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ACC-Big Ten Challenge preview: Yes, basketball season has started

Who will be New York’s college conference?

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Florida Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven’t been paying too much attention to college hoops up until now, we don’t blame you. Sure, you still have some work to do if you want to be considered a true junkie, but the powers that be don’t make this sport easy to follow. We just had a bunch of big tournaments played over a holiday weekend when everyone was either in a turkey-and-wine-induced haze, knee-deep in tremendous football action, or traveling more than Melo Trimble.

Even with the action getting underway earlier this month, there’s still a lot we don’t know. Is Minnesota really this good? Is Indiana this bad? Is Wisconsin finally going to miss the NCAA Tournament? We’ll get closer to the answers as the Big Ten takes on the ACC in the annual bragging rights series this week. The ACC won the Challenge last year for the first time since 2008, and it gets the added advantage of getting to sit out a terrible, horrible, no good Pittsburgh team instead of its least loyal member Notre Dame.

Monday, November 27

Maryland at Syracuse (-2.5), 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2

DJ: Tonight will be a disaster. Maryland is coming into its third game in four days while Syracuse is at a week of rest (thanks B1G, this couldn’t have been a Wednesday game?). The real problem, though, is that Maryland is down its arguably best on-ball defender in Darryl Morsell and is going against the 2-3 Syracuse zone. Mark Turgeon has shown year after year that he not only sucks against a zone, but also refuses to pay someone money to figure it out for him. Oh, have I mentioned that Maryland has turned it over 40-plus times in the last two games? They have turned it over more than 40 times in two games. I can’t imagine what a zone will do to a team that has turnover propensities but my early prediction is a bloodbath.

Wisconsin at No. 18 Virginia (-7), 9:00 PM ET on ESPN2

Speth: 12-0 12-0 12-0 12-0. What is this game played on wood that you speak of?

Tuesday, November 28

Florida State at Rutgers, 7:00 PM on ESPNU

Yorke: Florida State is undefeated but untested, while Rutgers is... undefeated and even more untested. At least the Seminoles have faced a pair of top-200 KenPom teams in George Washington and Colorado State. Rutgers can not say the same, but they have beaten everyone pretty soundly. That’s something, right?

Northwestern at Georgia Tech, 7:00 PM on ESPN2

MNWildcat: Take the under in Georgia Tech-Northwestern. Oh, and don't tune in, either. The Jackets play good defense and channel their offense through 6'10" center Ben Lammers, which will be an interesting and probably maddening test for Derek Pardon, who's off to a slowwww start this season. Compounding the Wildcats' defensive sputtering, the Jackets are apparently shooting halfway decent from deep this season, along with getting their full bench back as players return from suspension.

Can Northwestern handle the defensive pressure well enough? Can Bryant McIntosh get into the lane and/or shoot better from outside? Can Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey, with BMac, carry the offense? Time's running out for the 'Cats to get a Good Win in the non-conference, and Georgia Tech is one of the last opportunities. But without a more complete team effort (hi, Gavin Skelly and/or Aaron Falzon!), we're truly, deeply fucked.

No. 17 Louisville at Purdue, 8:00 PM on ESPN

Yorke: The Cardinals have flown under the radar so far by avoiding any major opponents or nationally televised tournaments. They’re led by a pair of frontcourt players in Deng Adel and Ray Spalding, so it should be interesting to see how they match up to Purdue’s big men. Dutch freshman Matt Haarms has been a force so far with three blocks per game, while senior Isaac Haas is shooting 64 percent from the field and 82 percent from the line.

Illinois at Wake Forest, 9:00 PM on ESPNU

Thumpasaurus: Nervous about seeing this Illini team play an actual basketball program. Don't know much about Wake Forest. I'm just gonna assume we lose, but a win would get my attention.

Iowa at Virginia Tech, 9:00 PM on ESPN2

Stew: Sounds like Nicholas Baer might make his season debut, but Iowa will still be without any backup point guard. VaTech is a good enough team to take advantage of this first true road game for this young team. Going to be lots of turnovers. Best hope will be to step up a bit on defense and force turnovers. But that seems like a long shot.

Wednesday, November 29

Penn State at North Carolina State, 7:15 PM on ESPNU

Yorke: Penn State's offense has improved over the past week, so it will be interesting to see how the team performs in its first true road game of the season in Raleigh against North Carolina State. The Wolfpack upset Arizona at Atlantis, but then lost to both Northern Iowa and Tennessee. As a result, KenPom thinks that the Lions will win. I'm not as optimistic, but Penn State usually does well in this event.

Clemson at Ohio State, 7:15 PM on ESPN2

James: Ohio State has no chance. None, zero.

Yorke: The Buckeyes were predictably smashed by Gonzaga at PK80, but they bounced back with a win over Stanford before losing to Butler in overtime. Clemson lost to Temple in its only true test, so I think Ohio State has a better chance than James thinks.

Michigan at No. 13 North Carolina, 7:30 PM on ESPN

Graham: Michigan hasn’t looked spectacular, but it’s been a wonderful early-season surprise to have an out and out scoring stud in Charles Matthews. Can they bang inside with UNC? Nah, they can’t bang inside in general. But you know the Beilein-drill: slow this game down, pray for a slow shooting night for UNC, give your team a shot. Otherwise, Michigan is going to lose by 20, because the defending national champs look pretty sharp so far.

No. 10 Miami at No. 12 Minnesota, 9:15 PM on ESPN2

Yorke: I’m not sure if you want to count what happened to Minnesota against Alabama over the weekend as a win. Getting outscored in a power play situation in embarrassing enough in hockey. In basketball, it’s inexcusable. However, the Gophers also have a strong victory over Providence this month, and Miami can’t say the same. We’re not used to thinking of these two programs as basketball powers, so hopefully they put on a good show while the east coast falls asleep.

Boston College at Nebraska, 9:15 PM on ESPNU

Yorke: Both of these teams are pretty lousy, but Boston College as a sophomore point guard named Ky Bowman who is averaging more than 15 points, five rebounds, and five assists so far. He’s not shooting very well from the field, but neither is Nebraska’s Glynn Watson. The junior guard appeared to turn that around with a strong performance against Long Beach State over the weekend, so it will be fun to see if he stays hot.

No. 1 Duke at Indiana, 9:30 PM on ESPN

Candystripes: Whoever thought IU playing Duke was a good idea this year should probably start updating their resume. If we don't lose this game by more than 20, I'd be shocked.

Thursday, November 30

No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 3 Michigan State, 7:00 PM on ESPN

Andrew: The thing about this Michigan State team is the proliferation of options is going to make them impossible to defend once they figure out how to play with each other a little better. With Bridges out and Jackson unable to stay out of foul trouble, the PK80 has seen Matt McQuaid, Cassius Winston, and now Josh Langford take over as the focal point of the offense. And whoever is making the shots, there seems to be the buy-in you need for elite team defense. Holding any opponent to 23 in the first half when you give them 10 off turnovers is impressive, to say nothing of doing it to a top-10 defending national champ.

As for Notre Dame, their comeback win over Wichita State should tell you they're for real, and their deployment of a zone should give MSU pause after the efficiency disaster against Duke's zone. Granted, the Irish aren't sending the athletes out there that Duke does, but Winston's handling of the zone could be decisive.