College Basketball: Preview and Predictions for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Day 1
The ACC/Big Ten Challenge is always one of the premier events in college basketball. Both conferences consider themselves among the most elite in the country, and it is a chance to see who is better from top to bottom. It also puts fans in an interesting scenario: you want your conference to win, but you want your conference rivals to lose.
Regardless of who you cheer for, or if you are tuned in just to see some great basketball, the ACC/Big Ten Challenge has something for every fan. Here is a breakdown of each game along with a prediction.
No. 21 Minnesota at Florida State, 7:15 ET, ESPN2
The Seminoles started the season in the Top 25, but after a stunning loss to South Alabama in their opening game, they quickly found their way outside of the rankings. Minnesota on the other hand put together an impressive 2-1 record at the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament this past weekend, and has fought their way into the Top 25.
This will be a tough physical game because of the great defense that Florida State will play. Trevor Mbakwe's physical presence inside, though, will be enough to propel the Golden Gophers to the victory on the road.
Minnesota 62, Florida State 57
Iowa at Virginia Tech, 7:15 ET, ESPNU
Do not let the records of these two teams deceive you. Virginia Tech may be 5-0, but take a look at the five teams they have played. No disrespect intended to any of those teams, but they are not elite, to say the least.
Iowa on the other hand as looked respectable in their games this year, including a very valiant effort against a very good Wichita State team. The Hawkeyes will have no problem getting a victory on the road in Blacksburg.
Iowa 68, Virginia Tech 54
No. 18 North Carolina State at No. 3 Michigan, 7:30 ET, ESPN
This will definitely be one of the best games of the entire event. Michigan has an unbelievably talented guard combo with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., and is one of the most talented teams in the country. The Wolfpack have a great player of their own, though, in junior forward C.J. Leslie.
There may be some better names like Ohio State, Duke, North Carolina and Indiana in this event, but these are two great teams and they will get together for an outstanding game. Michigan should be able to get it done at home, though.
Michigan 72, North Carolina State 68
Maryland at Northwestern, 9:15 ET, ESPN2
Northwestern fans hope that this is the year that they can finally make the NCAA Tournament, which has been so elusive for their program. Tonight would be a great step in the right direction for them, but Maryland may just be too tough.
The Terps competed with Kentucky for a full 40 minutes in their season opener, and have gone undefeated since that defeat. The athleticism of Maryland will simply be too much for the Wildcats to overcome.
Maryland 67, Northwestern 58
Nebraska at Wake Forest, 9:15 ET, ESPNU
This appears to be the least attractive matchup in the entire ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Both teams are trying to rebuild, and could make improvements to their teams this season, but for now they are both bottom dwellers in their conferences.
C.J. Harris and Travis McKie will be the difference tonight and help propel the Demon Deacons to a home victory over Nebraska.
Wake Forest 58, Nebraska 50
No. 14 North Carolina at No. 1 Indiana, 9:30 ET, ESPN
North Carolina and Indiana are both teams that will make strong pushes to go to the Final Four this season. I do not see either team making it that far, but they are both very talented nonetheless.
The Tar Heels, though, have had some massive defensive problems that were exploited by the Butler Bulldogs last week. With all the scoring threats that Indiana has on its roster, I find it very hard to believe that the Tar Heels will come out of Assembly Hall with a victory.
Indiana 84, North Carolina 72
So day one of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge looks like it will go the Big Ten's way. Top to bottom, it just looks like the Big Ten is slightly stronger than the ACC. Look for the Big Ten to lead four games to two after tonight, and be three wins away from capturing their fourth straight ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Enjoy the games, and check back tomorrow for a preview of all of day two's action in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
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