ACC/Big Ten Challenge: Tuesday Preview

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 27th, 2018

After Monday’s games, the 2018 Big Ten/ACC Challenge is tied with a pair of surprising results — Nebraska won at Clemson and Boston College outlasted Minnesota. ACC microsite writer Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) previews tonight’s heavy slate of action. (All rankings via KenPom as of Tuesday, November 26.)

Clemson Gave up a Home Game Last Night Against Nebraska (USA Today Images)

  • #16 Virginia Tech at #38 Penn State. Buzz Williams has another terrific offense brewing this season in Blacksburg. The Hokies currently rank seventh in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency and are making 41.4 percent (26th nationally) of their shots from long distance. They’ve also gotten the start of a breakout season from sophomore Nickeil Alexander-Walker (29.8 PER, 60.6% eFG). Their hot shooting will be tested tonight by a Penn State defense that is allowing its opponents to make just 22.9 percent (fourth nationally) of their attempts from three-point range. While excellent on the perimeter, Virginia Tech lacks size and could be vulnerable to Nittany Lions forward Lamar Stevens (26.6 PER, 24.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG).
  • #95 Illinois at #52 Notre Dame. Mike Brey’s club currently ranks just 51st in offensive efficiency, which is an odd sight to see. The last time a Brey team finished outside the top 50 in that category was all the way back in 2004-05. Part of the struggles this season have laid at the feet of T.J. Gibbs, the expected star of this team who has shot just 32.4 percent from the field and 21.1 percent from three-point range. Notre Dame will need to make some shots tonight to get a win, as the Illini feature a talented young backcourt of sophomore Trent Frazier (17.6 PPG, 58.3% eFG) and freshman Ayo Dosunmu (14.5 PPG, 57.6% eFG).
  • #8 Michigan State at #58 Louisville. Hello, Jordan Nwora. It hasn’t taken long for the talented Cardinals’ sophomore to break out this season, already the team’s leading scorer (18.4 PPG) despite coming off the bench. Nwora (29.4 PER, 57.6% eFG) is not simply a scorer, however. He’s posting a 27.8 defensive rebounding percentage and his turnover percentage is much improved this season despite more usage. While Nwora is actively turning into an ACC star, the Cardinals still have issues on the defensive end. They’re allowing opponents to shoot 43.8 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from long distance. They’ll have a tough task scoring tonight against Michigan State (eighth in KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency).

  • #118 Pittsburgh at #32 Iowa. Jeff Capel’s club is off to a 6-0 start but the Panthers’ win over Saint Louis was their only victory over a team in the KenPom top 180. Regardless of competition, freshman Xavier Johnson (26.9 PER, 16.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 5.5 APG) already looks like a stat-sheet stuffer. Their toughest test of the season comes tonight against a powerful Iowa offense (13th in offensive efficiency). Size could also be an issue for Capel’s club, as the smaller Panthers will have to tangle with Luka Garza (31.5 PER, 16.2 PPG, 67.8% eFG) and Tyler Cook (16.0 PPG, 58.7% eFG).
  • #35 NC State at #12 Wisconsin. This game will be an enormous clash of styles. NC State loves to go up and down the floor (32nd in tempo nationally) while the Badgers (348th) play their typical methodical pace. This match-up also features two of the best players in college basketball. You already know about Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ (35.0 PER), but NC State’s Torin Dorn (39.0 PER) is having a fantastic season as well. Despite being the Wolfpack player with the highest usage rate (28.7%), he has a minuscule 5.5 percent turnover rate. You cannot give away possessions against Wisconsin’s stingy defense, so Dorn’s careful nature could be key.
  • #22 Indiana at #1 Duke. A loss to potentially the best team in the country by one possession is nothing to lose sleep over, but there are a few concerning signs for Duke. Zion Williamson (42.9 PER) is the most efficient player in college basketball, but he has just 75 field goal attempts to R.J. Barrett’s 125. Also, Williamson and Barrett have combined to shoot just 30 percent (14-for-46) from long distance. Perhaps they should be getting more shots from Cam Reddish and Tre Jones, who are shooting 45 percent from long range. This game will be a slobber-fest for NBA-types, as they get to watch the Duke freshman against Hoosiers guard Romeo Langford, who is shooting 52 percent from the field, and playing terrific defense (83.2 Defensive Rating) but only shooting 26 percent from distance.
Mick McDonald (60 Posts)


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