ACC / Big Ten Challenge 11/29 - 11/30

ACC/Big Ten Challenge 11/29 – 11/30

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Last year was the first year in the history of the Challenge that the Big Ten won.  Many predicted that would be the case as 2010 was not the best year for the ACC and the Big Ten had some strong talent.  This year, the Big Ten may get a good result for the second year in a row.  Outside of North Carolina and Duke, the ACC has a lot of unknowns about the depth of the conference.  Those unknowns might provide some interesting drama in this great early season tournament.


Michigan at Virginia, Tue, Nov 29  7 p.m - ESPN2

Michigan has been very good in the early part of the season.  They played Duke quite tough in Maui, losing 82-75.  They then defeated UCLA, 79-63.  This is a talented team that stands a chance in the Big Ten.   The son of former popular Michigan standout Tim Hardaway, Tim Hardaway, Jr., leads the team with 17.2 points per game.  Senior Zack Novak is the 3-point specialist making 44% so far.  Virginia, under Tony Bennett, is also trying to get back to the winning ways it was accustomed to.  The Cavs are 4-1 and trying to get over the hump in the ACC.  Forward Mike Scott, the team’s linchpin and experienced veteran, leads the team in minutes and points.  This is good test for Tony Bennett’s club.


Northwestern at Georgia Tech, Tue, Nov 29  7:15 p.m. - ESPNU

Northwestern has yet to make an NCAA tournament in the history of its program.  They face a Georgia Tech team that is lacking the talent it had in the early years of the Paul Hewitt era.  The Wildcats have started hot going 5-0.  Senior John Shurna has picked up from last season, averaging 21.2 points per game so far in 2011.  Brian Gregory takes over for the Yellow Jackets after coaching the last eight years at Dayton, accumulating a 172-94 record.  He is now in a tougher conference and needs to build his team.  Outside of Glen Rice, Jr., Georgia Tech does not have any players on their roster that stand out as a difference maker.  Early success by Kammeon Holsey and Mfon Udofia is a good sign for Gregory.


Illinois at Maryland, Tue, Nov 29  7:30 p.m  - ESPN

Both of these two schools have enjoyed a lot of success in the last decade, but have fallen off the national radar in recent years.  Bruce Weber has a young squad this year that he is hoping will mature quickly.  His roster has six freshmen and four sophomores.  The Illini are 5-0 through an early string of small opponents.  D.J. Richardson is a do-everything guard for Weber and forward Tyler Griffey gobbles up rebounds at six per game.  Maryland finds itself in a transitional period with the late departure of legend Gary Williams.  Mark Turgeon comes over from Texas A&M, where he was two-time Big 12 Coach of the Year.  He has a stiff test this year though with a team that doesn’t have big bodies down low and only eight scholarship athletes.  He will rely a lot on sophomore Terrell Stoglin and senior Sean Mosley.  Freshman guard Nick Faust is one to watch.


Miami at Purdue, Tue, Nov 29  9 p.m. - ESPN2

Jim Larranaga led George Mason to a storied Final Four run for that team in 2006.  He now has the chance to lead the Hurricanes basketball team to prominence amidst NCAA booster allegations.  His team does not have any super players.  Mainstays Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott are the anchors for the Hurricanes.  Grant is averaging 40 percent from three point range.  Top-to-bottom Miami is going to have its hands-full with Matt Painter’s Boilermakers.  All-Big-10 player Robbie Hummel returns from a serious knee injury, and he has been great so far.  And Purdue is a very deep team.  Ryne Smith, Lewis Jackson, Kelsey Barlow, and Anthony Johnson all average over eight points a game. 


Clemson at Iowa, Tue, Nov 29  9:15 p.m. - ESPNU

Clemson was a team at the beginning of the season that could possibly surprise in the ACC.  The Tigers have enjoyed five straight 20-win seasons.  So far this year, they are 2-2.  They dropped two heartbreakers to Coastal Carolina and College of Charleston by a total of four points.  The record is a little surprising.  They have four players that average double digits per game.  They could get back on the right track against the Hawkeyes.  Iowa is also 3-2, having lost their most recent games against Creighton and Campbell.  Matt Gatens is Fran McCaffrey’s most reliable player.  He is shooting 52 percent from the field.  These are two evenly matched teams trying to get back on track.  This could be one of the closer games of the tournament.


#5 Duke at #3 Ohio State, Tue, Nov 29  9:30 p.m. -  ESPN

This is a matchup of two Final Four contenders.  This should be quite a battle.  Duke is undefeated and Coach K has broken the all-time wins record in 2011.  Ryan Kelly is having his best season so far in a Duke uniform (14.6 pts/game).  Austin Rivers and Quinn Cook are contributing early as freshmen.  Mason Plumlee averages 10 rebounds per game.  Against Thad Matta’s Ohio State squad, Duke will need all that talent to combat the depth the Buckeyes have.  Big-10 Freshman of the Year Jared Sullinger returns in the middle, and senior William Buford has been lighting teams up.  Point guard Aaron Craft is looking to build on his solid freshman season.  This matchup has the makings of a post-season preview.


Indiana at NC State, Wed, Nov 30 7:15 p.m. - ESPN2

This game may be one of the most intriguing games of the tournament.  These two teams have hit the recruiting trail hard and are putting talent on the floor that will eventually translate into quite a few wins.  Tom Crean has done an outstanding job at Indiana.  Since the Kelvin Sampson debacle, the Hoosiers haven’t done much winning.  So far in 2011, they are 5-0.  Stud freshman Cody Zeller leads five double-figures scorers with 14.6 points per game.  He also leads the team in rebounding at 7.6 per contest.  Indiana faces a Wolfpack squad that is hoping to use its veteran leadership to its advantage.  After dropping one to Vanderbilt, NC State rallied to get a huge win against Texas.  In only two games played, superb sophomore CJ Leslie is lighting it up with a 64 percent field goal percentage.  DeShawn Painter, Scott Wood, and Richard Howell also return to the lineup to help stabilize a team in transition.  Mark Gottfried is the new coach, and he could use this game as another step in the right direction should his team win.  The same goes for Crean.


Penn State at Boston College, Wed, Nov 30 7:15 p.m. - ESPNU

This game could be a matchup of the two worst teams in their respective conferences.  Pat Chambers takes over for Ed DeChellis, and he brings an enthusiasm to a generally underperforming basketball program.  So far they have started off well, only losing to a strong Kentucky team.  Their best player is Tim Frazier.  He’s shooting 50 percent from the field and averaging 21 points per game.  Boston College also has a lack of talent.  Their top three scorers only average slightly above 10 points per game.  As a team they only average 57 points per contest, while their opponents score 73.5.  That does not bode well. 


#19 Florida State at Michigan State, Wed, Nov 30 7:30 p.m. - ESPN

Tom Izzo has always kept Michigan State at the forefront of the college basketball landscape.  This year Leonard Hamilton is trying to push Florida State to the cream of the ACC crop.  The Seminoles have so far lost a tough one to Harvard, which has set them back a little bit.  But they have six wins and could be a force in the ACC.  Michael Snaer and Deividas Dulkys return to lead the Seminoles.  Michigan State always has a strong roster and always finds themselves in the race at the end of the Big 10 season.  Draymond Green and Keith Appling return to a lineup that can do some damage in conference.  They outrebound their opponents by 9.4 rebounds per game and outscore their opponents by 11 points per game.  They have already lost twice to two ACC teams.  But they are as strong as anyone at home, and that should create issues for FSU.


Virginia Tech at Minnesota, Wed, Nov 30 9:15 p.m. - ESPN2

Under Seth Greenberg, Virginia Tech has been in the ACC mix deep into the league year.  Recently, they have not been able to break through.  Last year they missed the NCAA tournament, going 9-7 in the ACC.  They are 4-1 and have firepower in star Dorenzo Hudson (15.6 points per game) and a great freshman in Dorian Finney-Smith (7.4 points per game).  Minnesota is 4-0 after squeaking one out against Indiana State, 76-69.   Leading scorer Trevor Mbakwe is an important part of the Minnesota equation.  He leads the team in points scored, rebounds, and blocks.  He might not be enough for Minnesota to overtake the shooting ability of Virginia Tech. 


Wake Forest at Nebraska, Wed, Nov 30 9:15 p.m. - ESPNU

These are two schools that would rather stick to the football field most of the time.  Second-year Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik is tasked with putting a competitive team on the floor every night.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the talent that he needs to compete this year.  C.J. Harris and Travis McKie are his returning veterans, but they do all of the heavy lifting for his squad.  Nebraska’s Jorge Brian Diaz has 11 blocks already and helps neutralize the middle for Nebraska, but they are -2 in turnover margin so far.  The Cornhuskers are 3-1 and the Deacons are 3-2.  Both teams need  a win to pad the win column.


#10 Wisconsin at #1 North Carolina, Wed, Nov 30 9:30 p.m. - ESPN

This will be the ultimate matchup between two teams in the driver’s seat for their respective conference crowns.  Bo Ryan has done a great job at Wisconsin, amassing a 242-91 record as head coach of the Badgers.  Jordan Taylor, Ryan Evans, and Josh Gasser are Wisconsin’s triple-threat – they are 5-0.  North Carolina took care of Michigan State on the aircraft carrier in San Diego.  Big man Tyler Zeller has improved a ton since last season, along with the lengthy Jon Henson.  This team goes really deep, and has the ability to score at will.  Harrison Barnes returning for his sophomore season will be a difference maker.  UNC is trying to add to Roy Williams’ two national titles.  Wisconsin wants to stem that tide.