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Time For The Challenge!

Ok, time for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge! Who knows what to expect, but from
here it looks like the ACC could have its best year so far.

We're making the following predictions, and it's heavy on the ACC. If
you've read us for a while, you know we don't do that just to be homers.

Iowa vs. FSU FSU
OSU vs. Duke Duke
Penn State vs. Clemson Clemson
Maryland vs. Indiana Toss-up
UNC vs. Illinois UNC
Tech vs. Minnesota Tech
Northwestern vs. NCSU NCSU
Wake Forest vs. Wisconsin Wake Forest
Michigan State vs. Virginia Virginia

We think Leonard Hamilton will shake things up enough in Tally to take Iowa,
a program which also has an enormous number of distractions right now.

Ohio State was thin on the perimeter before Brandon Fuss-Cheatham went down
with an injury. Reserve forward Shun Jenkins is also out. Their depth is
whacked and a deep Duke team awaits, and Duke's perimeter defense is
particularly impressive. We'll go with Duke (surprise). Caveat: Clemson
transfer Tony Stockman will be able to relay lots of good information about
Duke's system.

Penn State just sucks too bad to take a flyer on. Clemson.

Maryland-IU is very interesting. Obviously there are overtones from the
NCAAs, but each team had critical losses, and each team is still doing
well. Maryland is at a high level, and IU won the Maui Invitational.
We're thinking it's a tossup, but the emotional edge might go to Indiana.
Still, too close to call.

Illinois-UNC is another really tough call. After the huge performance
in New York, it's easy to say UNC. But it's a road game, a Big 10 opponent, and
a tough center - something UNC doesn't have. Don't take that wrong, Sean
May is playing great, but he's out of position. Plus Bill Self is an
excellent coach and has studied the tapes from New York, and while we're hardly
sophisticates, we could see that the UNC players shot a lot from the perimeter,
tended to create more shots for themselves than for other players, and
periodically (not often) looked young. Still, we'll take the Heels in this

Minnesota has an excellent coach in Dan Monson, son of Don Monson, a very
highly regarded lifer who retired a few years back. They also have Rick
Rickert. They don't have Tech's fleet of 6-4 to 6-7 speedburners, though,
and they don't have Chris Bosh. We'll take Tech.

State vs. Northwestern is a great match up of similar systems. State is
more talented and very tough defensively. Northwestern is improving under
former Princeton coach Bill Carmody, but not enough to win in

As for Wisconsin, their main player is 6-5 Kirk Penney, and we say Josh
Howard trumps him, as long as he can play pain-free. They are just as
young as Wake Forest, but probably not as talented. We'll go with the

Now Michigan State and UVa makes us hesitate. Every fiber says don't go
against Izzo's defense and rebounding demons. But they've kind of stunk it
up so far, honestly. They lost to Oklahoma State (a similar program in
some respects) and Villanova, and UNC-A gave them a game. UVa is erratic,
but they seem to have gathered some momentum, so we'll go with the 'Hoos, though
we'll probably regret it.

So we're predicting an insanely high number of ACC victories. Usually
we can make really good arguments against most teams, but in this case, the ACC
looks to be a lot better than people think. And it's borne out in the
record thus far - the
conference as a whole has only one loss
(UVa's loss to IU). The Big 10
is 23-12.