Drawing Battle Lines, Day Three: Making a Case for Wednesday’s Games

Posted by Brendan Brody and Matt Patton on December 2nd, 2015

After two days worth of games, the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge is deadlocked at four games apiece with six games left tonight. Michigan, Purdue, and Northwestern picked up wins for the Big Ten last night, while North Carolina, Virginia, and Miami notched wins for the ACC. To prepare for the final night of play, the ACC and Big Ten microsites are once again here to defend the leagues they cover. Brendan Brody (Big Ten) and Matt Patton (ACC) make the case for each team in their respective leagues for all six contests that will take place tonight on the ESPN family of networks.

acc big ten schedule

Penn State at Boston College (7:15 PM, ESPNU)

  • Matt: The Eagles are coming off a disastrous trip to California which they ended getting pummeled by Santa Clara. How the team responds is the x-factor. On paper this looks like a fairly even matchup, which should give the advantage to the home team. Additionally, Jim Christian’s team has the pieces to be a better offensive team than they’ve shown thus far.Expect Christian to throw a few different defensive looks at Brandon Taylor to try to keep him uncomfortable, but the Eagles will win or lose this on the offensive end. Boston College has to make shots, and will need a strong performance out of freshman Jerome Robinson and transfer Eli Carter.
  • Brendan: When they’ve won, Penn State has only given up 56.7 ppg. When they’ve lost, it’s because they’ve given up an obscene amount of three-pointers. Boston College has some shooters, but their two leaders in three-point attempts (Carter, and AJ Turner) are both shooting below 30 percent from deep. Look for the Nittany Lions to make sure they guard on the perimeter, and look for them to squeak out a close win in a low scoring game.

Wisconsin at Syracuse (7:15 PM, ESPN2)

Jim Boeheim (US Presswire)

Jim Boeheim Will Stay in New York For Another Game Tonight (US Presswire)

  • Brendan: Syracuse has been one of the biggest surprises nationally after starting the season 6-0. Wisconsin has struggled to a 4-3 mark, but have showed some flashes of getting things together despite playing a tough schedule. The key aspect that they can exploit in this game is in getting extra possessions on the glass. They rebound 41.0 percent of their misses, while the Orange struggle to close out possessions by snagging a defensive rebound (308th nationally in defensive rebounding rate). Look for the Badgers to take advantage of these extra possessions to get the road win here.
  • Matt: Raise your hand if through six games you thought Trevor Cooney would be the least efficient Orange player. Syracuse has totally reinvented itself, and it hasn’t needed Dajuan Coleman to do so. Michael Gbinije has been outstanding running the offense (with Cooney’s help). If the Orange can keep their starting five on the floor most of the game, they’ll be in good shape. Neither team will be interested in running the floor, so that’s an achievable goal. Tyler Roberson and Tyler Lydon can’t let Wisconsin’s ball movement hurt the Orange inside, though the Badgers have not had a banner year offensively to date.

Louisville at Michigan State (7:15 PM, ESPN)

  • Matt: Stop me if you’ve heard this before but Rick Pitino’s team hasn’t played anyone in their first five games. This game will be the only top-100 matchup(according to Ken Pomeroy) the Cardinals will play before Christmas. Traveling to the Breslin Center is a large first test. Ignoring the lack of competition, Louisville has looked great on both ends of the floor. They’ve won all five games by at least 20 points and held all five opponents to under a point per possession. Pitino’s team is experienced and one of the most balanced teams in the country. The first order of business for Louisville is limiting Denzel Valentine. The second is turning the Spartans over. Louisville will need to have an advantage in fast break points to hope to keep pace with Michigan State’s scoring.
  • Brendan: Louisville’s defensive metrics are off the charts good in almost every area. But as Matt mentioned, they haven’t played a good opponent yet. Meanwhile, Michigan State is battle-tested with wins over Kansas, Providence, and Boise State. Louisville will force some turnovers, but look for ball movement and outside shooting to carry the day for the Spartans. Eron Harris is starting to get more comfortable, giving Michigan State a dynamic scoring duo with Valentine that will carry the day for Tom Izzo’s unit.

Florida State at Iowa (9:15 PM, ESPNU)

  • Brendan: This one looks to be one of the most equal of the games out of the bunch, and should be a close one. Florida State has a ton of size, which will negate the advantage that Iowa possesses in many games. The Seminoles aren’t doing a good job defending the three on the early season however (52.2 percent eFG), and Iowa has the ability to get easy looks both in transition, and in half-court situations. As has been the case with Iowa over the last three seasons, the key for them offensively is for them to not get super trigger happy taking deep shots. If they mix it up, and can get things going inside, they’ll keep the Seminoles off balance defensively.
  • Matt: Leonard Hamilton’s freshman dynamic duo- Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley– have been as good as advertised, both averaging over 20 points a game. Iowa will be the toughest test for Florida State yet, and the one player that could tip the scales in their favor is Xavier Rathan-Mayes. Rathan-Mayes started the year in a shooting slump but showed himself to be one of the best scorers in the country last season. If he finds his shooting groove and the freshmen continue lighting up the scoreboard, Iowa will have to score a lot of points to keep up with the Seminoles. Additionally, Florida State has the height to make Adam Woodbury uncomfortable in the paint, something few Hawkeye opponents can say.

Notre Dame at Illinois (9:15 PM, ESPN2)

Mike Brey is Looking for Some Answers (USA today Sports Images)

Mike Brey is Looking for Some Answers (USA today Sports Images)

  • Matt: Illinois should be a good test for the Fighting Irish. Mike Brey’s team is a very good defensive rebounding team, which is the weak point in the Illinois offense. Assuming they keep Illinois from extending possessions, Notre Dame’s brutally efficient offense should come out on top. That said this is a road game, and even neutral sites have proved treacherous for Brey’s team. Zach Auguste needs to take advantage of Mike Thorne Jr’s absence, and Notre Dame has the advantage in every other spot in the starting five. While undersized, Demetrius Jackson will still score plenty thanks to his speed. At the end of the day, Notre Dame needs to avoid beating itself by staying out of foul trouble and ignoring the hostile crowd.
  • Brendan: Things were kind of looking up for the Illini, as they won against UAB recently when they had their whole lineup intact for the first time. This changed against Iowa State however when Thorne Jr. suffered a knee injury. Now they’ll have to carry on down low with a smaller team. Notre Dame is kind of similar to Iowa State in both their physical makeup, and how they play offensively. The Illini hung right with the Cyclones until a late run did them in. They’ll be playing back Champaign for the first time, the crowd will be really good, and Illinois will pull off the upset here. Bigger teams will punish them later on in the season without Thorne, but Notre Dame won’t hurt them in this area.

Indiana at Duke (9:15 PM, ESPN)

  • Brendan: Indiana has more than enough talent to remove the stench from their horrible showing in the Maui Invitational. The keys here are the keys that are always important for the Hoosiers. Can they avoid turnovers, and will they guard anyone? If they can get these issues under control, they have the firepower and balance on the offensive end to pull off an upset. If they let the Duke crowd rattle them, and if they let Grayson Allen get going, they’ll be in trouble. Look for the Hoosiers to prove that their top-15 preseason ranking was justified, as they shoot the lights out in Cameron.
  • Matt: Indiana looks like a team that’s unbeatable in Bloomington and very flawed everywhere else. This is also Indiana’s first true road game, which may exacerbate that difference. Tom Crean’s neutral woes are good news for Duke, whose offense has only been slowed down by the likes of Kentucky. Duke needs to avoid foul trouble since its rotation is so short. And the Blue Devils should pressure the Hoosiers, whose atrocious turnovers have made a great offense look pedestrian thus far. One interesting thing to watch is how Duke tries to contain James Blackmon. Matt Jones should get the first crack at it, because Coach K won’t want to hinder Allen’s being the primary offensive option. This should be a really fun game to watch with both teams being capable of putting up 15 points in the time it takes you to get a new drink.
Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

Brendan Brody is in his fourth season covering the Big Ten for RTC. Email him at brendan.brody@gmail.com, or follow him on twitter @berndon4.

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