with 5 assists and 4 rebounds. Wisconsin still had a chance to win, mostly because Chucky Hepburn showed signs of life and scored 23. Unfortunately, he messed up the end by chucking a long three when he anticipated getting fouled. The foul wasn’t called, and the shot didn’t go, and that was that. Which brings me to:
MaximumSam’s Rant on Basketball: Wake had a three point lead late in the game, which brings up the old debate of whether it is better to foul and let Wiscy shoot two free throws or not foul and let them go for a three. No matter how you feel about it, it’s absolutely boring as hell to watch. Fouling sucks all the life out of the end of fun games. While everyone with a soul agrees with this, no one can agree on how to fix it. But it’s easy to fix! Turn on the World Cup if you want to see. When a foul is committed but calling it would hurt the team that got fouled, they just don’t call it. Wow, that’s simple! American sports are often hurt by the fact that people want officials to be rule worshippers instead of game managers. Let refs have a brain - it would help the game immeasurably.
Old Takes Exposed
#188 Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-2) at #35 Virginia Tech Hokies (6-1), 6 pm, ESPN2
MaximumSam: Somehow the Gophs get to tip this thing off, and they’ve got a tough challenge with the Hokies. Tech profiles as a very efficient offensive team that hardly ever turns the ball over. They have a trio of three point shooters in Sean Pedulla, Grant Basile, and Hunter Cattoor, all shooting at least 37%. They also have a junk yard dog player in the appropriately named Justyn Mutts.
However, they don’t force turnovers or get to the line much, so they don’t get too many free points. They’ve struggled a bit lately, with close wins over Penn State and Charleston Southern combined with a loss to the College of Charleston. Torvik still gives them this game, 69-56.
BoilerUp89: Mike Young has been steadily building a program at Virginia Tech the past few years after spending over a decade doing the same at Wofford. This season they have some good shooters but lack a low post presence as their starting center Grant Basile is just 6’9” and would rather shoot from the perimeter than mix it up inside.
I’ll disagree just a little with MaximumSam here; I don’t think a close win over Penn State or a close loss to Charleston means the team is struggling as both opponents look to be pretty solid solid this season. A close home win over Charleston Southern on the other hand took place the day after Thanksgiving and games played at home during the holidays can be weird.
Tech is a good, not great team this year. Their biggest asset is they won’t beat themselves. They value the basketball and don’t send opponents to the free throw line. The latter may actually benefit the Gophers considering how poorly they’ve shot free throws this season, but against most teams that’s a good thing to do.
#148 Pittsburgh Panthers (4-3) at #66 Northwestern Wildcats (5-1), 8 pm, ESPN2
MaximumSam: Northwestern finds themselves a favorite in the Challenge, as they have risen 30 spots on Torvik, coupled with Pitt dropping 23 spots. Jeff Capel and the Panthers haven’t shown much this year, having lost all three games they’ve played against teams with a pulse, including blowout losses to West Virginia and Michigan. They’ve been bad from the three point line, and they’ve turned the ball over too much. Their defensive stats aren’t miserable, but they did make Michigan look like a competent outfit, so that’s not appealing.
What they do get is from a trio of veterans. Forward Blake Hinson is leading the team in points, rebounds, and steals. Big man John Hugley overcame an earlier injury and is a round load underneath. Shooting guard Jamarius Burton has shot the ball well on 60/44/73 splits. They also have a backup center named Federiko Federiko, so Northwestern should concentrate on getting him in the game for our amusement. Torvik picks Northwestern, 65-57.
MNW: FEDERIKO FEDERIKO!
Torvik (and Kenpom) are showing the general vibe of NU right now—a good defense and, uh...have we mentioned how good the defense is?
One of the differences between Northwestern and two of Pitt’s losses (VCU and Press Virginia) is that Northwestern will sit in the half-court D and try to lock you down...not sure whether that’s been a factor in Pitt’s offensive woes.
What we just need to see out of the ‘Cats at some point is consistent offensive production—Boo Buie was pretty putrid against Auburn, and Chase Audige even worse throughout his time in Cancun. Robbie Beran’s not going to create enough space for himself and Ty Berry is a one-trick pony as a three-and-D guy, so...uh...yeah. Offense! It’d be great!
Just hoping for a ‘Cats win here. Pitt and DePaul are it for even respectable non-con opponents (122 and 94, respectively, both at home), so get through the non-con with one loss and see if you can’t play your way into the NIT.
BoilerUp89: Northwestern’s defense is showing up as 9th best in the nation on Kenpom. That’s better than Wisconsin and Rutgers (12th and 11th respectively). However, like those two schools, the Wildcats are offensively challenged at times.
Despite this Northwestern is still on the edge of putting themselves in position that a 10-10 B1G season could put them in the NCAA tournament. And while I wouldn’t bet on Chris Collins, they certainly look better than the previous few iterations of his Wildcat teams.
As for Pitt, they have lost every game against a decent opponent they’ve played this season and only beaten their cupcakes. They shoot a high percentage of three pointers but make less than 30% of them. While they have three guys at 6’11” or taller (including Federiko), none of them get many post touches and the Panthers are an average rebounding team at best.
Tuesday, November 29th
#24 Maryland Terrapins (6-0) at #206 Louisville Cardinals (0-6), 6 pm, ESPN2
MaximumSam: The ghost of Chris Mack has set up shop with the Cardinals, who are almost impossibly bad. While the roster still has plenty of four and five star types, the results on the court have been...well, after close losses to Appy State, Wright State, and Bellarmine, they went to Maui and got drilled three times in a row.
The main issue is their complete lack of a functioning offense. They rank 286th in three point shooting, 300th in two point shooting, and 356th(!) in turnover percentage. That’s bad! Point guard El Ellis takes a lot of shots to pretty average results. Forward Brandon Huntley-Hatfield is a former five star recruit who will rebound and get to the line. They have other players on the team, too, none of whom have played well. In any event, just making them run offense is a win for Maryland, who Torvik has winning 72-62.
BoilerUp89: I expect the booing to start about 5 minutes into the game. Louisville is BAD. There are six D1 teams without a win this season. Six out of 363. Louisville is one of them. None of Louisville’s losses are appalling by themselves, it’s just that three one-point losses to non-tournament teams and blowout losses to three others isn’t the mark of a good team.
The Cards turn the ball over an astonishing 25% of their possessions. Senior El Ellis has become an inefficient chucker. I don’t know what the game plan is to fix things for first head coach Kenny Payne but I doubt the Cards pull it together by Tuesday.
#48 Penn State Nittany Lions (6-1) at #69 Clemson Tigers (5-2), 6 pm, ESPNU
MaximumSam: The first coin flip game features Clemson, who have beaten some nobodies and had competitive losses to South Carolina and Iowa. They’ve been good at generating three point looks - leading scorer Chase Hunter is shooting 60% and the team as a whole is shooting around 38%. All Penn State games feature the Big Man Watch, and Clemson’s bigs are a bit mysterious. 6’10’’ PJ Hall was thought to be their best player, but he has been dealing with a knee injury and has played limited minutes. They will typically go small without Hall (hey that rhymes!), which is in PSU’s wheelhouse. Torviks says the Nits squeak it out, 66-65.
BoilerUp89: This is an important game for the Nittany Lions as they will want to avoid picking up a loss to what could be a fellow bubble team in early March. The good news is that Clemson also has issues with rebounding and don’t have a low post presence. So they look a lot like Penn State except their version of Jalen Pickett is named Chase Hunter. Hunter is shooting extremely well from three and regularly getting 5+ assists.
The is Penn State’s last decent non-con opponent, and it comes on the road. If the Nittany Lions can steal this one, they would take the pressure off winning 11+ Big Ten games if they want to make the tournament this season. Kebba Njie has looked better and better as the season’s gone on, and Demetrius Lilley finally made his first appearance of the season on Friday. If they can both get good minutes against Clemson, it should go a long way in mitigating the Lions’ glaring deficiency at the 5.
The Tigers are another team that heavily relies on the three, albeit they’re slightly less successful as a team than Penn State is, as the former is 38% (37.9%, to be exact), while the latter is at 42.2%.
If the Lions can continue their success from outside and get a good outing from Njie, Lilley, and Caleb Dorsey, I feel confident in pulling the slight upset.
#94 Syracuse Orange (3-3) at #19 Illinois Fighting Illini (5-1), 6:30 pm, ESPN
MaximumSam: Hey, it’s Jim Boeheim, fresh off of saying the Big Ten sucks. Well, Jim, it’s not March, it’s November, which means Syracuse needs to get stuffed into a toilet. Or slapped upside the head...
Nah Doug edert running away is wild lmaoo pic.twitter.com/mAICId79m6— John (@iam_johnw) November 26, 2022
Anyways, Syracuse isn’t very good, and they’ve already lost to Colgate and Bryant. They aren’t playing great defense and they give up a ton of offensive rebounds, so it looks like Dainja time. We will get a battle of freshman guards, as Skyy Clark draws Judah Mintz, who is leading the team in points and loves to attack the basket. The other Danger Man is center Jesse Edwards, who will clean up boards and protect the rim. This is a must win game for the Big Ten’s reputation, and Torvik says Illinois 78-66. We believe in you.
Thumpasaurus: “What is the Big Ten? A miserable little pile of secrets! But enough talk, have at you!”
Sure thing, Jim! An apt metaphor, as Boeheim is the closest thing we have to an immortal vampire with Mike Kzyzyzynski finally fucking off. Usually when sorcerers that powerful give up their artifacts of power, they immediately turn skeletal and collapse into a pile of disintegrating bones. That’s what I’m hoping the Illini can do to Syracuse tonight. I don’t know about other Illini fans, but I’ve been wanting a crack at Syracuse ever since Alan Griffin bailed on our eventual 1-seed team a couple years ago. I guess we can’t materially hurt their chances at doing the only thing Boeheim thinks matters (competing in the tournament), but we sure won’t help it!
Unlike the last couple years, we have some shooters on this year’s team led by Terrence Shannon Jr. That’s not all he is, of course, but he went 8 for 9 from deep against UCLA. Go ahead and sit in that zone, Cuse!
I’m actually really excited to see what Illinois looks like in a game against a high major that isn’t top-25 caliber. They’ve so far played tomato cans, UCLA and Virginia. There’s been no in-between. What I’m looking for is better ballhandling and passing, more assists and fewer turnovers. The Vegas games were very sloppy in those regards. In particular, the veterans Hawkins and Melendez have been underwhelming.
That being said, this team is genuinely so deep it’s hard to predict who’s going to be the spark...and that is the farthest thing in the world from a problem.
BoilerUp89: Boeheim should have retired 5 years ago. He didn’t and we are left with zombie Syracuse. Which to be clear can still present issues to good teams because of their zone defense which can force teams to settle for outside shots if they don’t take their time to get a good look.
On the other hand, this version of Syracuse isn’t an offense to be afraid of at all. Seniors Jesse Edwards and Joseph Girard are the two main threats outside of Judah Mintz (who I guess isn’t suspended despite starting the altercation against Bryant) but the Illini should have the size to defend the 6’11” Edwards inside which leaves Girard. So long as he doesn’t get hot from three and Illini’s offense works for their shot, the Illini should bring home the victory.
#112 Georgia Tech Yellowjackets (4-2) at #27 Iowa Hawkeyes (5-1), 8 pm, ESPN2
MaximumSam: Man, for a program that played for the national championship in 2004, Georgia Tech is now the very definition of pedestrian. They’ve had one tourney appearance since 2011, and this year doesn’t appear to be on track to change that. They’ve already gotten waxed by Marquette and lost to Utah. They play pretty solid defense and don’t turn the ball over, but they simply can’t shoot straight. Their leading scorer, Deebo Coleman, averages 11 points. Miles Kelly is their second leading scorer and is shooting 18% from three. That’s bad! Iowa should be in good shape as long as they are hitting their shots a little better, and Torvik predicts they win 78-66.
BoilerUp89: Georgia Tech can’t shoot from 2, from 3, or from the FT line. They are sub 200 in each of these categories. Which is a bad thing to be when facing an Iowa offense that is 7th in the country in efficiency. Iowa typically makes things a track meet and if you can’t shoot, you are going to have a hard time keeping pace.
The Yellowjackets D is solid except for their defensive rebounding. If Iowa crashes the glass there should be opportunities for second chance points.
#71 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-1) at #45 Wisconsin Badgers (5-1), 8 pm, ESPNU
MaximumSam: Wake is a bit of a mystery opponent. They have yet to play a top 100 team, and they have an overtime loss to Loyola Marymount. Their point guard, Tyree Appleby, is a Florida transfer and has been great, leading the team in points on 56/41/85 shooting. They are a mish mash of transfers and Wisconsin should feel confident they can Wisconsify them if they can neutralize Appleby. Torvik goes with the Badgers, 66-60.
BoilerUp89: Torvik is obviously being a homer here, as the Badgers aren’t scoring 66 points. They’ve done that just once in regulation this season - their opener against South Dakota State. Since then 60, 56, 43, 63 (before OT), and 64 have been their outputs.
In addition to their OT loss to Loyola Marymount, Wake also escaped Utah Valley with an OT win. They have three shooters that are over 40% from three on the season (with 10+ attempts), but their 6’10” guys Carr and Klintman that aren’t as good from the perimeter have also attempted a bunch of them as well. If Steve Forbes can get his guys to play their roles in this game, they could pull off the upset. If they continue to have players doing things they aren’t good at, the Wisconsin team will grind away at your eyeballs, limit possessions, and magnify your mistakes.
#12 Virginia Cavaliers (5-0) at #68 Michigan Wolverines (5-1), 8:30 pm, ESPN
MaximumSam: Michigan draws the toughest game of the night against the undefeated Cavaliers, last seen beating Illinois and Baylor. After a pedestrian season last year, Tony Bennett’s crew Appear To Be Great Again, with four guys averaging double figures. They are once again posting solid defensive stats, but they are also first in the land in assist rate and fourth in three point shooting. They have a good big man in 6’11’’ Kadin Shedrick, so Hunter Dickinson will have his hands full too. This is an uphill battle for Michigan, and Torvik goes with Virginia, 64-61.
BoilerUp89: Virginia really impressed me in Vegas by beating Illinois and Baylor. Tony Bennett’s TRIGGER WARNING FOR HOOSIER FANS pack line defense forces teams to make shots from the perimeter and from what we’ve seen so far this season, the Wolverines aren’t good at doing that.
The Cavaliers share the ball exceptionally well - over 70% of their field goals come with an assist. Virginia also shoots insanely well (over 44% from three as a team) and get to the free throw line often. Our old friend Armaan Franklin is Virginia’s volume shooter from outside (11 of 26 - seems like the Hoosiers could use that this year) so Michigan will want to make sure he’s accounted for at all times.
The one gleam of hope for Michigan is Virginia’s pace of play. A disciple of the Wisconsin “style” of play, Tony Bennett’s teams do not have a lot of possessions in their games. Because of this, a handful of missing shots or errors get magnified while faster tempo teams can make up for those issues later in the game. That gives Michigan the ability to pull the upset.