The Big Ten took an early 4-2 lead over the ACC in this year's challenge, punctuated by No. 2 Ohio State thorough dismissal of No. 3 Duke. I had predicted a 5-1 start yesterday and got one game wrong -- Virginia's upset of No. 14 Michigan.
The most impressive Big Ten team by far was Ohio State. The Buckeyes simply had too many weapons for Duke, which bodes well for their Big Ten title chances. Illinois looked pretty bad for most of its game against Maryland, making some silly mistakes, turnovers, etc. The way they fought back and closed out the game on the road was quite impressive however. Purdue handled its business at home over an undermanned Miami team, while Northwestern posted a big road win at Georgia Tech.
The night started off on a sour note as Virginia dismantled Michigan in the second half. Tim Hardaway Jr. did not look like himself, scoring just 5 points on 2-of-9 shooting. Meanwhile, Iowa isn't doing anything right these days and shot under 29% against Clemson
Day Two is a little more daunting for the Big Ten. It will need to at least split these six games to win outright:
Wednesday, Nov. 30
Penn State (5-2) at Boston College (2-4)
Don't get me wrong, Penn State is a bad basketball team. Boston College is worse if you can believe it, ranking no better than 300th (!) in many basic raw categories like points and rebounds per game. The Nitts can thank Nebraska for joining the Big Ten to allow BC to "compete" in this series. Don't screw this up Chambers!
Pick: Penn State (5-2 Big Ten)
Indiana (6-0) at North Carolina State (5-1)
Indiana made a statement with its domination over "shell of former Butler" the other day, but the Hoosiers can announce their return to respectability in a big way with a road win in the challenge. Much like Indiana, NC State is a storied program in rebuilding mode, only less far along. The Wolfpack boasts a big group of talented youngsters that the Badgers ran right through last season. I think Indiana's confidence is sky high right now, yet I know I'm underestimating home court advantage on my picks. I've waffled on this one long, enough ...
Pick: Indiana (6-2 Big Ten)
Florida State (5-2) at Michigan State (4-2)
The Seminoles have been scuffling lately away from home, but they will always present a serious defensive front under Leonard Hamilton. This might not be the prettiest pairing, but it makes for one of the most intriguing ones of the Challenge since both of these teams have the same attitude about basketball. Michigan State has taken its lumps too and I'm sure the Spartans are eager to see some pay off for playing such a tough early schedule. The home court decides this one.
Pick: Michigan State (7-2 Big Ten clinches)
Virginia Tech (5-1) at Minnesota (6-1)
After losing monster forward Trevor Mbakwe to a season-ending knee injury, Minnesota simply isn't ready to play good ball yet. This was supposed to be an early season bracketbuster, but the Gophers now lack an identity and are coming off a blowout loss to Dayton. Meanwhile, the Hokies lost quite a bit from last year's squad, but got Dorenzo Hudson back along with Victor Davila. Virginia Tech goes a legit 9-deep, adding man-child Dorian Finney-Smith to the mix inside.
Pick: Virginia Tech (7-3 Big Ten)
Wake Forest (4-2) at Nebraska (4-1)
Wake Forest has fallen a long way as a program. Conversely, Nebraska has a long way to go. But thank Nebraska for not only luring the ACC bottom feeders like BC into the Challenge, but also for possibly clinching the win this year. The Huskers play pretty good defense and have tons of size. They just don't shoot that well (49% on 2s). Luckily the Demon Deacons are pretty much a sieve. Wake Forest will have to hope its young perimeter stars -- including high-powered duo Travis McKie and C.J. Harris -- stay hot from 3-point land.
Pick: Nebraska (8-3 Big Ten)
No. 9 Wisconsin (6-0) at No. 5 North Carolina (5-1)
See my full breakdown here. Wisconsin has a shot, but I think UNC takes it by 10.
Pick: North Carolina (8-4 Big Ten wins Challenge)
Join me on Twitter @hoopsmarinara again tonight for additional commentary on the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.