Ranking Big Ten-ACC Challenge Matchups

Ryan CuriFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2012

Ranking Big Ten-ACC Challenge Matchups

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    After a decade of winning the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, the ACC has dropped the past three challenges and is looking to change that in 2012-13. Unfortunately for the ACC, the Big Ten appears much more loaded for the fourth straight season.

    Pittsburgh and Syracuse will become members of the ACC in 2013, so the Big Ten needs to continue winning the challenge now. After this upcoming season, the two worst teams in the ACC will be dropped from the next season's challenge since they will have 14 members to the Big Ten's 12 teams.

    In 2012, the games will be played on November 27 and 28 and aired on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. There are three marquee games, featuring the conference's top three teams, six games between solid teams, and three games that allow the conference's bottom feeders to match up.

    While this article is simply ranking the matchups, and not predicting the winners of the games, I believe the Big Ten will repeat 2011's performance and beat the ACC 8-4 once again. Luckily, the top games are spread out so that we can view the best teams.

12. Nebraska @ Wake Forest

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    In 2011, the Demon Deacons defeated the Cornhuskers 55-53 in Lincoln, in Nebraska's first ever Big Ten-ACC Challenge matchup. The two teams finished last season tied for last place in their respective conferences, only winning four games in league play each.

    The Cornhuskers should be even worse this upcoming season, after losing four starters to graduation. Brandon Ubel and Dylan Talley will be the top returning players on this year's roster, after LSU transfer Bo Spencer only had one year of eligibility left at Nebraska.

    C.J. Harris and Travis McKie both come back to Winston-Salem after averaging over 16 points apiece a year ago. Ty Walker is the only player on Wake Forest's roster from last season that playing meaningful minutes that won't be back on the court this year.

    Expect another ugly game that comes down to the wire, with the Demon Deacons winning for a second straight season and improving their all-time record in the challenge to a very impressive 11-2. Duke is the only team in the challenge to win more often than Wake Forest, in fact.

11. Boston College @ Penn State

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    In 2011, Boston College hosted Penn State, in a game that the visiting Nittany Lions won. Just like in the Nebraska-Wake Forest matchup, BC and PSU finished with only four wins against conference opponents in tied for last place in their leagues a year ago.

    The Nittany Lions return First Team All-Big Ten selection Tim Frazier, who hopes to get more help this season from backcourt mates Jermaine Marshall and Southern Miss transfer DJ Newbill. Pat Chambers enters his second season as the head coach in Happy Valley.

    Boston College returns their entire starting lineup, headed by Ryan Anderson, Matt Humphrey, and Dennis Clifford. Despite bringing back all valuable players from a year ago, expectations should not be high this year for BC.

    The Nittany Lions should be improved in 2012-13, even if it doesn't show much in their final record. I predict Penn State to beat the Golden Eagles for a second straight season, with Frazier as easily the best player on the court.

10. Georgia Tech @ Illinois

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    Georgia Tech joined Boston College and Wake Forest among ACC teams that went 4-12 a season ago. Illinois also dropped 12 games in league play, finishing 6-12 and tying for ninth place in the Big Ten with Minnesota.

    Illinois returns everyone except for Meyers Leonard, who was selected 11th in this year's NBA Draft to the Portland Trailblazers. DJ Richardson, Brandon Paul, and Joe Bertrand lead an experienced Illini backcourt.

    At the end of last season, Georgia Tech did not have a single player on its roster that averaged double figures in scoring. The Yellow Jackets do return every key player and no longer have Glen Rice Jr. on their roster, which is addition by subtraction, but should have another down year in 2012-13.

    Illinois has won three straight in the challenge, while Georgia Tech has been ousted by Northwestern in consecutive years. Expect the Fighting Illini to get the win at home in an ugly game, but giving new head coach John Groce his first win in the challenge.

9. Iowa @ Virginia Tech

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    Virginia Tech is the final of the four ACC teams to only manage to win four conference games in 2011-12. Iowa, on the other hand, finished last season with an 8-10 record in the B1G and even won a game in the NIT.

    The Hawkeyes lost Matt Gatens to graduation, but return Aaron White, Roy Devyn Marble, and Melsahn Basabe. They also add solid recruits in point guard Mike Gesell and center Adam Woodbury, who could see the court immediately in Iowa City.

    The Hokies fired Seth Greenberg after last season's disappointment, and also lost second leading scorer Dorenzo Hudson. They do, however, bring back Erick Green, who averaged nearly 16 points per game as a junior. 

    Although Blacksburg used to be a tough places for opposing teams to come into and win, it appears as though Virginia Tech is going through a rebuilding stage under a new head coach. The Hawkeyes may still be a year away from the NCAA Tournament, but this is certainly a winnable road game for them.

8. Purdue @ Clemson

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    Both Clemson and Purdue were winners in the 2011 Big Ten-ACC Challenge. The Tigers defeated Iowa on the road, while the Boilermakers took down Miami in West Lafayette, IN. Both teams have had success in the challenge, with Purdue winning three streak contests while Clemson boasts a 9-4 all-time record.

    Purdue will be without Robbie Hummel, Lewis Jackson and Ryne Smith in 2012-13, leaving the team's offense in disarray. DJ Byrd is poised for a senior season and should get help from the Johnson's: Ronnie, Terone and Anthony.

    Clemson also loses its top two scorers from a year ago: Andre Young and Tanner Smith. Devin Booker does return to school for his senior season and could take advantage of a Boilermaker frontcourt that lacks depth.

    Both teams could be rebuilding in 2012-13. Although I expect Purdue to have a better overall season, as Matt Painter is a great coach that can overachieve with this bunch. I'll predict a Clemson win at home over the young Boilermaker squad.

7. Virginia @ Wisconsin

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    Both Wisconsin and Virginia were NCAA tournament members in 2012. The Badgers lost to Syracuse in the Sweet 16, while the Cavaliers bowed out in a first round matchup with Florida. In last year's challenge, Wisconsin lost at North Carolina while Virginia defeated Michigan at home.

    Wisconsin loses its best player in Jordan Taylor, but has enough returning talent to minimize the damage. Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans and Josh Gasser are the top returning players, while freshman Sam Dekker could make an instant splash in Madison.

    Virginia loses two of its top three players, Mike Scott and Sammy Zeglinski. Scott averaged 18 points and eight rebounds last season before being selected by the Atlanta Hawks in this year's draft. Joe Harris will have to take on a heavier load offensively now.

    Despite a nice surprise of a season in 2011-12 for Virginia, I do not see a repeat performance occurring this coming year. Wisconsin, on the other hand, wins consistently and especially at home. With that said, I believe the Badgers will win this one in blowout fashion. 

6. Maryland @ Northwestern

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    Believe it or not, but the Northwestern Wildcats and Ohio State Buckeyes are tied for the longest winning streak in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge at four. Maryland, on the other hand, fell to Illinois at home last season.

    While John Shurna has graduated, Northwestern returns essentially everyone else while also adding transfers and incoming freshmen. Drew Crawford will be the go-to-guy, but look for JerShon Cobb to be a breakout player if he can stay healthy.

    Maryland lost Sean Mosley to graduation and Terrell Stoglin decided to forgo his remaining time in College Park, leaving the Terrapins with some questions. Youngsters Nick Faust, Pe'Shon Howard and Alex Len could all be up and coming players in the ACC.

    In this matchup, I look for the Wildcats to extend their winning streak in the challenge to five straight games. Howard and Len both played around half of last season, leaving them both without much college basketball experience.

5. Michigan State @ Miami

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    Since joining the ACC, Miami has only won once in the challenge while the opposing Spartans have won six times, which ties four other Big Ten teams for the lead. Miami's only win came in 2009, when the Hurricanes defeated Minnesota at home.

    The Spartans return most of their talent from last year, other than the conference's top player in Draymond Green. Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson are filled with potential, while freshman Gary Harris should contribute right away.

    Miami returns Durand Scott, Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson and Shane Larkin, who happen to be four of the top five scorer's from 2011-12. The Hurricanes hope to make it on the right side of the bubble this upcoming year.

    Despite being a young team on the road, I see Michigan State getting the win here. Miami could have a good season, but Michigan State has enough raw talent to outlast the Hurricanes. Look for this one to come down to the wire. 

4. Minnesota @ Florida State

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    Despite improvement seemingly every year, Florida State has dropped four straight Big Ten-ACC Challenge matchups. Minnesota is coming off an exciting home win last season over Virginia Tech, right after Trevor Mbakwe's season ending injury.

    Thankfully for Gopher fans, Mbakwe should be suited up and ready to player this year. He will be joined by Rodney Williams, Austin Hollins and Andre Hollins, in what could be Tubby Smith's most talented group since coming to Minneapolis.

    The Seminoles lost their leader in Bernard James, but do return the clutch Michael Snaer and Ian Miller from a team that won 25 games a year ago. The Seminoles should be expected to play the same rugged brand of basketball that they did a year ago.

    Florida State has been a tough places for opposing teams to come into and win recently, and I don't think that will change here. Expect a low scoring, grind it out kind of a game that comes down to the wire with the home team prevailing.

3. Ohio State @ Duke

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    A year ago, the Buckeyes embarrassed the Blue Devils in Columbus and won by 22 points. Last year also happened to be only the second time that Duke lost in the challenge, while the Buckeyes continued their dominance.

    Ohio State has lost two key players since last year's game: Jared Sullinger and William Buford. However, the Buckeyes return both Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft while also expecting breakout seasons from Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Amir Williams.

    Duke lost Austin Rivers and Miles Plumlee, although the addition by subtraction theory could be relevant here. Andre Dawkins is also taking the year off, but Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Quinn Cook provide plenty of returning talent.

    This will surely be one of the highlighted matchups, and for good reason. Although I believe the game will be much more competitive than it was a year ago, the young Buckeyes will not battle tested enough on the road by this point in the season to overtake Coach K's squad.

2. North Carolina State @ Michigan

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    Like Florida State, NC State has also lost four straight games in the challenge. Michigan also comes into the challenge after a loss, as the Wolverines fell at Virginia last season. This matchup has the potential to be one of two top 10 teams.

    Michigan's potential starting lineup of Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan has Wolverine fans extremely excited about this year's squad. It should be noted though, that Michigan will have lost two key seniors in Stu Douglass and Zack Novak from a year ago.

    North Carolina State also has plenty of top players coming back—in fact, its four leading scorers from 2011-12 will be back. This list contains CJ Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood and Richard Howell from a team that made the Sweet 16 last year.

    While both these teams are getting plenty of preseason hype, I think both of them have the players and coaches to back up the talk. There's no denying how important home court is in college basketball, which is why I'll give the edge to UM here.

1. North Carolina @ Indiana

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    While the game itself might not be best or closest in the entire challenge, the media attention surrounding this game will certainly be unmatched by any of the other contests. Both teams come in having won their last game in the challenge. 

    The Hoosiers may be the top team in the land at this point in the season, behind the likes of Cody Zeller, Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls and Victor Oladipo. Look out for freshmen Yogi Ferrell and Hanner Perea to also be added to the mix. 

    North Carolina lost four players to the NBA Draft, including Cody Zeller's older brother Tyler. The Tar Heels do return James Michael McAdoo, Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald and PJ Hairston from last year's Elite Eight team.

    In a matchup between two of college basketball's most storied programs, this game is certainly a must watch no matter what teams you hold allegiances to. Not only will Indiana have a better overall season this year, but the Hoosiers will also have home court in this contest which makes my decision to pick them to win here an easy one.