Key Questions in the Tuesday Big Ten/ACC Challenge Late Games

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on December 3rd, 2013

As we mentioned in this morning’s post previewing the early games, the Big Ten/ACC Challenge gets underway tonight with six key match-ups. But it is the evening set, featuring a blockbuster in Cameron Indoor Stadium at 9:15 PM that has everyone excited on this Tuesday. Let’s jump into the late games.

Michigan @ Duke, 9:15 PM, ESPN

Mitch McGary will need to use his height advantage for Michigan to have a chance against Duke in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge (Getty Images).

Mitch McGary will need to use his height advantage for Michigan to have a chance against Duke in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge (Getty Images).

B1G: One of the marquee games before the season even started, this one has lost a little bit of luster with Michigan’s slow start and Duke experiencing two losses (albeit good losses). Still its the national runner-ups going to Cameron Indoor Stadium, and one reason Michigan has struggled early is  because Mitch McGary has been slowed with injuries, but who does Duke have that can guard him inside?

ACC: In short, this will be defense by committee. Amile Jefferson and Josh Hairston are the true big men who earn minutes on this team, and both are defensive specialists. But Duke often employs a small lineup that sees Rodney Hood playing the four. This could be problematic if Hood struggles with fouls, as he did against Alabama. The best case for the Blue Devils would be forcing McGary into mismatches that cause him to guard smaller players on one end of the floor while Duke’s bigs use their fouls on him at the other end. On the flip side of the coin, who guards Jabari Parker for Michigan?

B1G: This is going to be tricky for Michigan on the defensive end, not only with Parker but also with Hood. They will probably go with some combination of Glenn Robinson and Caris LaVert playing Duke’s two standout wings. Freshman Zak Irvin has the size to also guard them when called upon. As for what you said about the offensive end, honestly Robinson isn’t doing much there right now anyway. He’s taking fewer than 10 shots a game, so in reality in might be best for John Beilein to tell him to concentrate primarily on stopping the wing he’s assigned to guard. These won’t be the only two Michigan struggles, though, with Duke’s Quinn Cook having a clear advantage at the point guard position. How will he exploit Michigan’s weakness at that spot?

ACC: Cook is off to an outstanding start on the offensive end, shooting close to 50 percent from the field and dishing out six assists per game. His main role is as a facilitator, but when teams collapse on Parker and Hood he has made them pay. Consistency has always been the issue with Cook, but he’s done well in his opportunities this season. If he can score enough points to keep Michigan’s point guards on edge, Duke’s offense as a whole will flourish. Since we are touching on the Wolverines’ point guard issues, who will Beilein go to to jumpstart the offense in a tight game in the last four minutes?

B1G: Nik Stauskas, Nik Stauskas and then Nik Stauskas again. Derrick Walton has shown some improvement, but Stauskas has proven that he has become a much better ball-handler and passer than when he was primarily a shooter. Despite the hype given to his fellow sophomore teammates, he’s been the man in the closing moments who has gotten them a bucket when they need it the most — especially in the win against Florida State.

  • ACC on why Duke will win: Duke will give up some points to McGary, but uncertainty in the backcourt for the Wolverines and forcing Robinson to tire in guarding Parker will spell a Duke victory.
  • B1G on why Michigan will win: Mitch McGary will have a dominant game with Duke’s lack of a post presence being the catalyst for a breakout performance.

Notre Dame @ Iowa, 9:15 PM, ESPN2

Mike Brey is Excited about His New League and the Challenge (AP Photo)

Mike Brey is Excited about His New League and the Challenge (AP Photo)

ACC: Notre Dame’s welcome to the Challenge comes against a very talented Iowa squad. Still, Iowa’s only loss came to Villanova, a tall physical team that can shoot the three. Notre Dame fits that bill. Should we expect anything different from the Hawkeyes?

B1G: Notre Dame may fit the same mold as Villanova, but the Irish are not Villanova. Iowa will give up some points to Notre Dame, as it ranks in the top 10 nationally in scoring, rebounds and assists. On the other hand, the Irish haven’t played away from home this year and will take on its most formidable opponent in traveling to Iowa city tonight. Notre Dame has shot the ball extremely well this season (29th nationally in field goal percentage) — is this a function of easy opponents and home court advantage or how well it shares the ball to find easy baskets (second in country in assists per game)?

ACC: Mike Brey is one of the best offensive coaches in the country, and having an experienced backcourt helps too. He’s starting two seniors, Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins, who both excel at sharing and valuing the ball. Still, Notre Dame’s ceiling is not very high this season and it wouldn’t be surprising if some of the team’s early success is mostly thanks to mediocre opponents. For Iowa to win, though, it will have to find some mismatches against a balanced Irish squad. What do you expect Iowa to exploit there?

B1G: In the starting five, Roy Devyn Marble is a match-up nightmare for most teams as he takes over 30 percent of Iowa’s shots, but the Irish have the personnel to defend him. In fact, there may not be a single starting spot that Iowa can exploit, but the Hawkeyes have an extremely deep and versatile bench. This team can play 10 deep with no problems so it may come down to which team takes control when the Irish’s more experienced starting five needs a breather. On this note, though, Iowa is playing its fourth game in six days, including travel back from the Bahamas. Can Notre Dame potentially take advantage of any fatigue the Hawkeyes will have in this game?

ACC: It’s certainly something to take into account, but not nearly as important at this phase in the season. That said, Mike Brey’s team is playing much faster this year and will definitely try to get out and run when given the opportunity.

  • B1G on why Iowa will win: The Hawkeyes use their overall talent and depth as Marble continues to play well. Notre Dame also struggles in its first road game as Iowa pounds them on the glass.
  • ACC on why Notre Dame will win: Mike Brey’s experienced team will try to run down a tired Iowa team and won’t get frazzled by the hostile environment.

Florida State @ Minnesota, 9:30 PM, ESPNU

Leonard Hamilton's Club Has Been Impressive Early (Photo Credit: Glenn Beil / Democrat).

Leonard Hamilton’s Club Has Been Impressive Early (Photo Credit: Glenn Beil / Democrat).

B1G: Both teams have lost two of their last three games and will now play each other. FSU is turning the ball over 16.7 times per game; how do they cut that problem down against Minnesota’s full-court pressure?

ACC: It starts and ends with the point guard due of Montay Brandon and Devon Bookert. While Ian Miller will man the point some as well, that tandem has to perform better than it did in the recent loss to Florida when the duo had three assists to two turnovers. An early-season demolition of full-court pressing nightmare VCU had to help season this crew, but FSU can’t succeed if Miller is taken from a scoring role to a play-making one for the bulk of the game. Outside of the guards, though, Florida State has a sizable height advantage, so how does Minnesota counter that?

B1G: What Minnesota will have to do is just gang rebound on the offensive end. Austin Hollins is going to have to have a great game on the boards to counteract the size that FSU comes with. Joey King and Maurice Walker also will have to have big games and not leave just Elliott Eliason to handle the glass. This match-up begins and ends with how effective the Minnesota press will be. FSU handled VCU’s “Havoc” rather easily, but if the Gophers can get turnovers and try to run on Florida State, making their big guys try and stay with them, they have a shot. Does Florida State have the depth to do this?

ACC;: Optimally, they operate as Leonard Hamilton prefers and keep running out fresh bodies. FSU has nine players playing double-figure minutes per game or more, and a large number of those are in the frontcourt or are lengthy perimeter players. FSU has the depth to continually counter with more and more fresh bodies in the paint, which helps them compete actively on the boards for a full 40 minutes.

  • B1G on why Minnesota will win: They will be able to take advantage of Florida State’s propensity to turn the ball over, getting plenty of easy chances for their guards in transition.
  • ACC on why Florida State will win: The relentless assembly line of big bodies and experience dealing with a full-court press thanks to an early-season date versus VCU will help the Seminoles defeat the Gophers.
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