Big Ten/ACC Challenge: Which League Has the Upper Hand?

Posted by mpatton on December 2nd, 2014

The Big Ten/ACC Challenge wasn’t the original inter-conference, made-for-TV battle, but it’s still the best. It represents a clash of styles, histories (especially with most of the Big East now in the ACC) and talent between two of the top basketball leagues in the country. The ACC dominated the Challenge from its inception, winning the first 10 meetings from 1999-2008, but the Big Ten is in the middle of a furious comeback by winning three in a row from 2009-11 before the ACC managed to eke out a couple of ties. This season the challenge expanded to a whopping 14 games, and on paper it looks like it will be another close one.

Frank Kaminsky and the Badgers (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Frank Kaminsky and the Badgers Headline the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Monday (Big Ten leads 2-0)

The Challenge started on Monday night, with Big Ten schools coming away victorious in two blockbuster middling match-ups. Florida State and Clemson have disappointed to start the season, so their losses to Nebraska and Rutgers weren’t surprising. But it’s not like those two schools have looked like powerhouses either. It’s also important to note that both games took place on ACC turf, which means the ACC needs to steal at least two road games of its own in order to break even the rest of the way. That these were considered toss-ups is also somewhat troubling. Regardless, let’s look at the remainder of the schedule.

Tuesday

  • Pittsburgh at Indiana (7:00 PM ESPN2): Recent history says this match-up will be awesome, but this season has been a disappointment so far for both teams. Jamie Dixon’s Panthers took an unexpected loss to Hawaii on its way to the Maui Invitational; likewise, the Hoosiers lost a shocker at home to Eastern Washington. Over the course of the season, Pittsburgh appears to be the better team, but without Durand Johnson (suspended for the season) and the game in Bloomington, there are plenty of questions. Prediction: Pittsburgh
  • Minnesota at Wake Forest (7:00 PM ESPNU): Look at this game on paper and it looks like a blowout. The Demon Deacons have finished near the bottom of the ACC during the last four years, and they’re also coming off a loss to Delaware State (at home). But Minnesota looks beatable here — especially if Codi Miller-McIntyre plays up to his potential. The Gophers are more experienced, but Danny Manning’s team should be able to pull off a couple of a head-scratching wins this season at home (I mean, Jeff Bzdelik pulled the feat last year), so this game isn’t as straightforward as it looks. Prediction: Wake Forest

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Big Ten M5: 12.03.13 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 3rd, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. The Big Ten – ACC challenge is here. Given the match-ups, it seems like this year has the possibility of ending in a tie like last year. With the additions of programs such as Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame, the ACC was supposed to be the hands-down best league in the country and go back to dominating the challenge like they did for a decade. But while the top of the ACC will always have the blue bloods, the drop off from the rest of the league can be steep.  What has made the Big Ten one of, if not the, premier conferences in college basketball is its depth in the league from top to bottom. In the challenge format, depth seems to be a much more advantageous than being top heavy. So expect to see competitive Big Ten – ACC challenges for years to come.
  2. Illinois once again finds itself undefeated going into the Big Ten – ACC challenge. The emergence of two transfers, Rayvonte Rice and Jon Ekey, have helped the Illini remain competitive despite the loss of Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson. On Monday, Rice was named Big Ten Player of the Week because of his performances against UNLV and IPFW.  He is leading the team in scoring and has been the go-to-guy whenever Illinois has needed a bucket. Rice makes his living by driving to the basket where he is shooting 70.6 percent. Against UNLV, he struggled to get around the Running Rebels’ length and athleticism in the first twenty minutes, but by the second half, he adjusted his game and used his strength to create separation from his defender in order to get his shot off. Rice finished with 25 points including the game-winning field goal with 28 seconds remaining. He proved he can score off the dribble against anyone, which is a positive sign for the Illini going into games against Georgia Tech, Oregon, and Missouri.
  3. Also announced on Monday was Zak Irvin as Big Ten Freshman of the Week. Irvin, a four-star wing from Indiana, has started off his career as a reserve but has had a big role when on the court. Though he comes off the bench, Irvin uses 20 percent of the Wolverines possessions and averages 7.4 points in 18.1 minutes per game. In Friday’s game against Coppin St., Irvin erupted for 24 points on 9 of 13 shooting including 6 made three pointers. Before this game, Irvin’s previous high score was 8 points, so he’ll continue to be a role player.  However, the freshman is clearly talented and his career should be fun to follow in Ann Arbor.
  4. In one of our preseason columns, we stated that with the return of Tim Frazier, along with D.J. Newbill, Penn State may have the best backcourt in the Big Ten. Now others are starting to take notice and realizing that Penn State may have a surprising year. Over the weekend, the Nittany Lions split games beating a talented St. John’s team in double overtime but losing a close game to Ole Miss. In the game against the Red Storm, the dynamic duo combined for 54 points, while against the Rebels, Newbill put in another 20-point performance. These two have the offense humming at the rate of 114.4 points per 100 possessions, the 17th best in the country. This offense, along with their poor defense, will make for some entertaining games in conference play.  And this backcourt will be responsible for some crazy upsets before the season is done. So get the popcorn when Penn State is on TV and enjoy.
  5. On Wednesday, Wisconsin goes into Charlotte to play Virginia where Bo Ryan will be seeking to secure his 300th victory as the Badgers head coach. When asked what he thought that number meant about him as a coach, Ryan played it off and stated that he was a “pretty lucky guy”. Coach may not be giving himself enough credit.  Everyone knows he’s finished fourth or better in the Big Ten and made the NCAA Tournament every year since he’s been there (2001); and he’s done this almost completely without any heralded recruits. But what’s most impressive is he didn’t get a high-major coaching job until Wisconsin made them theirs at the age of 53.  Ryan had previously spent 15 years in Division III, where he won four national titles, and two years at UW-Milwaukee. His overall record as a head coach is 682-216 which translates to a winning percentage of 76 percent. That seems to be the product of much more than just luck.
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Northwestern’s Loss To Maryland Won’t Help Its Case In March

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 28th, 2012

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

A loss in November should not be a huge factor when determining a team’s destiny for an NCAA bid in March, especially if it is to another team from a power conference like ACC. But for Northwestern, it is a big deal. The Maryland Terrapins are talented and they have two potential first round NBA picks in Alex Len and Dez Wells. Mark Turgeon is one of the better coaches in the business and barring a breakdown defensively, they will be in the hunt for an NCAA bid in March. So, why is this loss bad for the Wildcats? Because they could have had a chance to pull away in the first half and potentially boost their resume with a solid win for the selection committee as they make their case for the postseason. The Wildcats may not win more than nine games during the Big Ten season, so they need to bank on beating other “good but not great” teams at home before January. It is very likely that Maryland won’t run away with the ACC and they will be on the bubble too in March, but the Wildcats will be right up there in the conversation about resumes and RPI rankings. The selection committee will look at these kinds of inter-conference match-ups to determine which team took advantage on its home court and Bill Carmody could have helped his case with at least a strong showing on Tuesday night. Let’s examine how the Wildcats could have kept the game closer than a 20-point blowout loss.

Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire (ball) was ineffective against Maryland. (Chicago Tribune)

  • Alex Len Didn’t Get Enough Touches in the First Half: The game was much closer during the first 20 minutes because the Terps could not figure out how to take advantage of the Wildcats in the paint. Len was guarded by Alex Olah for most of the first half until he caught an elbow in the head which forced him to come out of the game. Olah did a good job of holding his ground against Len and the Terps’ wings – Dez Wells and Pe’Shon Howard – had a tough time feeding the post. Len got the ball a couple of times and got around Olah but he was fairly quiet until the second half. Even after Olah left the game, Wells and Nick Faust could not find a way to get Len the ball, making him very ineffective. With Len out of the equation, Drew Crawford and Dave Sobolewski should have taken advantage of their backdoor cuts and secured a lead, but instead, they were mostly flat-footed and lethargic on the offensive end. Crawford in particular settled for jumpers rather than driving to the hoop. Overall, the Wildcats shot just 24% from beyond the arc for the game and most of those shots went in during the second half. Carmody’s team had its chance to pad a little bit of a lead in the first half but once Turgeon made adjustments to get Len more touches, the game was out of their hands. Setting the tone in the first half against a younger Maryland team was extremely crucial for the Wildcats, but they did not fully utilize the Terps’ early mistakes. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Weekly Five: 05.17.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on May 17th, 2012

  1. The schedule for the 2012 Big Ten/ACC Challenge has been released. Ohio State at Duke and North Carolina at Indiana seem to be the most intriguing match-ups during this annual tradition between the conferences. In an era of constant conference realignment, this challenge still garners national attention and is one of the best non-conference events of the entire college basketball season.
  2. Michigan State’s Derrick Nix has been sentenced to community service for his recent charge of driving while impaired. Tom Izzo has reinstated him onto the team but will need Nix to be a mature leader next season after the departure of senior All-American Draymond Green. Nix and Adreian Payne have the post moves in the paint to complement the guard play of Keith Appling and Branden Dawson next season, which makes Michigan State once again one of the favorites to win the regular season.
  3. Speaking of Tom Izzo, Michael Rosenberg believes that the Michigan State head coach could be a potential candidate to take over USA Basketball after Coach K steps down following the London Olympics. Izzo certainly has the basketball acumen and his leadership abilities are impeccable, which makes him an excellent candidate to take over the team. The Big Ten would have a great representative at the national stage if Izzo does succeed Coach K into the head coaching position.
  4. It is never too late to go back to school, the saying goes. To that end, Hall Of Fame coach Don Nelson finished his degree at the University of Iowa after 50 years away from campus. He was eight credits shy of a degree, which he finished over the last few months now that he’s retired after winning 1,335 games in the NBA.  Nelson started his career at Iowa in 1959 and was selected to the All-American team twice before he left Iowa City and began a half-century career in the pro game.
  5. Nebraska head coach Tim Miles signed a seven-year contract that will pay him $1.4 million annually and $2.15 million in the 2018-19 season. The contract is the longest and richest in the history of Nebraska basketball, and Miles has a tough task of meeting expectations of leading the Huskers to NCAA Tournament appearances over the next few seasons. Athletic Director Tom Osborne has made it clear that Nebraska is committed to building a good basketball program to complement its football history, and this contract certainly indicates that the program may be on the right track.
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