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Our ACC/Big Ten Challenge Picks

Let the games begin!

NCAA Basketball: Phil Knight Legacy Championship-Duke vs Purdue
Nov 27, 2022; Portland, Oregon, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Jeremy Roach (3) steals the basketball during the second half against Purdue Boilermakers guard Braden Smith (3) at Moda Center. Purdue won the Phil Knight Legacy Championship game 75-56.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The final ACC/Big Ten Challenge starts Monday with two games so it’s time to lock in our predictions.

Monday’s Games

We’ll go with Virginia Tech over Minnesota and Northwestern should beat Pitt. The Hokies, hopefully, have ironed out some minor bugs and they are an experienced and capable team. And while Pitt has perked up, we think Northwestern is probably better. Plus it’s a home game for them. Chris Collins over Jeff Capel, in Duke terms.

Tuesday’s Game

At this point it would be the upset of the year if Louisville beat Maryland. You’d think at some point they’d snap out of it or at least get angry and just get it done, but we’re not holding our breath for a Cardinal win. Certainly not here. Good new for Louisville though - Florida State is coming up soon and someone has to win the Awful Bowl. Watch it get massive eyeballs too. Kind of like rubbernecking at a major car crash.

We don’t know a whole lot about Penn State but Clemson has shown some gumption this season. So we’ll ride with the Tigers. Plus everyone is bound to be mad about choking against South Carolina on the football field. Somebody has to pay for that crap and who else but Penn State can do it? Clemson fans are going to be surly.

Syracuse is pretty far past the sell-by date under Jim Boeheim. He’s still entertainingly snarky but snark don’t feed the bulldog. Illinois is a tough, aggressive team and their coach looks kind of like a bulldog, come to think of it. We say the bulldog will take a bite out of Syracuse. Let’s start the speculation a bit early - who would be a good fit for this job? We’d say former Blue Devil and current Niagara coach Greg Paulus but he hasn’t done enough yet to merit a major promotion. Bobby Hurley might like it too and would probably recruit New York and New Jersey very well. Otherwise, Syracuse should look for a young, scrappy guy who could inject some serious energy into a program that now spends its evenings eating pudding and talking about radio shows from the ‘40s and how they were better than TV, dammit. Forget NIL. Everyone gets a cardigan.

We’ll give Josh Pastner credit for solid defense at Georgia Tech but the wunderkind label is wearing a bit thin since he’s rarely had a decent offense and hasn’t won very much. You know who does has a decent offense? Iowa. Plus Georgia Tech is visiting and that team doesn't always translate well on the road. We wouldn’t bet the house money here but one or two week’s rent? Might do that. Trivia: Iowa coach Fran McCaffery was known as White Magic when he came to Wake Forest. He didn’t last long there, taking his alleged magic back home to Penn after one frustrating season in Winston-Salem.

Wow, Wake at Wisconsin. The Badgers are well-coached and have managed the transition from Bo what's-his-name (just kidding - Ryan) to Greg Gard rather well. But Steve Forbes seems to just get it done. We like Wake here and will probably regret it.

Michigan has been too erratic and Virginia looks like it’s ready to be elite again. So taking the Cavs here. Plus, as Baylor learned, playing Bennett Ball for the first time is not the easiest thing in the world. Fortunately for Michigan, Duke transfer Joey Baker can provide a complete system scout. We’ll still take UVA.

Wednesday’s Games

We don’t bet against Duke so we’ll take the Devils here. Plus it’s in Cameron and Cameron should be hungry. Feed the beast!

Now on to the comedy part of our program. The Purdue we saw in Portland was pretty brilliant. Florida State is good for about 15-20 minutes before the inevitable collapse. We probably would bet the house money here, assuming we had it. In stock terms, we would STF out of Florida State here, with the S standing for short. It’s sad to see this program on its back. Good luck, ‘Noles. You’re going to need it. Get healthy!

Incidentally, Leonard Hamilton is just a few years younger than Boeheim but curiously, there has been no speculation about his retirement, presumably because FSU has done very well in recent years. This year may change that. So who is a good candidate for Tallahassee? Food for thought.

On the positive side for UNC, they should be really mad after Portland and Hubie may finally have their full attention (stop us if you’ve heard this before). But UNC hasn’t played well so far and now it looks like Armando Bacot has a bad wheel and may or may not play. Dean Smith logic would say well, of course you would pick the Heels because he’d like the challenge. Roy Williams logic would say he’s got enough backup to overcome IU on the road. Hubert Davis logic? TBD. We’re going with IU here.

Normally we’d assume that Michigan State would just crush Notre Dame. However, they have some serious injury concerns. We have the greatest respect for Omar Bradley Tom Izzo but Malik Hall and Jaden Akins were out against Alabama with injuries, Sam Hauser has an ankle issue and Izzo’s not happy with Pierre Brooks which means Brooks ain’t getting much time.

So the Irish have a shot here if they play well.

Boston College has a shot at Nebraska too. Fred Hoiberg isn’t exactly in the hot seat but it may be getting a bit warm. BC is developing a culture of intensity. We like what Earl Grant is building and we think BC will prevail.