The Big Ten/ACC Challenge: Placing the Games into Tiers

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 30th, 2015

Fans of the Big Ten were bombarded with wall-to-wall Feast Week basketball over the past 10 days, and now it’s time to tip off the 17th annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Many of this year’s predetermined matchups are interesting and watchable, but there are always a few potential clunkers. Here is your Big Ten viewer’s guide to the best of the best and the worst of the worst in the 14 games occurring over the next three evenings.

  • Can’t Miss: (Maryland-North Carolina; Louisville-Michigan State). If I can’t sell you on two top 10 teams that regularly played each other as conference rivals for the better part of a half-century and on a Tom Izzo vs. Rick Pitino coaching clash in as a rematch of last year’s Elite Eight game, then what am I doing writing about basketball? These two are staggered, tipping off on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, respectively.
  • Serious Potential: (Indiana-Duke; Purdue-Pittsburgh; Michigan-NC State). Indiana could mess around and score 120 points or they could implode into a turnover hellhole of their own creation. Either way, it will be compelling television. Pittsburgh and Purdue have blue collar reputations, but they also both have zero losses and top 20 offenses through the first two weeks of the season. Michigan and NC State have both underachieved thus far, but the Wolverines and Wolfpack have enough talent and athletes on the floor to make this game entertaining.
Zak Irvin will be vital if Michigan wants a road win in Raleigh against the Wolfpack. (Getty)

Zak Irvin will be vital if Michigan wants a road win in Raleigh against the Wolfpack. (Getty)

  • Solid if not Spectacular: (Wisconsin-Syracuse; Notre Dame-Illinois; Miami-Nebraska; Florida State-Iowa). All of these games could be competitive, as at least five of these teams should end up in the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin trying to figure out its offense against the Syracuse 2-3 zone and Illinois playing its first game back in Assembly Hall are headlines, but also keep an eye on whether Nebraska can break through against a ranked team with loads of experience. The Cornhuskers hung with Villanova for a while and kept it close with Cincinnati in their only two losses. The Florida State-Iowa game should feature a ton of size, and appears to be one of the most balanced games on paper.

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What’s Trending: ACC/Big Ten Challenge Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on December 4th, 2014

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Griffin Wong (@griffwong90) is your weekly host.

Big Ten Cruises to Victory

The Big Ten took the 2014 ACC/Big Ten Challenge by a final margin of 8-6. Although the B1G is undefeated in the Challenge since 2009, this is its first outright victory since 2011. After jumping out to a 6-1 lead through Monday and Tuesday, wins from Iowa and Penn State clinched the Challenge on Wednesday night.

King Karl Strikes Again

On Monday, Nebraska held off Florida State 70-65, but the final score wasn’t the story coming out of Tallahassee. ACC official Karl Hess, often referred to as “King Karl,” called a double-foul on a play could have gone as either a block or a charge. This double foul just happened to also be Nebraska junior Terran Petteway’s fifth personal foul.

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The RTC Podblast: UNC Say What Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 6th, 2013

Tis the season everyone… it’s RTC Podblast time. In this week’s quick and dirty version, the guys dig into just what in the hell is going on with this year’s North Carolina team, talk through some of the takeaways from this week’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and look forward to some of the most interesting games of the upcoming weekend (conclusion: snowboarding weekend). As always, Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) hosts, and the complete rundown is listed below.

Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record. And feel free to contact us through Twitter or email — we’re listening.

  • 0:00-9:52 – Trying to Solve the Mystery in East Lansing
  • 9:52-12:08 – ACC Middle Tier Still a Question Mark
  • 12:08-14:14 – Michigan in Trouble
  • 14:14-19:26 – Weekend Preview/Wrap
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Winners and Losers from the 15th Annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Posted by Lathan Wells on December 5th, 2013

The 2013-14 ACC/Big Ten Challenge had a different look this year thanks to realignment, but for the second consecutive year, the event ended in a 6-6 tie. In the end, the Challenge produced one shocking upset, showcased two Duke players heading in opposite directions, and delivered one game that set basketball back a few decades. Here are several glaring winners and losers from this year’s version:


1)       North Carolina. The most confusing team in the country went into East Lansing and knocked off the top-ranked Spartans, despite only an average night scoring the basketball by Marcus Paige.  Sure, there were injury issues on the Spartans’ side, but the ability of this UNC team to bounce back from puzzling losses to knock off powerhouses (Louisville after a home loss to Belmont; Michigan State after a road loss to UAB) speaks volumes about Roy Williams’ ability to motivate a roster he didn’t envision leaning on when the season began.

UNC celebrates huge win over No. 1 Michigan State (credit:

UNC celebrates huge win over No. 1 Michigan State (credit:

2)      Quinn Cook. Everyone knew about Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. Most of the questions about the Blue Devils were about the supporting cast. With Rasheed Sulaimon a no-show (more on that later), the inconsistent Cook of a year ago seemed like a different player as he exploited the Michigan backcourt in a solid win Tuesday night. If Cook can consistently hit his outside shot and remain largely turnover-free, a team that appeared to lean heavily on two players suddenly has more versatility at its disposal. Cook’s 24 points and nine turnovers helped keep Duke’s 13-year non-conference home winning streak alive.

3)      Iowa. Fighting off a tougher-than-expected challenge from Notre Dame with 57 percent shooting was impressive, but even more impressive was that this was the Hawkeyes’ fourth game in six days. Fran McCaffery’s bunch was coming off a solid showing in the Battle 4 Atlantis, losing only an overtime title game to a very good Villanova squad. Iowa has a solid nucleus in Aaron White, Devyn Marble and Jared Uthoff and has already shown its natural ability to score in bunches. Their resolve in fighting off fatigue and a charging Notre Dame team spoke to their toughness. This is definitely a team worth watching in the Big Ten this season.

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To Reach Its Goals, Illinois Needs More Than Rayvonte Rice

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 5th, 2013

The game was over. The picture was clear — with a 12-point lead at Georgia Tech and less than seven minutes left, the Illini were going to move to 8-0 on the season and make it five straight wins against the ACC in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. And it was all going to be because of Rayvonte Rice. He had built the big lead for Illinois from a three-point halftime deficit by scoring 15 points in the second half, including a 10-0 run of his own making. He was his usual aggressive self: driving to the basket, getting to the line, and creating fast breaks from steals. But once the Yellow Jackets adjusted their defense to take away those scoring opportunities for the redshirt junior, Rice’s teammates put on a show themselves — one of passivity and fecklessness that would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. From that point, Georgia Tech went on a 19-4 run to close out the game and notch its first Challenge win since 2006. In order for the Illini to put this collapse behind them and eventually get back to the NCAA Tournament in March, someone other than Rice will have to evolve into a consistent second option.

Rayvonte Rice went off for 24 points, but was unable to get help from his teammates to secure a win.

Rayvonte Rice went off for 24 points, but was unable to get help from his teammates to secure a win.

In the final six minutes of the game, the Illlini (at least those without Rice on the back of their jersey) went 1-of-9 from the field, including an oh-fer from deep, and committed two poorly-timed turnovers. With Rice unable to affect the game, this left the door open for players like Tracy Abrams, Joseph Bertrand and Jon Ekey to carry the load and seal the win. None of this group were aggressive in trying to find their own shot and it seemed as if the team’s game plan was to simply run out the clock. Particularly disappointing was Abrams who was instrumental in willing Illinois to a win over IPFW last Friday, scoring eight of his 15 points in crucial moments of the second half. As the player with the most big game experience (he leads the Illini in career minutes), and as someone known for his toughness and moxie, he managed only to take one shot (not including the final prayer at the buzzer) while Georgia Tech was storming back.

In previous outings, it has been either Abrams, Bertrand or Ekey who has stepped up to complement the steady hand, Rice. But none of these three players have proven they can be consistent scoring threats on any given night — all three players have had multiple single-figure scoring outings this season. Therefore, the scouting report is out on the Illini — focus on stopping #24 and let someone else beat you. In order to get to the other side of the bubble by March, John Groce is going to need to motivate one of his other talented but inconsistent players to become this year’s D.J. Richardson to Rice’s Brandon Paul.

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

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on December 4th, 2013

The first day of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge is over with the ACC up 4-2. 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 to answer some key questions concerning this year’s Challenge. This post will preview the three late Wednesday night games, but be sure to read the earlier post previewing today’s early games. Also be sure to check out both microsites over the next few days for further reaction and analysis as the Challenge finishes up.

North Carolina at Michigan State, 9:00 PM, ESPN

Gary Harris and Michigan State are heavy favorites in the match-up against North Carolina (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

Gary Harris and Michigan State are heavy favorites in the match-up against North Carolina (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

B1G: What was billed as one of the biggest games in the Challenge doesn’t appear like it will be close considering UNC’s early struggles. Still, it did beat Louisville so the potential for an upset is there. For UNC to win in East Lansing tonight, it has to find a way to guard Adreian Payne. Should the Tar Heels put Brice Johnson on him or go with a committee approach with the other bigs they have on the roster?

ACC: Payne’s ability to go outside probably precludes UNC from just putting one player on him. James Michael McAdoo may be the most versatile big man they have, but the Heels can’t afford for him to fall into foul trouble chasing Payne around all over the place. This will likely be a by-committee approach with Johnson, McAdoo and several other big men splitting duties throughout. For North Carolina, there’s no question that they have been most successful when Marcus Paige is scoring from all over the floor. How does Michigan State make sure that Paige doesn’t beat them, something a team such as the defending national champion was unable to do?

B1G: Paige has most definitely been on a roll to start the season, but aside from some flashes from James Michael McAdoo and Brice Johnson, he has proven to be UNC’s only real offensive weapon. Tom Izzo wouldn’t do anything as drastic as playing a box-and-one against him, but it makes sense to put Branden Dawson on him. He is Michigan State’s best defender and can defend four positions reasonably well. Another option would be to play Travis Trice more minutes on the floor at the same time as Keith Appling, with Appling handling the play-making duties and Trice concentrating more on the other end. Either way, defending Paige has to be priority number one for MSU. If Izzo focuses his defense on shutting down Paige, then Roy Williams will have to look to McAdoo. How can he be most effective offensively against Michigan State? Do they try to get him going down low or have him use his quickness on the wing?

ACC: McAdoo has been the biggest enigma on this team so far and it appears he’s struggling in bouncing between playing the three and four positions. The team will need to get him involved more often on the blocks, but it may come down to his aggressiveness and and restored confidence more so than any designed offensive schemes. He’s best when he can turn and face the basket or get out in transition; the latter would be helped by a solid rebounding effort from the Tar Heels. Michigan State doesn’t give many opportunities, though, as by most metrics it is one of the most efficient offensive teams in the nation.  But is there one player who would be tasked with taking over the game if the team unexpectedly goes cold from the floor for an extended stretch?

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

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on December 3rd, 2013

It’s back. The Big Ten/ACC Challenge starts tonight. The ACC is currently ahead 10-3-1 in the event, but the Big Ten hasn’t lost a challenge in four years with last season giving us the lone tie. This year’s match-ups provide plenty of compelling games to consider and includes the first time that Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Syracuse will compete as well as Maryland’s last run with the ACC. 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 on Monday to answer some key questions concerning this year’s Challenge. This post will preview the three early Tuesday night games, with a second post previewing the late games coming this afternoon. Wednesday will have a similar construct. Also be sure to check-out both microsites over the next few days for further reaction and analysis as the Challenge gets underway.

Indiana @ Syracuse, 7:15 PM, ESPN

Indiana and Syracuse Match Up Again, This Time at the Dome

Indiana and Syracuse Match Up Again, This Time at the Dome

B1G: The Challenge’s first game is a rematch of the Sweet Sixteen game last year. It ended the Hoosiers’ hopes for a national title, but this year’s game has plenty of new faces. This year’s Indiana team is extremely athletic, so how does Syracuse match up against them?

ACC: Very well. One of the things that makes Syracuse’s zone so dangerous is its length. The zone hides a lot of athletic mismatches on defense, but expect the Orange to be able to hang with most of Indiana’s roster. Offensively the most important thing is for Tyler Ennis to feel comfortable. On the other hand, Tom Crean’s history against the zone is well known. How do you think he changes his game plan to handle a talented Syracuse team and its zone?

B1G: Crean would love nothing more than to get his “zone struggles” monkey off his back heading back to Syracuse. Honestly, though, IU will have a different game plan than last year because it has a different team. Last season, IU didn’t hit from deep in the NCAA Tournament against the zone, but this season it doesn’t have the players to simply shoot Syracuse out of it. Indiana will likely struggle shooting the ball so it needs to do what a fellow B1G microsite writer talked about a few weeks ago – rebound. The Hoosiers will have to get some free points off putbacks to have a chance to win this game. On that note, Indiana is an absolute monster on the boards this season, outrebounding its opponents 50-32. Syracuse is only averaging 36 boards a game itself, so is there anyway the Orange can hang with the Hoosiers on the glass?

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Morning Five: 05.09.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 9th, 2013


  1. As‘s Jeff Goodman reported yesterday, the NCAA Rules Committee is meeting in Indianapolis this week and as of now it appears unlikely that the governing body will recommend a change to the 35-second shot clock. Given that scoring has reached its lowest point in over a half-century of college hoops, many have been clamoring for the pace of the game to increase through a shortened clock. What those rabble-rousers of course fail to realize is that because of advanced scouting and technology, defensive strategies are vastly more robust than they were even 10, or certainly 20 or more years ago. The game is also significantly younger than it was when the shot clock was first introduced, which creates a likely devil’s potion of unintended consequences whereby a shortened clock will simply lead to more rushed (read: ugly) possessions that will not at all improve the overall level of play across the game. Good on the NCAA to recognize this and keep the wolves at bay. Some of the other anticipated rules changes are to mimic the NBA’s achievement in using the monitors at the end of games to get possession, time and score calls correct, while also placing a much-needed emphasis on the removal of hand-checking and bumping on cuts through the lane. Hopefully these measures will help to make the game a bit more free-flowing, because the NBA’s product right now in that regard is fantastic and the collegians could stand to learn from it.
  2. The match-ups for the 15th annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge were released yesterday and everyone is giving their takes on which games stand out as the best. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of next year’s event, of course, is that the three new ACC schools — Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame — will be a part of the action next December 3-4. The Orange will take on Indiana in a rematch game from this year’s Sweet Sixteen; the Panthers will host rising program Penn State in a Keystone State battle; and, Notre Dame will travel to Iowa to face another Big Ten team hoping for big things next season. As for longtime ACC teams Wake Forest, Clemson and Virginia Tech? Welcome to your new reality — there are three newer and prettier girls moving to town. For what it’s worth, the Big Ten has won three of the last four events, with last year ending up as a 6-6 tie.
  3. The national runner-up, Michigan, will travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium in the marquee game of the first night of the Challenge, which brings back great memories of the days when Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and the Fab Five would knock antlers with Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill and the rest down in Durham two decades ago. While on the subject of Michigan’s most famous player, Webber’s 10-year ban from association with UM as part of his punishment for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars while in school there, is now over. Technically, this means that if Michigan someday wants to honor him with a jersey retirement ceremony or some other shrine in Crisler Arena, they will be allowed to do so. Whether Webber ultimately wants something like that is open for debate — he’s reportedly remained very cool in his relationship with the university (and some argue that he’s right to be angry) — but it says here that Webber is a sensitive guy who was very hurt by many of the things said about him within the Michigan community, but as evidenced by his attendance at the National Championship game last month, he’ll never stop loving the school that made him famous. He’ll be honored there within the next five years.
  4. By now everyone knows and has an opinion on the mercurial rise of wunderkind head coach Andy Enfield from Florida Gulf Coast to USC. Now that he’s been on the job for a few weeks in Troy, the New York Times caught up with him to see how he’s handling the transition from the low-density glare of Fort Myers, Florida, to the red-hot limelight of Hollywood. No stranger to hard work, Enfield has been putting in 16-hour days getting organized in everything from recruiting strategies to travel plans, all from the relatively comfortable haven of his nearby Raddisson hotel room. As the article notes, the Fighting Enfields are already focusing very hard on dominating the Los Angeles talent scene, a sentiment that is going to be very interesting with Steve Alford just a few miles away in his new digs mapping out the very same plan. USC may not ever become a basketball school, but there’s really no excuse for it to be awful, either. Enfield might just be the guy to make USC basketball relevant again.
  5.‘s Andy Glockner has been beating this drum for a while now, but we’re not sure he’s ever done so outside the conversation-friendly auspices of Twitter. The idea? A college basketball Champions League arrangement, first espoused by Bylaw Blog‘s John Infante, which would essentially use the non-conference friendly months of November and December to create non-stop excitement by crafting big game after big game between talented teams before heading into the heart of conference season and, ultimately, March Madness. We’re not smart enough with respect to the nuances of the Champions League format to determine whether this sort of thing might be feasible, but if the ultimate goal is to improve the game as a whole through more compelling match-ups when most sports fans are generally only worried about football, then we’re all for it. Glockner does an excellent job explaining how the pairings would work as well as rebutting some of the arguments that are sure to arise — it’s well worth a read and some consideration.
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After the Buzzer: A Wild and Wacky Wednesday Night to Close Out November…

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2011

Tonight’s Lede. Big Ten Does It Again. Day two of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge finished in the same way as the first — with a Big Ten beatdown. The midwestern-based conference rode wins from Michigan State and Minnesota at home along with Penn State and Indiana on the road, to notch another 4-2 night and win the event convincingly, 8-4. Four of those eight victories this year came on ACC hardwood, showing that Big Ten teams can pick up victories in hostile environments regardless of location. It’s difficult to draw too much from late November events like these, but the eye and sniff test in watching pieces of the twelve games over the last two nights is highly suggestive that the Big Ten appears to go seven or eight teams deep this year for NCAA Tournament consideration, while the ACC looks to be in the neighborhood of five or six. As our columnist Evan Jacoby wrote in Night Line last night, the Big Ten has unquestionably earned the right to hold the mantle as the top conference in college basketball a few weeks into the season. The ACC appears to be in the mid-pack, perhaps as high as third but also maybe the worst of the five power conferences (the Pac-12 has some work to do to earn our good graces again).

Your Watercooler Moment. Double Overtime in the Thunderdome.

How Jacked Up Does the ThunderDome Look? (h/t @amurawa)

That’s right, we’re passing on the #4 North Carolina vs. #7 Wisconsin snoozer in favor of a high-intensity, mid-major game that went two overtimes and featured enough twists, turns and amazing plays to outdo the entire ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Luckily, our man Andrew Murawa was there for all 50 minutes of the action. Here’s his report (and some highlights from the UCSB side here).

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Morning Five: 11.30.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 30th, 2011

    1. The biggest news Tuesday wasn’t Ohio State’s methodical dismantling of Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge; rather, it was Jim Boeheim‘s press conference after his Orange destroyed an overmatched Eastern Michigan team, 84-48. The discussion afterward was, as you might imagine, almost exclusively focused on the termination of assistant coach Bernie Fine for allegations involving sexual abuse of boys during his long tenure at the school. To his credit, Boeheim took the initiative to face direct questions about his relationship with Fine and previous statements he had made supporting his longtime friend. If you stumbled into the Syracuse coach’s diatribe at a certain point, you may have thought the venerable coach was channeling Allen Iverson with the number of times he said the phrase “on my watch.” Of course, Boeheim set himself up for such criticism with his staunch previous statements of support of Fine, but we refuse to fault the guy completely for publicly expressing loyalty to someone he knew for nearly 50 years, even if he clearly should have softened his language. Let’s be clear — the previous statement is true only to the extent that Boeheim had no actual or potential knowledge of Fine’s alleged proclivities involving young boys, but we ultimately believe that he did not, and he will survive this imbroglio at SU with his reputation intact. [note: a couple of minutes from the presser is at the bottom of the post, but because ESPN never ceases to be annoying and has yet to join the 21st century in allowing embeddable links from YouTube, this is all that is currently available. For the entire thing, click here.]
    2. Our opinion on the Boeheim/Fine matter is far from universal. Sexual victims’ advocacy groups have been very critical of Boeheim’s response and remain so. His chancellor at Syracuse, Nancy Cantor, has publicly supported him, though, and SU fans gave him a standing ovation upon introduction at last night’s game. Pat Forde, who attended the press conference, rather compellingly argues that Boeheim, like Joe Paterno, does not seem to recognize that there is a much larger world outside of their collegiate sports bubbles where their larger-than-life personalities at the local level can get eaten alive in the mainstream media. His jocular/snide remarks and defensiveness in the press conference last night is certainly suggestive of that insularity, and if things eventually turn badly for Boeheim at Syracuse, it will probably be in large part related to his portrayal beyond the sports world. Regardless of how the next week, month, or year turns out for Boeheim and his program in relation to this nasty situation, this picture taken by US Presswire tells it all.
    3. Moving on to basketball, North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes is expected to be in uniform and at full strength for tonight’s game against Wisconsin in the second night of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in Chapel Hill. Coming off a loss at UNLV where Barnes rolled his right ankle and left the arena on crutches, there was considerable concern that the preseason All-American would not be available for two of Carolina’s most important games of the year — vs. the Badgers tonight, and at Kentucky on Saturday. It will be worth watching tonight to see how he looks in the opening few minutes — sometimes the mental hurdle of anticipating pain can be a worse outcome than the actual pain.
    4. Speaking of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, remember when the ACC used to dominate this event to the point where it was a complete joke? From 1999 to 2008, the ACC won ten annual events in a row before the Big Ten finally broke through in 2009 and notched a 6-5 victory. Another 6-5 win last season brought us to the first night of this year’s Challenge, where the Big Ten used road victories by Northwestern (@ Georgia Tech) and Illinois (@ Maryland) to join Ohio State’s romp over Duke and Purdue’s win over Miami to get to a quick 4-2 lead. Heading into tonight, even if NC State, BC, and UNC all protect home court (not likely), the league will still have to grab two road wins at Michigan State, Minnesota or Nebraska to win the event, 7-5. The best-case scenario is that those three win at home and either Virginia Tech or Florida State earn an unlikely road win to tie things up at 6-6 this year. It says here that the Big Ten repeats last night’s path to a 4-2 victory and takes the Challenge, 8-4.
    5. Some unfortunate injury news to report today. USC center DeWayne Dedmon, a promising seven-foot sophomore who has already dealt with one injury this season to his hand, will miss the next four to six weeks with a stress injury in his right foot. Even though Dedmon was only contributing 8/6 per game in the first few weeks of the season, the Trojans at 3-4 have proven that they can use all the help they can get. The athletic big man expects to be back in time for the Pac-12 conference season.

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