The ACC/Big Ten Challenge starts this week, featuring 14 matchups from November 28-30.
The Big Ten will look to make it four consecutive wins against the ACC after winning 8-6 last season. However, they will not have a chance to make it five straight no matter what. First reported by Andy Katz, this will be the last season of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Due to media rights, there will be an ACC/SEC challenge starting next year, and there is the possibility of a Big Ten/Big 12 challenge.
There are still games to play and a challenge to win. The Big Ten has had arguably the best start to a season for a power conference, while the ACC may have had the worst. There are still going to be good games and a lot of fun basketball over the course of 72 hours.
Game of the Week: North Carolina at Indiana (Nov. 30 – 9:15 ET)
Minnesota at Virginia Tech
Date and Time: Nov. 28 – 7 p.m. – ESPN2
Minnesota has not had the best start to the season, starting 4-2. Their star player, Jamison Battle, missed the first four games but will give them a needed boost. Freshman Pharrel Payne has been a bright spot on the team, shooting 75% from the field. This team has struggled on offense, turning the ball over a lot and not shooting well. They also have one of the slowest paces in the entire country.
Virginia Tech has started out the season 6-1, with the lone loss coming by two points at Charleston. They have done a really really good job of not turning the ball over, having the second-lowest turnover percentage in the country. Virginia Tech has three very good outside shooters, with Sean Pedulla shooting 14-of-28 from three, Grand Basile at 18-of-41, and Hunter Cattoor shooting at 16-of-39. They have had a really good offense so far this season and will rely on it for this game.
Prediction: Virginia Tech – 73, Minnesota – 52
Pitt at Northwestern
Date and Time: Nov. 28 – 9 p.m. – ESPN2
Pitt has started 4-3, beating all the teams they should, and losing to teams that are ranked higher than them. They have struggled from the perimeter, although they are getting a ton of three-pointers up. They have also been turning it over a lot, while not forcing a ton of turnovers on defense.
Northwestern has had a solid start to the season, winning their first five games before losing their sixth to Auburn by one. Their defense has been elite by the metrics. They have the 2nd best defensive 2P%, 23rd best defensive 3P%, and force the 41st most turnovers on defense. They pack the paint, and teams have put up a ton of threes against Northwestern.
Prediction: Northwestern – 62, Pitt – 54
Penn State at Clemson
Date and Time: Nov. 29 – 7:00 p.m. – ESPNU
Not many teams have had a hotter start from three than Penn State. They have the 7th best 3P% in the country, and over 50% of their shots have been from the perimeter. Almost everyone on the floor is a deep-range threat, including Myles Dread who is 20-of-38 from three so far. Jalen Pickett has been one of the best guards in the Big Ten, putting up a triple-double against Butler.
Clemson is 0-1 against the Big Ten this year, losing to Iowa. They are currently 5-2, although they have not beaten a top 200 Kenpom team yet. This is a team that allows a good amount of 3-pointers on defense, but they have also shot well. Chase Hunter is currently 18-of-30 from downtown and teams have to know where he will be at on the floor at all times.
Prediction: Penn State – 77, Clemson – 72
Maryland at Louisville
Date and Time: Nov. 29 – 7 p.m. – ESPN2
This game features two teams with completely opposite starts to the season. Maryland has been a good surprise, going 6-0 with the closest margin of victory being 16 points. Donta Scott has been one of the best players in the conference. He can do a little bit of everything on offense, and he poses a real problem for the Cardinals’ defense. Julian Reese has been really good down low, shooting 37-of-46 from inside the arc, the 8th-best percentage in the country.
It is hard to imagine a team with a worse start than Louisville. They are 0-6, highlighted by a 32-point loss to Texas Tech. They have not been able to score at all, and they turn it over more than almost everyone else in the country. The guard play has been really bad, and Louisville will need them to step up if they want any chance of turning this season around.
Prediction: Maryland – 77, Louisville – 50
Syracuse at Illinois
Date and Time: Nov. 29 – 7:30 p.m. – ESPN
Syracuse sits at 3-3, but they have lost two in a row after losing to St. John’s and Bryant. The defense has not been great for Syracuse, and they have been one of the worst defensive-rebounding teams in the country. Judah Mintz is the main scoring threat, as he has done really well inside the arc, but has not really taken any shots from the perimeter. Joseph Girard has been solid shooting the ball, currently being 18-of-50 from three. Jesse Edwards has been one of the better rim protectors in the country.
With all the transfers and new personnel, questions surrounded Illinois coming into the season. They have stomped four teams ranked 250 and lower per Kenpom. They also looked really good, beating UCLA and losing a close game to Virginia. Terrence Shannon Jr. has been one of the best guards in the country, and he has shown off improved shot-making. Coleman Hawkins is a versatile big that can facilitate and shoot when needed. They have been one of the fastest teams, and their press can give teams a lot of issues.
Prediction: Illinois – 81, Syracuse – 69
Wake Forest at Wisconsin
Date and Time: Nov. 29 – 9 p.m. – ESPNU
Wake Forest has started 5-1, but they have not played a team as good as Wisconsin. Tyree Appleby has been a very fun guard to watch, being able to score and facilitate with the best of them. He is their most important player. There has not been an area where Wake Forest is elite, but there has not been an area where they have been bad either. This makes for a very solid squad.
Wisconsin just keeps finding ways to win. They are 5-1, with their lone loss being by one point in OT to Kansas. Their success has been all from the defense. They have one of the best defensive eFG% in the country while having one of the worst offensive eFG% in the country. They have done a really good job contesting on the perimeter and staying solid. They beat Dayton in a 43-42 game in which Dayton went 16-of-53 from the field and had 17 turnovers.
Prediction: Wisconsin 60, Wake Forest – 55
Georgia Tech at Iowa
Date and Time: Nov. 29 – 9 p.m. – ESPN2
Georgia Tech is 4-2, losing to Utah and Marquette. They have been much better on defense than on offense, but they have had one of the worst defensive rebounding percentages in DI. Everywhere else they are solid on defense. On offense, Deivon Smith has been a very good facilitator at the point guard position. They are on the smaller side, which has hurt their interior presence on offense.
Iowa is 5-1, coming off a 13-point loss to TCU. They are one of the more fun teams to watch, as they get up and down the court with a very efficient offense. Kris Murray has shown he can score with the best of them, and the surrounding players of Tony Perkins, Patrick McCaffery, and Payton Sandfort provide Iowa with a ton of versatility and length. They pose a lot of matchup problems for defenses.
Prediction: Iowa – 82, Georgia Tech – 70
Virginia at Michigan
Date and Time: Nov. 29 – 9:30 p.m. – ESPN
Virginia has been one of the best teams in the country, currently at 5-0 with wins over Baylor and Illinois. They are elite on both ends of the floor and continue to control the tempo, being one of the slowest teams in the country. Virginia has six players that are shooting at least 42% from downtown. Kihei Clark has been a really good point, facilitating well while also shooting well from the perimeter. Reece Beekman has been good for Virginia, providing an offensive spark at times.
Michigan is 5-1, but they have not been super impressive in doing so. They lost by 25 to Arizona State, needed overtime to beat Ohio, and beat Jackson State by 10. Hunter Dickinson has been phenomenal once again on offense. Jett Howard has showcased his shooting ability as a freshman, and there have been flashes by others. The defense has not been great, and many times players get caught off the ball. Michigan will also have to continue to improve in pick-and-roll coverage.
Prediction: Virginia – 65, Michigan – 55
Ohio State at Duke
Date and Time: Nov. 30 – 7:15 p.m. – ESPN
Ohio State has proven they are good over the beginning of the season as they are 5-1, with their only loss coming to San Diego State. This is a team that only returned two players from last year’s rotation. They also have four freshmen and three transfers that give the Buckeyes a unique combo. Zed Key is the most important player as an undersized center. He is an ultra-smart and savvy player though, and he is without a doubt the leader of the team. Freshman Brice Sensabaugh is going to get shots up early and often. He is only playing about 18 minutes a game, but he has taken the second-most shots on the team. He is going to come in and fire away.
Duke comes off a loss in the championship of the Phil Knight Legacy to Purdue. Freshman Dariq Whitehead is still working his way back into the groove after coming off of injury. 7-0 freshman Kyle Filipowksi has been phenomenal as he can score at all three levels, and he has rebounded well. Duke is the best offensive-rebounding team in the country, and they will need to use their size to their advantage against Ohio State.
Prediction: Duke – 72, Ohio State – 71
Purdue at Florida State
Date and Time: Nov. 30 – p.m. ESPN2 or ESPNU
There is not a hotter team in the country than Purdue right now. They not only won the Phil Knight Legacy tournament, but they also dominated. They beat West Virginia by 12, Gonzaga by 18, and Duke by 19 in the championship. Zach Edey is a legit National Player of the Year candidate. He has been dominant down low and is averaging 21.7 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game on 61.5 percent shooting. Surrounding him are players that make the right plays and keep the ball moving. When it comes down to it, Braden Smith has shown he can take over a game in pick and roll, including a 20-point outing against Marquette and 7 assists against the Zags.
Florida State has been the opposite of Purdue. They are currently 1-7, with their only win being a 9-point victory over Mercer. There has not been much that they have done well. They have not shot well, and they have been one of the worst rebounding teams in the country. They have played uptempo, but have not been able to turn transition opportunities into points.
Prediction: Purdue – 80, Florida State – 60
Rutgers at Miami (Fla)
Date and Time: Nov. 30 – 7:15 p.m. – ESPN2 or ESPNU
Rutgers currently sits at 5-1, with their loss coming to Temple who is also the best team Rutgers has played. They have had an elite defense, anchored by big man Clifford Omoruyi. They have been the best team in the country defending the three-point line, and they have to rely on their defense to win games. Omoruyi is also the focal point of the offense, but Cam Spencer has been Rutgers’ sole perimeter threat and will be very important.
Miami is also 5-1, and their only loss came against Maryland by 18. Nijel Pack and Isaiah Wong form one of the more intriguing backcourts in the country. They have not completely gelled right away, but both are very talented. Miami is a smaller team that has struggled on the boards. Norchad Omier has been very good inside for Miami as one of their only true big men.
Prediction: Rutgers – 63, Miami (Fla) – 60
North Carolina at Indiana
Date and Time: Nov. 30 – 9:15 p.m. – ESPN
North Carolina came in ranked as the number-one team in the country by some, but they have not been overly impressive at any point this season. They are 5-2, but have lost their last two games to Iowa State and Alabama (in a 4OT thriller). Their offense has been solid, although they have struggled shooting the 3 at times. This is partially due to the types of shots Caleb Love and RJ Davis take. Their defense has been solid but not great, although Armando Bacot has been a beast down low. There is plenty of talent, they just need to be able to put it all together.
Indiana came in with their highest expectations in a while, as they returned a lot of last year’s roster in addition to adding to top 30 recruits. They are 6-0, taking care of the teams in front of them. Their closest game was a 2-point win at Xavier. Trayce Jackson-Davis has been elite down low, currently shooting 38-of-50 from two. After a slow start, Xavier Johnson has gotten it going and is a real threat in the pick-and-roll. What makes this team so good is their defense. They do a good job of forcing things toward Trayce, who has been one of the better shot blockers in college.
Prediction: Indiana – 78, North Carolina – 71
Michigan State at Notre Dame
Date and Time: Nov. 30 – 9:15 p.m. – ESPN2
Not many teams have had a tougher schedule so far than Michigan State. They beat Northern Arizona, lost to Gonzaga by one, beat Kentucky and Villanova, lost to Alabama, and beat Oregon and Portland. Mady Sissoko has been a bigger surprise, going from playing five minutes per game last year to being a solid big for the Spartans. However, this is not a deep team, and they currently have both Jaden Akins and Malik Hall dealing with injuries. They have a backcourt featuring AJ Hoggard and Tyson Walker that can handle a lot of the burden, in addition to Joey Hauser.
Notre Dame is 5-1, and a lot of it is due to their offense. They are currently 108th in 3P%, 20th in 2P%, and 5th in FT%. They may be the least deep team in the country, as they have five players averaging 35+ minutes per game. They feature a lot of bigger guards and wings that have the potential to be able to switch well on defense and get good matchups on offense. It is an offense done by committee, as all of the players get a pretty equal amount of shots.
Prediction: Michigan State – 72, Notre Dame – 64
Boston College at Nebraska
Date and Time: Nov. 30 – 9:15 p.m. – ESPNU
Boston College is 5-2, and they have made it a defensive game in most of them. They have been solid on defense, forcing turnovers and rebounding well. The Eagles have struggled on offense though. They get to the rim often, but they have not been able to convert at all. They get a lot of pull-up jumpers instead of catch-and-shoot attempts. Nobody on the team is really a threat from three so far this season.
Nebraska is 4-3, losing to St. John’s, Oklahoma, and Memphis. They have not been good on offense or defense, but they are not as bad as last season. Sam Griesel and CJ Wilcher have been a solid backcourt that also provides a lot of length. Juwan Gary has provided good energy, and Nebraska just recently got back Derrick Walker. They are not going to compete for the Big Ten title, but they will have a solid chance to not be at the bottom of the Big Ten, which is an improvement.
Prediction: Nebraska – 75, Boston College – 70
Overall ACC/Big Ten Challenge standings predictions
Big Ten – 11, ACC – 3