After years of getting slapped around by their Atlantic Coast comrades, the Big Ten is shooting for its fourth Big Ten/ACC Challenge victory in a row. The action kicks off Tuesday night with a pair of marquee games in the Midwest.
The Big Ten still boasts three of the top five AP-ranked teams in the land, and two of them are in action tonight. On the flip side, only three ACC teams are ranked at all, compared to six ranked Big Ten teams -- which oddly enough does not include Wisconsin.
This annual series is a fun watch and I hope it continues for many years. Sure, everybody hates Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State, but conference loyalty trumps all this time of year. Because we all hate ACC arrogance and the East Coast bias even more.
Here's a look at the lineup for Tuesday, Nov. 27:
6:15 p.m. CST
No. 21 Minnesota (6-1) @ Florida State (4-1)
ESPN2 | Coverage
Minnesota is 5-8 overall (1-5 road)
FSU is 6-7 overall (4-2 home)
The Seminoles have reeled off four wins in a row after a shocking loss to South Alabama opened their season. Florida State is usually a formidable defensive foe, but not so much this season with Bernard James off to the NBA. Swingman Michael Snaer is more of an offensive player (16 ppg). The Gophers are still trying to get power forward Trevor Mbakwe back into the swing of things. Their only loss is to Duke. Rising star Andre Hollins exploded for 41 points last Friday, but Rodney Williams (14 ppg, 6 rpg) has developed into the go-to guy for Tubby Smith.
Iowa (5-1) @ Virginia Tech (5-0)
ESPNU | Coverage
Iowa is 2-9 overall (0-4 road)
Va. Tech is 2-5 overall (1-2 home)
A not-so-special clash between two of the worst performers in the history of the challenge was correctly relegated to ESPNU status. Iowa lost to a solid Wichita State squad last week, and really hasn't been firing on all cylinders. The Hawkeyes are led by Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White, but the vaunted freshman duo of center Adam Woodbury and point guard Mike Gesell has struggled more than anticipated. Like Iowa, the Hokies want to run. Firecracker guard Erick Green is averaging 24. 4 points and 5.2 assists per game as a senior. Junior forward Jarell Eddie adds nearly 19 points and seven rebounds per game, too. Are they for real?
Prediction: Virginia Tech
6:30 p.m. CST
No. 18 North Carolina State (4-1) @ No. 3 Michigan (5-0)
ESPN | Coverage
NC State is 5-7 overall (1-5 road)
Michigan is 4-7 overall (2-3 home)
The first prime cut of the night pits two extremely talented ranked teams. Michigan is fresh off two good wins over Pittsburgh and Kansas State to earn the NIT Tipoff tourney championship. However, I always think of the Wolfpack as that young, overhyped collection of unproven talent that got run out of the Kohl Center two years ago. A now-seasoned rotation led by C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Robert Howell, Scott Wood, and even more diaper dandies still haven't proven much in the regular season, but did make a Sweet 16 run last year. The opposite is true of Michigan. After winning a share of the Big Ten title a year ago, Big Blue flopped in the NCAAs. But the Wolverines are at home Tuesday. And some of their players remember the embarrassing Challenege losses of years past. I'm guessing Trey Burke, Time Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III are too much for the "other" Wolves.
8:15 p.m. CST
Nebraska (4-1) @ Wake Forest (3-2)
ESPNU | Coverage
Nebraska is 0-1 overall (0-0 road)
Wake is 10-2 overall (6-0 home)
Nebraska takes its first ACC road trip in a rematch against the Demon Deacons, who boast the best home record of any school in the Challenge's history. Of all the teams to knock Wake down to earth, how funny would it be if the Huskers did it on the Deacs home court after getting blasted by Kent State in Lincoln? Though Nebraska is the butt of all Big Ten basketball jokes, Wake Forest might be even worse. Outside of C.J. Harris and Travis McKie, Wake has no zero experience. "Upset" special -- Dylan Talley (16.2 ppg) in the house!
Maryland (4-1) @ Northwestern (6-0)
ESPN2 | Coverage
Maryland is 9-4 overall (3-1 road)
N'western is 6-7 overall (4-2 home)
Hey, some good ol' intraconference Big Ten action here, amiright? For the Wildcats to stay undefeated, figuring out how to stop Maryland's Alex Len (15.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg) is a must. The Terps attack the offensive glass like crazy and that has always been Northwestern's weakness. Pomeroy loves the Wildcats here; I have a bad feeling about it. Drew Crawford and David Sobolewski make a sneaky good backcourt, but Mark Turgeon is an even sneakier coach.
8:30 p.m. CST
No. 14 North Carolina (5-1) @ No. 1 Indiana (6-0)
ESPN | Coverage
UNC is 7-6 overall (2-3 road)
IU is 4-7 overall (1-3 home)
A surprise loss for UNC to Butler took a bit of the shine off of this heavyweight tilt, but it's still a major hurdle for the young Hoosiers to clear in the quest to validate their top rank. Cody Zeller is the man to watch against his brother's alma mater, while freshman Yogi Ferrell brings an element to Indiana that it desperately lacked a year ago: a dynamic point guard who knows what he's doing. Indiana is still without its two suspended freshmen bigs after its appeal was denied earlier this week. Carolina is not as loaded with household names as last year, but big man James Michael McAdoo (16.8 ppg) leads a high-scoring attack. The Heels are loaded with experience at the wing even without key bench contributor P.J. Hairston, who did not travel with UNC to Bloomington (knee injury).
That's a 4-2 start for the Big Ten by my count. The Nebraska and Northwestern games are toss ups to me. I'll preliminarily give the overall nod to the Big Ten as well, 7-5, to keep the winning streak alive. But stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2.
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