The 14th annual challenge will take place starting tonight and The Big Ten is going after their fourth straight challenge win. Yes, four straight victories over the hated ACC (after losing the first ten challenges).
This year features eight ranked teams, mainly from the Big Ten. There are three big games as a college basketball junkie I know I won’t miss (Indiana vs UNC, Duke vs OSU, and of course my alma mater, Iowa vs Virginia Tech).
How important is this tournament? It’s a little foreshadowing. Since it started in 1999, nine teams from the two conferences have played in the Final Four, (with six national titles). I’d say that’s a pretty big deal. Also, since one third of the teams are ranked, it says something about these conferences.
Here we go with the match ups and my predictions. My predictions in italics at the end. (All times Eastern Standard Time).
Tuesday Nov. 27th
Minnesota at Florida St, 7:15PM ESPN2 – Minnesota is knocking on the ESPN poll at #26 and ranked #21 in the AP poll. After edging Stanford on the free throw of Andre Hollins, the Gophers will have confidence going into this one. It’s going to be a close one with Minnesota winning and tying the all-time series at two.
Iowa at Virginia Tech, 7:15PM ESPNU – As an Iowa fan, their recent success of 3s (26% of their points) and free throws (28% of their points) show that Coach Fran McCaffery is making an impact. This will be a close one. But I have to go with my heart, Iowa by five.
No. 18 NC State at No. 3 Michigan, 7:30PM ESPN – The PG matchup is going to be one to watch, Trey Burke of Michigan and Lorenzo Brown of the Wolfpack will keep it interesting. Wolverines by eight.
Maryland at Northwestern, 9:15PM ESPN2 – Northwestern has started out an impressive, 6-0, but it’s not going to be enough against one of the nation’s top rebounding teams. The Terps will be the Big Ten in 2014, and will win tonight by nine.
Nebraska vs Wake Forest, 9:15PM ESPNU – This is a slam dunk, Tim Duncan style! The Deacons, aside from Duke are the winningest team in this tourney and it’s fair to say that the Huskers are one of the worst teams in the tournament. Wake is getting better and Nebraska is still Nebraska. The Huskers will lose by two.
No. 14 North Carolina vs No. 1 Indiana, 9:30PM ESPN – Indiana had close call against Georgetown last week, but this game in Bloomington will show the nation they are for real. This game will also make Roy remember the sad day when Cody Zeller chose Indiana over UNC. The game will be fast, full court and the Hoosiers will win by four.
Wednesday Nov. 28th
Virginia at Wisconsin, 7PM ESPN2 – Both Virginia and Wisconsin are 4-2 heading into Wednesday’s tip-off. The player to watch (and on my fantasy team) is Wisconsin’s Jared Berggren. His consistency is going to be too much and the mismatches will give the game to the Badgers. Badgers by seven.
Clemson vs Purdue, 7:15PM ESPNU – This is a different kind of Purdue team, with a lot of new faces who have already stumbled to a rocky 2-3 start. We expect poor free throw shooting these days, but the Boilermakers areshooting only 25% from the stripe. This young team needs a little more time on the court together. Clemson’s only loss was to Gonzaga and their defense has kept all opponents under 57. Tigers by eight.
13 Michigan State at Miami, 7:30PM ESPN – Michigan State barely beat the University of Louisana-Lafayette, at home on Sunday. They beat Kansas on a neutral court and lost their season opener to unranked Connecticut. Their fans have already had a dismal football season so they hope basketball will come around so the year isn’t a total wash. It depends which team shows up, but we know Tom Izzo will be there and when a team struggles, coaches make a difference. Spartans by six.
Georgia Tech at 22 Illinois, 9:00PM (ESPN2) – Illinois is on roll. Assembly Hall will be full of Orange. Brandon Paul will lead these 7-0 Maui invite winners to their 8th win. Illinois by 9.
(Why is this Deja Vu?)
Boston College at Penn State, 9:15PM (ESPNU) – Deja vu? These teams matched up against each other in last year’s ACC/ Big Ten Challenge. Penn State wins again against a Boston College team that just lost to Bryant, despite returning their whole lineup. Penn State wins by six.
No. 4 Ohio State at No. 2 Duke, 9:30PM (ESPN) – Coach K has led this team to a 6-0 start. The Cameron crazies want revenge for their embarrassing loss at OSU last year. With the teams Duke has already played (and won) and Mason Plumlee, Duke wins by 9.
The BigTen will win again, 8-4. 4 in a row. There you (may?) have it.
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