Last night the ACC headed into its five ACC-Big Ten “Challenge” games with a 4-2 lead, needing to win just two more to take the title again. Not content with a small win, the Good Guys went 4-1, administering yet another whupping to our midwestern friends by a total of 8-3.
In the marquee matchup of the night, UNC and Ohio State played a fun, end-to-end game that eventually went the Heels’ way. I was impressed with the way that the Buckeyes played. They were fast and fearless, but part of that was that they were supernaturally hot in the first half. Knowing that his opponent only really went eight deep, Roy Williams had his guys keep the tempo extremely high. That strategy worked in the second half as the Buckeyes finally cooled off and the Baby Heels started seeing more cracks in the OSU defense. As usual, Tyler Hansbrough was the best player on the floor, banging and hustling his way to 21 and 14. As ESPN reminded us though (once or twice), Greg Oden was NOT playing for OSU. If he had been, the Buckeyes not only would have won by at least 50, but Hansbrough and Brandan Wright would likely now be dead. Fortunately for us all, Oden had the good sense to wear a beard and hat because had we been subjected to his full visage over and over and over last night, we’d likely all be mad with fear, just as mortals who peer into the face of a god. Help us all when his wrist heels.
The only game that didn’t go the ACC’s way was Virginia’s loss to Purdue. The Cavs were sloppy for much of the game and paid the price. They did surge late and seemed to have the game wrapped up when the Boilermakers hit back-to-back threes with less than two minutes left. The Cavs tied it up but lost on funny-looking runner from 12 feet with just a second to go. As usual, Sean Singletary was outstanding, but his running mate JR Reynolds had a bad game. The Cavaliers just aren’t good enough at this point to withstand a bad game from one of their two stars.
Chris Clark of 850 The Buzz wrote a nice review of the night here.
Speaking of games not going the right way, if you look back at my predictions, I missed only one game (the Virginia one) out of eleven. Not bad, huh?
So now that the ACC has run its record in this competition to 8-0 what should the future hold? Before I go on, I should say that despite my jokes, I do really like and respect the Big Ten. I think this has been a lot of fun and I love seeing the ACC teams match up against these schools that we’d otherwise see little of. There is a lot of basketball history in the Big Ten.
But enough is enough. This thing has run its course. I absolutely want to continue having an inter-conference competition, but the ACC needs new blood. While a lot of folks are talking up the SEC, I really would like to see a revival of the ACC-Big East Challenge. The Big East is loaded with good teams, there are lots of folks writing about how it, not the ACC, is the preeminent conference in the land, and there’s already a lot of recent bad blood. It would be great! To keep things fair, the BE can even leave out their four worst teams (The Big East really is big, with 16 teams). John Swofford, redeem yourself (or at least, take a step that direction). Make this happen!