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Big Ten/ACC Challenge: Previewing the top games, ACC's edge

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For the first time in several years, the Big Ten is a marked underdog heading into the annual event.

Senior forward Rakeem Christmas leads Syracuse against Michigan in an intriguing Challenge matchup this week.
Senior forward Rakeem Christmas leads Syracuse against Michigan in an intriguing Challenge matchup this week.
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately I was too busy eating mashed potatoes and stuffing and gravy and mashed potatoes and stuffing and gravy and watching basketball and football and basketball to get the Friday Facts posted last Friday. My sincere apologies. They should be back this Friday, and the extended wait will make them that much sweeter.

To tide you over, here is the T-Rank analysis of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, which begins tonight with two, well, lesser games and culminates on Wednesday with the epic showdown between Duke and Wisconsin.

Matchup T-Rank Prediction TTQ*
4 Duke @ 2 Wisconsin Wisconsin, 70-64 (73%) 92
14 Syracuse @ 29 Michigan Syracuse, 61-60 (51%) 86
16 Michigan St. @ 19 Notre Dame Notre Dame, 69-66 (63%) 82
23 Iowa @ 8 North Carolina North Carolina, 78-70 (77%) 81
22 Illinois @ 18 Miami (FL) Miami (FL), 73-68 (67%) 80
10 Ohio St. @ 3 Louisville Louisville, 71-61 (85%) 79
42 Pittsburgh @ 78 Indiana Indiana, 72-71  (50%) 77
5 Virginia @ 30 Maryland Virginia, 59-54 (70%) 75
51 Minnesota @ 98 Wake Forest Minnesota, 65-64 (54%) 74
65 Nebraska @ 110 Florida St. Nebraska, 66-65 (53%) 72
39 North Carolina St. @ 27 Purdue Purdue, 72-66 (73%) 71
96 Georgia Tech @ 154 Northwestern Georgia Tech, 59-58 (55%) 60
147 Virginia Tech @ 107 Penn St. Penn St., 74-67 (76%) 48
212 Rutgers @ 102 Clemson Clemson, 66-56 (87%) 35

*Torvik Thrill Quotient

As you can see, T-Rank favors the ACC team in most of the marquee match-ups, with the notable exception of the Badger game.

When you add up the percentages, the most likely outcome is an 8-6 win for the ACC. The most realistic path for a Big Ten victory would be road wins by Nebraska, Minnesota, Michigan St., and home-court wins by Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Purdue, and Penn State. The event could well come down to whether Northwestern can hold off Georgia Tech in Evanston.

Other than the Badger game, which I've been thinking about for months, I'm most interested in three other match-ups:

1. Michigan State at Notre Dame

The Spartans remain a bit of a mystery team, as they've handled most of their cupcakes with ease (except for Navy), but lost both of their games against elite competition (Duke and Kansas) -- albeit respectably. Notre Dame, on the other hand, has mostly been playing great this year, and has climbed up the T-Rank to number 19. They have one nice win against UMass and one close loss to Providence, and then a bunch of cupcake blowouts. I'm curious to see whether we learn the truth about either of these squads, but only a big win by one or the other will tell us much. If it's a close game, we won't know whether both teams are good or both teams are mediocre.

2. Syracuse at Michigan

Syracuse remains highly rated in T-Rank despite their not-so-good loss to Cal. They have not passed the eye-test so far, as it doesn't seem that they've been able to conjure up yet another star freshman point guard. Michigan is another team that doesn't yet have a signature win, although they played a tight game with Villanova. I think Michigan defies the T-Rank and pulls away in this one, but we shall see.

3. Ohio St. at Louisville

Both teams have played well so far and both seem to be in the top 15 every year. This game is at Louisville, so you figure the Cardinals will be able to win. But maybe Ohio State takes a big step.

Bonus game: Illinois at Miami (FL)

The Hurricanes have been probably the biggest surprise of the season, although their road win against Florida has lost some of its luster. Still, they are 7-0 with five wins away from home. Very impressive. The Illini have also been impressive so far this year, as they usually are before the going gets tough. Will Illinois be able to make this a game?

In any event, with seven games between top-50 squads, this should be an excellent three days of basketball.