The ACC/SEC Challenge begins on Tuesday and replaces the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. As Barry points out in his column today, the conferences both sprang out of the old Southern Conference and the schools on both sides have ancient rivalries, some of which have been forgotten.
Duke and Kentucky is always simmering, but when South Carolina was still in the ACC, the Blue Devils and Gamecocks became an absolutely vicious rivalry in the 1960’s.
That’s mostly forgotten now of course, but ask an older fan. It really was vicious.
And there are various regional rivalries like Georgia vs. Georgia Tech which, as Barry again notes, are not part of the Challenge.
Tuesday’s play opens with Georgia Tech hosting Mississippi State. The Yellow Jackets have some potential but we don’t yet know what to expect from a Damon Stoudamire team. It’s hard to favor Tech here though.
Notre Dame plays at South Carolina and while Notre Dame is rebuilding, so are the Gamecocks. We like what we’ve seen so far from Micah Shrewsberry’s team. That said, obviously they have a lot of work to do, but so does South Carolina. We’re basically betting on coaching here.
LSU and Syracuse are more or less at similar levels in their rebuilds. We’d give the Orange a slight advantage here because their fans are so intense, plus that backcourt should become really formidable. Should be a good one.
Miami at Kentucky is pretty fascinating. Calipari’s big men are all either rehabbing or not ready yet for various reasons and certainly not 100 percent. So it’ll be more of a perimeter matchup and that’s one that Miami can win. Will they? We’d have to rate it a toss up, but still, it’s pretty cool that Jim Larranaga has brought his program to the point where they can go into Rupp on at least even terms. That’s a remarkable rise, much less for a coach over 70. He’s done a brilliant job.
Missouri at Pitt is interesting. Pitt has been pretty successful so far, although the loss to Florida was not good. But they are at home for this one and that’s a tough barn. Missouri was 25-11 and optimism is very high. We’d take Pitt except for that Florida game. Going to have to take the Tigers here. By the way, a familiar name on the roster: Nick Honor, who was a Clemson Tiger before he became a Missouri Tiger.
NC State and Ole Miss tangle as Chris Beard attempts to rebuild his career after destroying his job at Texas when his fiancée accused him of a violent attack.
He’ll never fully escape that but there’s no question the man can coach and he’s stocked up from the transfer portal. We’d love to see State win this one but it just seems unlikely.
Surprisingly, we’ll take Clemson over Alabama. The Tide has been erratic and Clemson has some great pieces. And as we’ve often said, we think that Brad Brownell is immensely underrated. Not to get ahead of things, but can you imagine if he had a platform like Texas or Kentucky? His biggest problem is that he’s at a school where he a) can't get top-flight talent and b) often has to develop the players he can get.
Well, he does that as well as anyone. In this particular game, we think that Alabama is vulnerable and Clemson will come at them in that hard-nosed way Brownell teams do.
One of the funniest things we ever saw from Nolan Smith was watching him bring the ball down against Clemson in Brownell’s first year and getting bounced around like a pinball. He turned to the refs as if to say, WTF?
Alabama will have to deal with that Tuesday night and it may not be much fun.