ACC – Big 10 Challenge Preview Pt. 2Posted by rtmsf on December 3rd, 2008
So we went 3-2 in our picks last night, which is actually downright terrible when you’re just picking teams straight up. Duke, Minnesota and BC went pretty much as expected, but we didn’t see the Jack McClinton slap coming, and we’re still having trouble fathoming Illinois blowing a solid lead at home. Nevertheless, let’s see if we can do better with tonight’s games. With a 3-3 tie going into tonight, can the Big 10 win at least one road game and hold serve at home to get to the magical six victories?
Wednesday Games (12.03.08)
- Indiana (4-2) @ Wake Forest (6-0) - 7:15pm (ESPN). In a normal year, this would have been one of the top three games of the Challenge; but as we’re all aware, Indiana is not having a normal year. Still, the Hoosiers should take pride in the four wins they’ve gotten, especially their most recent victory over a possible NCAA team in Cornell at home. Unfortunately for IU, Wake is no Cornell – they’re easily the most athletic team Indiana has faced so far, and their size is astonishing (five regulars are 6’9 or taller). They have offensive firepower (averaging 86.7 ppg on 51.7% FG) and are playing improved defense this year, holding teams to 64.8 ppg on 34.4% shooting (although we haven’t figure out if that’s a function of length and size or consistent defensive principles). And did we mention that the Deacs are at home, and are 7-1 in this event? Put simply, this will get ugly for Indiana tonight, possibly even worse than the Notre Dame debacle two weeks ago (-38 in that one). The Pick: Wake Forest.
- Penn St. (6-1) @ Georgia Tech (4-0) - 7:30pm (ESPN2). This is a game that the Big 10 would love to steal from the ACC, and it’s possible if PSU can slow the game down to a manageable pace and continue to shoot a high percentage. The key will be to keep the more athletic Jackets off the boards and from turning up the tempo on them; if they do that while keeping Gani Lawal and Alade Aminu in check, the Lions will have a good chance to win. Unfortunately, we’re still not sold on Penn St. as a road team (2-8 last year) and the Thrillerdome is no easy place to change your stripes. We look for Tech to pull away late in this one. The Pick: Georgia Tech.
- Michigan (5-1) @ Maryland (4-2) – 7:30pm (ESPNU). This is very intriguing game, as both of these teams have a Jekyll & Hyde quality to them. Will the Michigan team that stood toe-to-toe with UCLA in New York show up; will the Maryland team that destroyed Michigan St. make an appearance? Or will the Michigan that barely scraped by Savannah St. meet the Terps who were run out of Orlando by both Georgetown and Gonzaga? Thus far, Maryland has largely had trouble throwing it in the Chesapeake Bay Potomac River, shooting a mere 40.5% on the season. We believe this will play right into John Beilein’s defensive schemes, which will serve to slow the game down and frustrate the Maryland players. We like Michigan to pull the very mild upset here. The Pick: Michigan.
- UNC (7-0) @ Michigan St. (4-1) – 9:15pm (ESPN). The blockbuster game of the Challenge lost a bit of the sheen off its luster when Maryland embarrassed the Spartans last week in Orlando. We still don’t know if Tyler Hansbrough will make an appearance, but we’re fairly certain that Goran Suton will not. Everything on paper about this game screams that UNC will roll up the Spartans into a blunt and smoke them up into the rafters of Ford Field. UNC is the second most efficient offensive team in the country (51.8% shooting and a ridiculous 1.22 pts per possession), and they play defense at an above average clip (holding teams to 37.7% shooting and forcing nearly 19 TOs per game). The problem is that, unlike vintage MSU teams, Izzo’s squad is having trouble getting stops – they allow 44.5% shooting and over 40% from three - not a recipe for success against Carolina’s offensive juggernaut. Still… there’s something about 40- or 50,000 people in a football stadium going crazy as the home team takes on #1 (on their national championship floor, no less) that makes us think this game is going to be a lot closer than people believe. We have to believe that Tom Izzo has had his charges eating glass for the last four days, and maybe, just maybe, the Heels will come out a little complacent, so we’re going with the Spartans to pull off the big upset. The Pick: Michigan St.
- Florida St. (7-0) @ Northwestern (4-1) - 9:30pm (ESPN2). Most years this would be the dog of the group, but with a combined overall record of 11-1 coming into this game, it’s actually worth checking on it during the commercials of MSU-UNC. Ok, fine, NW hasn’t played anyone, while at least FSU has beaten Cincy and Cal, but FSU has a tendency to crawl into a hole and die on the road, and while we would never equate Welsh-Ryan Arena with a pit, ahh… who are we kidding? Florida St. is the better team and will probably roll in this one, which means, once again, the ACC wins the Challenge. The Pick: Florida St.