Two of the Big Ten's undefeated teams are on the road for the second night of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, meaning tough matchups for both Purdue and Maryland. All told, the ACC gets four home games on Tuesday, a night with a couple of interesting toss-ups that could swing momentum in either conference's favor.
Yesterday's picks: 1-1
I predicted an ACC sweep on the first night, but it was the Big Ten that nearly swept the day. Rutgers almost pulled out a home win over Wake Forest, while Minnesota and Jordan Murphy were impressive late in pulling away from Clemson.
6 pm CT
Michigan (4-2) @ North Carolina State (4-2)
Line: NCST +1
The Wolverines have two losses to two pretty good programs in Xavier and Connecticut, but have recovered nicely behind senior wing Caris LeVert. One was an absolute demolition of UNC-Charlotte by 55 points that might be skewing statistics a little. Redshirt sophomore Duncan Robinson has been a revelation for UM and when combined with John Beilein's other perimeter options, makes Michigan's disadvantages inside somewhat moot on a good day. This might just come down to Beilein being a better coach than Mark Gottfried.
North Carolina State's best win came in overtime against LSU when they famously held Ben Simmons to four points. But who hasn't beaten LSU these days? Cat Barber has been phenomenal, averaging 21 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. Talent acquisition has never been a problem in Raleigh; in fact, former Wisconsin recruits Abdul-Malik Abu (So.) and Maverick Rowan (Fr.) have fit in quite nicely with Gottfried's young nucleus.
Pick: N.C. State
Northwestern (5-1) @ Virginia Tech (4-2)
Line: VT +2
I don't know what to think about Northwestern yet. The Wildcats have tons of experience under Chris Collins now, are bombing threes pretty well, and kinda sorta hung with North Carolina last week at a neutral site. But they still needed overtime to beat Columbia. Go figure. Northwestern's top six players all have well-defined roles, but the depth is not there, per usual.
Under Buzz Williams, you'd expect the Hokies to make some progress this season and they do have a few nice pieces. They're not there yet. The team is young, having signed a large 2015 class led by local star Chris Clarke. Clarke teams with ex-Maryland guard Seth Allen for a decent backcourt, but Va Tech's offensive struggles are real.
6:30 pm CT
No. 10 Virginia (4-2) @ Ohio State (2-3)
Line: OSU +8.5
Despite stubbing its toe at George Washington in its second game, Virginia looks every bit like a Top 10 team. Tony Bennett has slowly transformed his defensive stalwart into an offensive juggernaut ... sound familiar Badger fans? The 'Hoos have the nation's fifth most-efficient offense, somehow relying on two-point baskets for the majority of their points. Malcolm Brogdon can do damage inside the arc alongside Anthony Gill and big Mike Tobey.
Ohio State simply isn't clicking right now and playing in Columbus hasn't helped matters -- a loss to Virginia would merely extend a two-game home losing streak. For the second season in a row, a hyped transfer big man has disappointed early (Anthony Lee last year, Trevor Thompson now), so Thad Matta has gone small with scorer Marc Loving at the four. Frosh JaQuan Lyle is no D'Angelo Russell at lead guard and thus, the Buckeyes have been sloppy.
8 pm CT
No. 11 Purdue (6-0) @ Pittsburgh (4-0)
Line: PITT -1
This game was a pick'em between two undefeateds until news broke that Purdue glue guy Rapheal Davis couldn't finish practice yesterday and is doubtful with a knee injury tonight. Matt Painter's team is very deep though, especially in the frontcourt where AJ Hammons is back alongside the MONSTARS Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan. The formidable Boilermakers were essentially the early favorite, and rightfully so, having won every game by at least 15 points. But the first road game and no real point guard? That streak will be tough to extend.
Pittsburgh has gotten a lot of love early for its spectacular-looking offense, an unusual sight for a Jamie Dixon team. However, the Panthers haven't played anyone yet. This is big first test for both teams. Pitt is led by senior shooter James Robinson and power forward Michael Young, but the whole team have been quite efficient.
No. 21 Miami (5-1) @ Nebraska (5-2)
Line: NEB +6.5
Miami is another early season favorite of the talking heads after shredding the competition at the Puerto Rico Tipoff. Then the Hurricanes lost to Northeastern. At home. Even so, the Canes can trot out a dynamic senior guard tandem in 5-11 Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan, which is probably enough to give Nebraska fits.
Shavon Shields and 5-9 Benny Parker are the only players left from Tim Miles' Nebraska heydays just two season ago. Seems longer than that already, doesn't it? The Cornhusker defense is okay, but they foul a lot. The Huskers also have a turnover problem, which isn't too surprising with a new wave of players coming in.
8:30 pm CT
No. 2 Maryland (6-0) @ No. 9 North Carolina (5-1)
Line: UNC -6
A bit overshadowed by Michigan State thus far, Maryland is still unblemished and has a very hard-fought win over Georgetown on its resume. Few teams can trot out depth among their bigs like the Terps, which, when you combine it with star guard Melo Trimble, makes Maryland a lot like North Carolina. Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon has fit in exactly as you'd hoped, adding outside shooting and 3.5 assists per game.
Senior point guard Marcus Paige will return to play in this crown jewel of the 2015 Challenge. I think the home court advantage and the fact that UNC returns all its pieces from a year ago (versus trying to integrate new ones like Maryland is) will give the Tar Heels the slightest of edges. Theo Pinson and Nate Britt give UNC the outside shooting to compliment a good inside game, while Paige makes the engine purr. And as Wisconsin saw up close and personal last season, Justin Jackson is hard to stop too.
Pick: North Carolina