Key Questions in the Wednesday Big Ten/ACC Challenge Early GamesPosted by Jonathan Batuello on December 4th, 2013
The first day of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge is over and the ACC sports a 4-2 lead. Now, we’re on to day two. With that in mind, Matt Patton and Lathan Wells from the ACC microsite and Jonathan Batuello and Brendan Brody from the B1G microsite got together earlier this week to answer some key questions concerning this year’s Challenge. This post will preview the three early Wednesday night games, with a second post previewing the late games coming later this afternoon. Also be sure to check out both microsites over the next few days for further reaction and analysis as the Challenge finishes up.
Maryland @ Ohio State, 7:00 p.m., ESPN
B1G: This isn’t Maryland’s last year in the Challenge, but it will be the Terps’ last time playing as a member of the ACC. Maybe they will go ahead and try to help their new conference out, or they could just struggle against Ohio State’s suffocating defense no matter what. The Buckeyes have the top adjusted defense according to Ken Pomeroy, so how is Maryland going to score against Thad Matta’s team?
ACC: The three most important things for Maryland offensively are: Dez Wells needs to have an efficient and productive day; Charles Mitchell has to continue crashing the offensive boards; and someone (read: Jake Layman) needs to make some threes to space the floor. That’s a lot to ask of the Terrapins, but don’t let their mediocre start obscure the talent on the roster. This team is also very good at rebounding, which is Ohio State’s lone “weakness” on the defensive end. How do you expect the Buckeyes to break even on the boards?
B1G: Ohio State does give up a good amount of offensive rebounds and that’s a concern (148th in opponents’ offensive rebounding). The Buckeyes will try to combat this like they do everything else — by playing team-oriented ball. They will need Amir Williams, LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson to crash the boards, but also the guards will need to get involved. The team has six guys averaging more than three rebounds a game, so that collaborative approach must continue. A question for Maryland is if the Terps can handle its defensive end as the Buckeyes have four player averaging over 11 PPG?
ACC: Truthfully, probably not. That said, Maryland probably has to hope this turns into a shootout and that its shots are falling. In a grinding halfcourt game, the Buckeyes will win nine times out of 10 and maybe more. One thing to watch will be if Shaquille Cleare can snap out of his early-season funk. Mark Turgeon keeps insisting that he’s been a much better player in practice, but his disappointing play is becoming a constant. Maryland also needs Dez Wells to continue playing well, and now he will match up against Aaron Craft. Will the new rules limit Craft’s ability to guard him?
B1G: So far, the rules haven’t hindered Craft in the least. He’s still one of the best defenders in the Big Ten and hasn’t fouled out in any game or had his minutes limited (he’s only played fewer than 30 minutes in one game, a 99-64 blowout win against North Florida). He also hasn’t seen a guard as talented as Dez Wells this season either. Marquette’s Derrick Wilson is solid but he’s not nearly the scorer of Wells. Craft has plenty of experience against this caliber of guard from the past but this may be the first real chance to see if the new rules will truly have an influence on his defense.
- ACC on why Maryland will win: Dez Wells will exploit the new rules and Jake Layman will keep lighting it up from deep, proving to be too much offense for Ohio State to match.
- B1G on why Ohio State will win: The offense scores enough to win as the defense continues to be phenomenal against a Maryland team that just can’t match up with the talent and experience of the Buckeyes across the board.
Wisconsin @ Virginia, 7:00 PM, ESPN2
ACC: Two squads known for their defenses square off in this one for the second straight year. This year, though, Wisconsin has shown an ability to score a lot of points in addition to winning its typical grind-it-out games. Is this an aberration — the result of some of the competition they’ve played — or is this a team more willing to try and push the tempo this year?
B1G: They are playing slightly faster this season, but not as much as people think. Their average possession length is 20.6 seconds, which is only slightly slower than 2010-11, when it was 22.9 seconds. What they’re doing differently is shooting threes at a 43.6 percent clip, and they also don’t turn the ball over at all. The competition they’ve played so far isn’t really the reason for these gaudy stats, because St. John’s, Florida, St. Louis and maybe even Green Bay could all be NCAA Tournament teams. The reason they are off to such a great start offensively is because they have five starters who can all score. The departures of Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz has led to more minutes for Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, both of whom are better offensive players. While Wisconsin may be scoring more, Virginia ranks in the top 10 in a number of defensive metrics. Who has been the catalyst for the Cavaliers’ defense and who will be the most important player on that end of the floor against Wisconsin?
ACC: This, as is always the case with a Tony Bennett team, has been a team effort, but the ability of Akil Mitchell to patrol the paint is where it all starts. This year Virginia has size and length on the perimeter and veteran leadership, meaning it possesses players who are fully versed in the system and can challenge any pass. On the offensive end, while Joe Harris is arguably Virginia’s best scorer, Justin Anderson may be the player most capable of creating his own shot and creating headaches for an opposing defense. Who most likely draws the assignment of shadowing Anderson for the bulk of the game?
B1G: Anderson is going to be a problem, but Sam Dekker can play him if needed. Dekker isn’t as athletic as the Virginia star, but he has more than enough athleticism to slow him down. The bigger problem for Wisconsin could be if the Cavaliers go to a bigger lineup where they play Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey and Akil Mitchell all at once with Anderson. This would be where freshman Nigel Hayes or Duje Dukan would probably have to play more minutes to counteract this potential size mismatch. With those players surrounding one of the most athletic players in the ACC in Anderson, you have to wonder how he can be a difference-maker in this game?
ACC: Anderson’s versatility is THE X-factor for this team. Just look at his performance against Missouri State in the championship game of the Corpus Christi Classic. He has to be a threat from outside while also creating his own shot, helping take the scoring onus off of Joe Harris.
- B1G on why Wisconsin will win: They will continue to hit shots from deep, and won’t have to adjust to the slow-down game Virginia likes to play.
- ACC on why Virginia will win: Harris provides his reliable scoring punch, Anderson continues his impressive play from the Corpus Christi Classic, and the Cavaliers prevent a strong perimeter showing from the Badgers.
Northwestern @ NC State, 7:30 PM, ESPNU
ACC: Chris Collins is in at as head coach at Northwestern and gets his first time coaching in the Challenge against an ACC team he is familiar with. In this match-up there are two teams that haven’t beaten anyone of note this season, but who is the Northwestern player most likely to surprise ACC fans by lighting up the PNC Center?
B1G: There are a decent number of players who the NC State should be looking at as ways for Northwestern to win this game, but really two in particular. The first is Drew Crawford, assuming he plays. The senior has been dealing with back spasms of late but he can carry this team on his back when he gets going. The other is Jershon Cobb, who is averaging more than 15 PPG. Both play the combo guard/small forward position and can do plenty with the basketball. Crawford already has had a game where he put up 25 points and Northwestern will need him to play well to win this game. NC State seems to have a similar situation going with TJ Warren. Can the Wolfpack get enough production from their other guys or does Warren have to put up 30 points for them to win?
ACC: Scoring probably won’t be a problem for NC State. If Northwestern tries to shut down Warren, transfer Ralston Turner can knock down threes and Tyler Lewis is an able distributor who should keep the offense from clogging up when he’s on the floor. The problem in both of NC State’s losses is that its opponent has killed them from the free throw line. Can Northwestern get to the line enough to cause the Wolfpack problems?
B1G: Northwestern hasn’t been phenomenal at getting to the free throw line this year, nor is it spectacular when it gets there. It attempts about 23 free throws a game but that isn’t much nationally given the new rules. If this is the way the Wildcats have to win this game, it could be trouble for the Wildcats in Raleigh.
- ACC on why NC State will win: Northwestern doesn’t have the talent to take advantage of the young Wolfpack team on the road, and TJ Warren will be unstoppable.
- B1G on why Northwestern will win: Crawford plays and has a spectacular game as the Wildcats get the best game from Alex Olah inside defensively this season to limit the Wolfpack’s front line.