Apparently Illinois forgot how to play basketball in the last 10 minutes of its Big Ten/ACC Challenge game against Georgia Tech Tuesday night, completely blowing a 60-48 lead to lose, 67-64. That is how the ACC ran out to a 4-0 advantage before the Big Ten rallied for a couple of late wins.
So the Big Ten will roll the dice with its big guns tonight on Day Two, with all three top 10 conference teams in action. Though not all are favored (Wisconsin is the exception), overall, Ken Pomeroy's computers predict a 4-2 night for the Big Ten. If the home team wins every game, as occurred last night, the league is in good shape too.
My first day of predictions went a bit south, as I had too much faith in Illinois and not enough in Minnesota apparently. Let's try again with the games for Day Two: Wednesday, Dec. 4.
Maryland (5-2) @ No. 5 Ohio State (6-0)
6 p.m. CST | ESPN | Coverage
Maryland is 10-4 (4-1 road)
Ohio State is 6-6 (4-2 home)
I am hoping for this game to turn into a 'Welcome to the Big Ten' beatdown, with the whole ACC looking on in enjoyment. Ohio State brings the nation's top defense to the table in this one. Facing off against a turnover-prone Maryland backcourt, Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott have to be licking their chops. Unfortunately, LaQuinton Ross hasn't been the Deshaun Thomas replacement people were expecting.
The Terps have been remarkable throughout the Challenge's history, though, even on the road. That has to count for something. Keep an eye on the Sam Dekker-ish leading scorer Jake Layman. Michigan refugee Evan Smotrycz (13.7 ppg, 7.6 rpg) is also playing really well for Maryland.
Prediction: Ohio State
No. 8 Wisconsin (8-0) @ Virginia (7-1)
6 p.m. CST | ESPN2 | Coverage
Wisconsin is 6-8 overall (1-6 road)
Virginia is 8-5 overall (5-1 home)
The rematch. Wisconsin is looking for revenge for last season and validation of its Top 10 ranking. Virginia, still trying to break into the Top 25, returns almost every player from a year ago and has the home court advantage. Bucky must rebound better than it did last time these two teams met.
Northwestern (4-4) @ N.C State (4-2)
6:30 p.m. CST | ESPNU | Coverage
Northwestern is 6-8 overall (2-5 road)
N.C. State is 5-8 overall (4-2 home)
North Carolina State is the big favorite here, since Northwestern really isn't great at anything this year. The Wildcats have a couple playmakers in the backcourt, but new coach Chris Collins has his work cut out for him trying to transition to a more traditional offense and defense without totally disrupting what Northwestern had been doing under Bill Carmody.
On the other hand, the Wolfpack should have been soooo loaded this year. In all, NC State lost nearly 80 percent of its scoring and rebounding from last year, including a big transfer (Rodney Purvis) and two foolish early NBA entries (Lorenzo Brown, C.J. Leslie). But that will probably benefit NC State, being that it seems to underachieve constantly. Sophomore T.J. Warren is the man inside, averaging over 22 points and seven rebounds per game. Northwestern's saving grace is that NC State lives on two-pointers, which should be somewhat negated by heavy doses of zone defense.
Prediction: N.C. State
North Carolina (4-2) @ No. 1 Michigan State (7-0)
8 p.m. CST | ESPN | Coverage
North Carolina is 7-7 overall (2-4 road)
Michigan State is 6-7 overall (5-1 home)
Rumors of UNC's demise are premature in my opinion, but this game has definitely lost some appeal now that North Carolina has dropped out of the Top 25 entirely. As usual, North Carolina is loaded will impressive athletes inside and on the wing, though the cesspool surrounding Chapel Hill of late still ensnares two of UNC's most important pieces. Point guard Marcus Paige has stepped up of late to provide some direction for the Tar Heels. Wisconsin fans will have their eyes on the development of Milwaukee-area athlete J.P. Tokoto, who spurned the Badgers a few years ago. He's averaging 28 minutes per game, but is still a work in progress on offense. Like the rest of this teammates, free throw shooting is a big weakness.
A balanced Michigan State team is clearly the class of the Big Ten at this point and should win easily at home.
Prediction: Michigan State
Boston College (3-4) @ Purdue (6-2)
8:30 p.m. CST | ESPN2 | Coverage
Boston College is 6-1 overall (3-0 road)
Purdue is 6-6 overall (4-2 home)
Can you believe this is not even the worst matchup of the night in the eyes of the TV folks? It features Boston College, the only Challenge participant with a losing record -- which is quite a statement this early in the season -- and last year's ninth-place Big Ten team.
The Golden Eagles are absolutely atrocious on defense, so I cannot see anyway they will survive this game in West Lafayette. However, this will be the first opportunity for me to see firsthand how the Boilers play defense with the new emphasis on hand-checking. Also, how is BC 6-1 overall in Challenge history?!!?!
Miami (5-3) @ Nebraska (5-2)
8:30 p.m. CST | ESPNU | Coverage
Miami is 2-4 overall (0-3 road)
Nebraska is 1-1 overall (0-1 home)
Relegated to the U channel in the latest time slot, even ESPN knows no one wants to watch this game. With Shane Larkin moving on to the NBA and Miami losing a ton of valuable seniors, the Hurricanes are in rebuilding mode, just a few months after ruining scores of brackets with a Sweet 16 exit last March. They will have trouble scoring against a Nebraska team that likes to grind it out. As for the Huskers, Ray Gallegos has largely been MIA and sophomore forward Shavon Shields has faded after a nice start. So I don't know where the playmakers will come from, but I love picking Nebrasketball upsets in the Challenge! (Note: Kenpom.com actually favors Nebraska, but play along...)
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My original prediction yesterday was a 7-5 ACC win. But I've changed my mind on the Cornhuskers, giving me a 4-2 count in favor of the Big Ten tonight, which would knot the score at 6-6 and cause another tie. Yuck. Let's go B1G!!!
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