This year's Big Ten/ACC Challenge got off to somewhat of a ho-hum start Tuesday night when all six eventual winners held a sizable double-digit lead for long stretches. The first half of the Indiana-North Carolina game was certainly exciting. N.C. State made things interesting down the stretch for Michigan. But in the end, the Big Ten didn't mind, since it broke out to a nice 4-2 start in the 2012 Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
If I were a betting man, last night could have been profitable too, as I went 6-0 on my day one picks. Therefore, my original 7-5 win for the Big Ten in the Challenege is still very much in play. Thanks to a late suspension at Clemson, day two is shaping up much the same way for the good guys. I think the Big Ten can pull out an 8-4 victory, so let's see if the midwest can bring it home once more.
Here are you matchups for the final night, Wednesday, Nov. 28 ...
6 p.m. CST
Virginia (4-2) @ Wisconsin (4-2)
ESPN2 | Coverage
UVA is 7-5 overall (2-4 road)
Wisconsin is 6-7 overall (4-1 home)
Two stellar defenses take center stage at the Kohl Center. Along with Tony Bennett, Merrill native Paul Jesperson and former Badger (and current UVA grad manager) Mark Vershaw return to Wisconsin as well.
6:15 p.m. CST
Purdue (2-3) @ Clemson (4-1)
ESPNU | Coverage
Purdue is 5-6 overall (1-4 road)
Clemson is 9-4 overall (4-2 home)
This is shaping up to be a very important game for Purdue, which is off to an uncharacteristic 2-3 start. The two teams have some history in the challenege, splitting their previous two meetings. The Boilers are led by Johnson & Johnson at guard, then some interchangeable parts up front. Too much youth and inconsistency. Meanwhile, Clemson counters with its most experienced players at forward, led by Devon Booker. The Tigers are famous for starting fast each season, but Purdue just caught a huge break when it was announced that Milton Jennings was suspended for tonight's game. I though the home court advantage would likely determine the winner tonight, now I don't know what to think.
6:30 p.m. CST
No. 13 Michigan State (5-1) @ Miami (3-1)
ESPN | Coverage
MSU is 6-6 overall (1-4 road)
Miami is 1-4 overall (1-1 home)
Tom Izzo's Spartans continue to be a Jekyll & Hyde team, struggling with turnovers as they squeaked by Louisiana-Lafayette Sunday. Point guard Keith Appling (16.8 ppg, 4.2 apg) is bringing back memories or the good Kalin Lucas, but Izzo hasn't gotten what he's wanted out of center Adreian Payne so far. Freshman star Gary Harris' status is uncertain for this contest too. Still, usually when the Spartans falter (UConn), they rebound to make a statement (winning at Kansas) the next time out. Miami, in my opinion, is just another team, though the Canes did just get Durand Scott back.
Prediction: Michigan State
8 p.m. CST
Georgia Tech (4-1) @ No. 22 Illinois (7-0)
ESPN2 | Coverage
GT is 4-8 overall (road)
Illinois is 10-2 overall (6-0 home)
The Fighting Illini look renewed under new head coach John Groce, yet it took a game-winning 3-pointer from Tyler Griffey to get past Gardner-Webb recently. Illinois won the Maui Invitatinoal by beating Butler, using a balanced attack led by Brandon Paul (18.7 ppg). Georgia Tech is in the same boat, with no player averaging over 11.4 points or 5.8 rebounds per game. The Yellow Jackets should be a stiff test if the old (seniors Mfon Udofia and Kammeon Holsey) and new faces (leading scorer Marcus Georges-Hunt) can shoot better from 3-point land (20.9% so far).
8:15 p.m. CST
Boston College (2-4) @ Penn State (3-2)
ESPNU | Coverage
BC is 5-1 overall (2-0 road)
PSU is 5-6 overall (2-3 home)
Boston College stole one from Penn State last season in this eastern-most Big Ten-ACC "rivalry." The Nittany Lions host tonight, but that's little consolation now that Tim Frazier is done for the year with a torn ACL. Transfer guard D.J. Newbill will be looked upon to lead PSU now against an Eagle squad that has already fallen to Bucknell and Charleston. Ick. Six-foot-8 sophomore Ryan Anderson is averaging a double-double (15.8 ppg, 10.4 rpg) for BC. Luckily, you won't have to see this game with other games going on EXPN and ESPN2.
Prediction: Boston College
8:30 p.m. CST
No. 4 Ohio State (6-0) @ No. 2 Duke (6-0)
ESPN | Coverage
OSU is 6-5 overall (2-2 road)
Duke is 11-2 overall (4-0 home)
The 2012 Challenge culminates in a Top 5 clash between Coach K's Dukies and Thad Matta's boys on Tobacco Road. Wisconsin knows first-hand (2007) what can happen at Cameron Indoor, and I fear the same for the Buckeyes. Deshaun Thomas (24 ppg) is a scoring savant, with a perfect compliment in Aaron Craft on the defensive end. But OSU's role players are still unproven beyond Lenzelle Smith. Ohio State has feasted on cupcakes so far, to the tune of a 22.5 average margin of victory. Though Duke's numbers aren't that gaudy, the Blue Devils have the most impressive resume in the land: neutral site wins over Kentucky, Minnesota and Louisville. The middle Plumlee, Mason, leads the charge this year with nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Four other Dukies score in double figures, however, including Seth Curry (17 ppg). And Ryan Kelly hasn't even gotten hot yet. Look for Plumlee to thrive inside and the nation's No. 2 most efficient offense to upend the No. 5 offense, extending Duke's incredible Challenge record.
My original prediction was a 7-5 Big Ten win. Mostly that was based on me thinking Penn State was total crap without Tim Frazier. But Boston College is probably worse than I realized, so I wouldn't be surprised to see either Penn State or Purdue (due to the Jennings suspension) prove me wrong, resulting in an extra win for the Big Ten among the final count.
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