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.
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.