There’s been a lot of discussion that this might finally be the Big Ten’s year in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
I hate to break it to you, but keep dreaming.
Is the Big Ten even better than the stacked conference that sent seven teams to the NCAA Tournament and narrowly lost the Challenge 6-5 to the ACC last year? Yes. Will the ACC still win it again this year? Yes.
The Big Ten catches a break with Georgia Tech being the one ACC team that doesn’t play in the challenge this year, but the matchups were actually better suited for the conference to pull off the upset last season. Michigan State hosted North Carolina in Detroit and Purdue got Duke at home. The ACC won both of those matchups. Now the Spartans head to UNC and it will be up to Wisconsin to top the Blue Devils at home. That’s just one example, but as you take a look at the matchups, you will see that they aren’t exactly pointing towards a Big Ten win:
Penn State at Virginia
Two mediocre 4-2 teams go head-to-head to tip-off the challenge. Tie goes to the home team.
Maryland at Indiana
The Terps had a rough week in Maui, but they are still better than the Hoosiers who are improving but not quite there.
Michigan State at North Carolina
This is the biggest example of why the matchups favored the Big Ten more last season. MSU now has more experience, but instead of playing in Detroit, the Spartans have to play in Chapel Hill.
Pick: North Carolina
Northwestern at North Carolina State
Tough call because we don’t have a good gauge on how much better Sidney Lowe’s squad is after five relatively easy wins. NU looks good, but this is the kind of game the Cats typically drop on the road.
Pick: North Carolina State
Virginia Tech at Iowa
The Hokies are down, but Iowa is awful. Don’t let that first half against Texas fool you.
Pick: Virginia Tech
Wake Forest at Purdue
Wake has some good talent, but it lost Jeff Teague and now has to go to West Lafayette, where the Boilermakers look very good.
Boston College at Michigan
This is one of three games that looked a lot better for the Big Ten last week. But despite coming off two losses in Orlando, I like the Wolverines at home in a close one.
Duke at Wisconsin
This could be the swing game and no team is better at home than the Badgers who are 61-5 against non-conference foes at the Kohl Center. Still, despite shooting less than 30 percent, the Blue Devils crushed a good UConn team and they should beat the young Badgers.
Florida State at Ohio State
The Seminoles have the talent to push the Buckeyes but this is a game the Big Ten can’t afford to lose. Evan Turner will have another huge game.
Pick: Ohio State
Illinois at Clemson
This is another game that looked a lot better for the Big Ten a week ago. The Illini lost two straight to Utah and Bradley, while Clemson is ranked No. 19 after a tough loss to Texas A&M and good win over Butler.
Minnesota at Miami
Yet another game that looked better for the Big Ten a week ago. The Gophers beat Butler, but then lost to Portland and Texas A&M. Meanwhile, Miami is 7-0. I still like the Gophers though and the Hurricanes haven’t faced any tough competition yet.
ACC wins challenge 7-4.