We posted most of our thoughts on the ACC-Big Ten Challenge last night, but two important injury notes:Â Harrison Barnes may not play for UNC and Minnesota seniorÂ Trevor Mbakwe is out for the season with an ACL. That's most likely a break for Virginia Tech, though as Dean Smith used to point out, an injury could work to a team's advantage for a game or two before emotions settle down and reality takes over.
For Monday night's games, we'll go with Virginia, Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, Clemson and Duke. Virginia's defense is really stifling and we think they're ready to step up.Â We're taking Northwestern, but not wholeheartedly.Â Tech is doing a nice job of adapting to Brian Gregory.
We can't see how Maryland will beat Illinois.Â It's not that the Illini are so great, but rather that Maryland is struggling so much, and with a bench full of walk-ons. That's tough.
We're not sure Iowa is recovered and Clemson is a very physical team, especilly on defense.Â We don't think the Hawkeyes have seen anything like it.
And as for Duke and Ohio State, Duke's early schedule has toughened them up considerably. In the exhibition season, they were ragged and tentative, but they're well on their way now.Â This is a team which is improving very, very quickly.Â Among other things, Austin Rivers is coming along very fast.Â You can still see him trying to play 1-on-5 at times, but less and less. He's becoming a solid team player, but still a guy who is tremendously explosive.Â We'll be interested to see how he does in this game, but overall, we think Duke wins it.
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