The ACC/Big Ten Challenge is nearly upon and that means time for predictions and best guesses, so here we go.
Our short list:
- Nebraska vs. Clemson - ACC
- Minnesota vs. BC - Big Ten
- Illinois vs. Notre Dame - ACC
- Virginia Tech @ Penn State - ACC
- Michigan State @ Louisville - Big Ten
- NC State @ Wisconsin - Big Ten
- PItt @ Iowa - Big Ten
- Indiana @ Duke - ACC
- Virginia @ Maryland - ACC
- Syracuse @ Ohio State - Big Ten
- Rutgers @ Miami - ACC
- North Carolina @ Michigan - Big Ten
- Purdue @ Florida State - ACC
- Georgia Tech @ Northwestern - Big Ten
Like most people we usually blow some of our predictions but we feel fairly safe in some of these. There’s no reason Virginia Tech should lose for instance. Pitt is undefeated but Iowa on the road is a different matter. Syracuse hasn’t impressed anybody. Georgia Tech is a train wreck on offense and has dumbed their schedule down accordingly.
Then there’s Michigan-UNC.
Look, UNC is a legitimately good team and in most years we’d think they would have a shot here and they do. We’ll be surprised if it’s a wildly uncompetitive game. It should be fairly tense.
We stand by what we said the other day though: in our minds, Michigan should be the favorite for the national championship. Why?
Well first, John Beilein is a masterful offensive coach. If we were to give him a nickname we’d call him the Watchmaker because everything in his system is so intricate and well planned.
His defense has never been as good though - until now.
Beilein hired Luke Yaklich last season and man has that guy made a difference.
Belein essentially treats him as the defensive coordinator and in just Year Two, Yaklich has made huge improvements in the Wolverine defense.
So far this season, Michigan has allowed just 48.3 ppg and only two teams have topped 50 points. And look at just how well they’re defending overall shots and three point shots:
In years past, Beilein’s offensive brilliance has allowed Richmond, then West Virginia and now Michigan to pull off stunning comebacks. It’s a fun team to watch but defensively, Beilein has never been as sharp.
Well it’s a sharp team now. When you match a lethal offense with a crushing defense you should expect great things. In our mind this puts Michigan on the inside track for the national championship.
Back to the top: the first four games seem very straightforward. Clemson is better and at home vs. Nebraska. Minnesota has played a tougher schedule than BC. Illinois is 1-4. Virginia Tech should be far better than Penn State.
Gets trickier after that.
Michigan State should beat Louisville, but Tom Izzo has never been scared to lose early and Louisville has some talent despite everything that has happened.
We think State is gutty and, by the way, the last undefeated Big Four team. Still, they’re smallish for Wisconsin and Ethan Happ was brilliant against Virginia. It just seems a lot to ask although State could press and win in transition. Just seems unlikely, and more’s the pity. We’d love to be wrong here but we expect Wisconsin will control the pace and therefore the game.
Pitt is undefeated but against mediocre competition. True, they lost these games last year, but Iowa is a big jump and the Hawkeyes are playing very, very well. And that’s a raucous place to take a young team for its first major road game. Maybe they can pull it off but we’re doubtful.
Duke should win at home but IU is an improving program and only a fool would underestimate Archie Miller’s work ethic.
Virginia gets the booby prize, the game that most ACC teams, or at least most pre-expansion teams, don’t care to get: Maryland.
Playing at Maryland means dealing with dangerous people who think nothing of throwing heated pennies or full water bottles, brawling in or outside of the arena, and from time to time, rioting (that seems to have slowed down along with Maryland’s basketball success).
Fun fact: the Terps haven’t won in the Challenge since 2012-13 when, as an ACC team, they topped Northwestern. To date, Maryland has not beaten an ACC team in the Challenge and we don't think they will this year either.
We can’t see Syracuse beating Ohio State the way they’ve been playing. Ohio State is a hard-nosed team and the Orange haven’t been able to sort out their issues yet. Hard to see it happening fast enough. They could, but it just seems like the wrong opponent.
We certainly noticed that Rutgers beat Eastern Michigan, the team Duke crushed, and held them to an NCAA record low (shot clock era) four point first half.
Yes you read that right.
Rutger’s schedule isn’t enough to sell us yet though we know that team is getting better. We think Miami has enough to get it done.
We respect Purdue, but really, how good have the Boilermakers been under Matt Painter? He’s never been past the Sweet Sixteen.
Then again on the other hand, Florida State has a habit of blowing games late.
It’s going to be a contrast of styles. Purdue is intense but kind of plodding while Florida State has intense defense and likes to run. At home, we like the ‘Noles.
Finally, Georgia Tech lacks the offensive talent and the competitive experience to beat Northwestern. The Wildcats are more talented and, we think, better coached.
|Nebraska @ Clemson||Nov. 26||7 p.m.||ACC||ESPN2||ACC|
|Minnesota @ Boston College||Nov. 26||9 p.m.||ACC||ESPN2||Big Ten|
|Illinois @ Notre Dame||Nov. 27||7 p.m.||ACC||ESPN2/ESPNU||ACC|
|Virginia Tech @ Penn State||Nov. 27||7 p.m.||Big Ten||ESPN2/ESPNU||ACC|
|Michigan State @ Louisville||Nov. 27||7:30 p.m.||ACC||ESPN||Big Ten|
|NC State @ Wisconsin||Nov. 27||9 p.m.||Big Ten||ESPN2||Big Ten|
|Pittsburgh @ Iowa||Nov. 27||9 p.m.||Big Ten||ESPNU||Big Ten|
|Indiana @ Duke||Nov. 27||9:30 p.m.||ACC||ESPN||ACC|
|Virginia @ Maryland||Nov. 28||7 p.m.||Big Ten||ESPN/ESPN2||ACC|
|Syracuse @ Ohio State||Nov. 28||7 p.m.||Big Ten||ESPN/ESPN2||Big Ten|
|Rutgers @ Miami (Fla.)||Nov. 28||7 p.m.||ACC||ESPNU||ACC|
|North Carolina @ Michigan||Nov. 28||9 p.m.||Big Ten||ESPN||Big Ten|
|Purdue @ Florida State||Nov. 28||9 p.m.||ACC||ESPN2||ACC|
|Georgia Tech @ Northwestern||Nov. 28||9 p.m.||Big Ten||ESPNU||Big Ten|
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