Man, this snuck up on me! I didn’t realize until this morning that the ACC/Big Ten “Challenge” kicks off tonight when NC State travels to Michigan. The ACC has won the “Challenge” each of the first seven years and looks to make it eight for eight this time around. That’s why I put quotes around “Challenge” in the title. Is it really a challenge if one side wins every time? 😉
This year’s games with brief thoughts:
Michigan @ NC State – Tough to say with this one. State is a big question mark. Michigan has been pretty mediocre in recent years, but they are experienced. I was going to go with the Wolverines, but my gut is saying that Sidney Lowe is going to get his first big win tonight. 1-0 ACC.
Maryland @ Illinois – The Illini are basically rebuilding now that most all of the players from their great ’04-’05 team are now gone. Maryland is trying to build something after a few disappointing seasons. I like what I’ve seen of the Terps so far, but Assembly Hall is a tough place to win. Tough call, but once again, I’m going with my gut and the ACC squad. 2-0 ACC.
Florida State @ Wisconsin – The Badgers are experienced and well coached. The Seminoles are neither. Wisconsin. 2-1 ACC.
Indiana @ Duke – The Kelvin Sampson era at Indiana had probably the worst start of any new coaching era ever. A win over Duke in Cameron would go far in salvaging his image with the Hoosier faithful. But that ain’t gonna happen. 3-1 ACC.
Penn State @ Georgia Tech – Penn State on the road. In basketball. Nephew, please. This team lost at home to Stony Brook. Georgia Tech in a blowout. 4-1 ACC.
Miami @ Northwestern – One team is athletic and poorly coached. The other is unathletic and well-coached. Score one for the nerds in an upset! Northwestern in a don’t-record-this-one! game. 4-2 ACC.
Michigan State @ Boston College – Now this is a tricky game. As usual, the Spartans have already played several good teams and had mixed results. BC is supposed to be good, but has stumbled. Here is their chance to show that the predictions were true. I don’t have a lot of faith in this pic, but I think the Eagles will find their game here. 5-2 ACC.
Virginia @ Purdue – The Cavs have only been tested once, and were impressive in beating a good Arizona team. Purdue played fairly well out in Hawaii, losing to Georgia Tech, but beating Oklahoma and Depaul. I think Sean Singletary will be too much and this will be their second ACC loss. 6-2 ACC.
Iowa @ Virginia Tech – The Hokies should be better this year, but they’ve already had two bad losses. Meanwhile Iowa has played a tough schedule, but lost to all of the good teams they’ve played. Tough call, but I think since it’s in Cassel, the Hokies will crank up the D and run Alford’s boys off the floor. 7-2 ACC.
Ohio State @ North Carolina – The marquee game. It would have been titanic if Greg Oden were playing. Even without the ginormous wunderkind, Ohio State is dangerous. The Heels are very deep, talented and young, sort of like the Buckeyes. Carolina inexplicably loses frequently in this “challenge,” but I think they’ll come through here at home. If they hadn’t already lost to Gonzaga, I’d have picked them to lose this one. 8-2 ACC.
Clemson @ Minnesota – I was all set to pick the Gophers here before I looked at what they’ve done so far this year. Four straight losses and listen to the four schools – Iowa State, Marist, Southern Illinois and Montana. I’m sure several of those schools are actually pretty good, but a Big Ten team shouldn’t lose four in a row like that. I have to go with Oliver Purnell (who I really like) and the Tigers. 9-2 ACC.
So there you have it. I really didn’t plan on picking so many ACC teams, but going game-by-game, that’s just the way it looks to me. It probably won’t go quite like that, but I’d be surprised if the ACC didn’t make it eight straight “challenge” wins.
Can we get the Big East next year?