How the Big Ten Will Win the ACC/Big Ten Challenge…Posted by rtmsf on November 30th, 2009
We’re a little short on time for this post, but we wanted to make sure that it’s up ahead of tonight’s Penn State @ Virginia game (7 pm ET, ESPN2) that tips off the 2009 ACC/Big Ten Challenge. If you’re reading this post, you’re undoubtedly well aware that the ACC holds a commanding 62-35 record in the ten-year history of this event, and that the ACC has won all ten challenges. The Big Ten has had four years where it lost by only one game (6-5 or 5-4), but the schools from the midwest have never been able to put it all together in a single season to overtake the mighty ACC.
Until this year.
We here at RTC believe that 2009 is when the tide will finally shift in favor of the Big Ten. The talent and coaching are there, the matchups are favorable, and nothing lasts forever (except Clemson losing in Chapel Hill, apparently). Here’s our quick analysis of how this year’s Challenge will go down…
Monday November 30
Penn State @ Virginia (ESPN2) – 7 pm. This might appear to be one of the least important games of the Challenge, but given the other matchups, this could be the rubber game that the Big Ten needs to bring the whole ACC house of cards down. Both teams are 4-2 so far this year, but on paper, Virginia’s losses (South Florida and Stanford) are a little more impressive than Penn State’s (UNC-Wilmington and Tulane). This will be a meat-grinder of a game, and the team whose star guard plays better — Sylven Landesberg (UVa) or Talor Battle (PSU) — will win. Our money is on Mr. Clutch, Talor Battle, and PSU will give the Big Ten a key road win to start it off.
Tuesday December 1
- Wake Forest @ #4 Purdue (ESPN) – 7 pm. This might be a chic upset pick for the ACC, but don’t bother going there. Wake has yet to play anyone of consequence and lost to William & Mary on Saturday night anyway because they have no outside shooting to speak of. Purdue will triple-up on Al-Farouq Aminu and dare the Deacon guards to fire away. They will, and they’ll miss, and Purdue’s easy victory will put the Big Ten into an early 2-0 lead.
- Northwestern @ NC State (ESPNU) – 7pm. After Kevin Coble injured his knee, we would have chosen NC State here. But Northwestern dispatched of Notre Dame and Iowa State over the weekend after testing Butler the week before, and we’re becoming convinced that the Wildcats are still going to be heard from this season. NC State is 5-0 with its best win over Auburn, but NW isn’t going to shoot 45% from the line tonight (as NCSU’s opponents have this season), and it says here that the Big Ten steals another road win to go up 3-0.
- Maryland @ Indiana (ESPN2) – 7:30 pm. Indiana continues to play tough games they end up losing (0-3 in the islands last week) and Maryland looked less than impressive in Maui, but we dare you to count out Gary Williams. Because as soon as you do, he makes you look silly. This has the makings of a Greivis Vasquez explosion game… national tv, people doubting Maryland, all the red in the building. Maryland draws the first Big Ten blood with a commanding road win to make the tally 3-1.
- #9 Michigan State @ #10 North Carolina (ESPN) – 9 pm. The marquee game of the entire Challenge, just like last year. Even though MSU has the majority of its team returning, and UNC does not, we don’t like that this game is taking place in Chapel Hill. The preponderance of Carolina blue in the building is going to glaze over the eyes of Kalin Lucas, Delvon Roe, Raymar Morgan and company as they remember the two shellackings from 2008-09, and MSU turns in a stinker of a game as the youthful Heels strut their stuff in front of the home crowd. The tally moves to 3-2 Big Ten.
- Virginia Tech @ Iowa (ESPN2) – 9:30 pm. Iowa is without question one of the worst BCS teams in existence this year, and as bad as Virginia Tech is profiling right now, they’re still significantly better than the Hawkeyes. We’d expect this game to be incredibly ugly and close, but Malcolm Delaney as the best player on the court will take over in the last few minutes to give Va Tech the win. This result will even things up 3-3 going into Wednesday’s games.
Wednesday December 2
- Illinois @ #19 Clemson (ESPN) – 7:15 pm. We weren’t as sold on Illinois prior to the weekend debacle in Las Vegas where the Illini lost to both Utah and Bradley. Now we’re completely unsold. Consider the recipe for disaster that will unfold in Littlejohn Wednesday night. A freshman backcourt of DJ Richardson and Brandon Paul, while talented, will face the withering pressure defense of Clemson in their first true road game at a rocking Littlejohn Coliseum. Nope, the ACC will take its fourth game in a row to move into the lead 4-3.
- Minnesota @ Miami (FL) (ESPNU) – 7:15 pm. Finally, Minnesota stops the Big Ten collapse with a comfortable win at Miami in front of about twelve people. Miami comes into this game at 7-0, but their best win is against South Carolina, and Dominique Archie was injured in that game. The Minnesota defense will be unlike anything the Hurricanes have seen thus far this season, and the Gophers will gut out a late charge to win. Miami remains winless in the history of this event, meaning the overall record is now deadlocked again at 4-4.
- Boston College @ Michigan (ESPN2) – 7:30 pm. BC has a true road win at Providence over the weekend, while Michigan came back from Orlando with two losses, but we still believe in the fighting Beileins, even if Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims have to do all the scoring. UM has shown that it gets up for the big home games, so we’re banking on that being the case again here, as the Big Ten moves back ahead of the ACC 5-4.
- #6 Duke @ Wisconsin (ESPN) – 9:15 pm. Yes, we’re well aware that the Kohl Center is a very tough place to play, but Duke looked awesome in its dismantling of UConn in MSG on Friday night, and Wisconsin is light years away from UConn’s talent. The coaching of Bo Ryan ensures that Wisconsin will hang with the Devils for a while, but Coach K’s guys love to win these high-profile early season events, and there’s no way Duke drops this one. Back to even at 5-5.
- #21 Florida State @ #15 Ohio State (ESPN2) – 9:30 pm. And now you see why tonight’s game between Penn State and Virginia is so important for the Big Ten. If Virginia wins that one and all else goes according to plan, the ACC is already up 6-4 when this game comes to tipoff. But we’re not seeing it that way. We have it at 5-5, and Evan Turner uses the national television audience to inspire him to another triple-double versus the overrated Seminoles. With that win in Columbus, the Big Ten will take its first ever W in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
That’s it. The Big Ten will squeeze out a hard-earned victory this year, 6-5. Looking at the possible permutations if we’re wrong about a game or three, we’d have to believe that the most likely candidates to go the other way are homestanding teams that we have losing, such as Virginia, NC State, Miami and Iowa. In fact, we have six road teams winning in these eleven games. Another potential candidate for an upset is if Michigan State exploits UNC’s youth and inexperience without gagging on the pressure themselves. As usual, though, it’ll ultimately come down to 2-3 key games where nobody really knows what will happen — the PSU-Virginia game tonight, Virginia Tech-Iowa tomorrow, and BC-Michigan on Wednesday will likely decide this event. Whoever gets two of the three of those will be the winner this year.