Big Ten-ACC Challenge Previews and Predictions for Day 1

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Big Ten-ACC Challenge Previews and Predictions for Day 1
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Tuesday December 3rd (Predicted Winner in Bold)

Illinois @ Georgia Tech 7:15 EST ESPN2

Illinois hopes to extend its challenge winning streak to five games, looking to beat the Yellow Jackets in back-to-back seasons. Tennessee transfer Trae Golden has been a steady hand at point guard for Georgia Tech, with senior big man Daniel Miller continuing to be a force in the paint.

Joseph Bertrand took over this game a year ago for Illinois and has moved into a starting role as a redshirt senior. Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice has been Illinois' best player, while Illinois State transfer Jon Ekey helps stretch the floor for John Groce's squad.

Indiana @ Syracuse 7:15 EST ESPN

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This game marks a rematch of last year's Sweet 16 matchup, a game that the Orange won handily over the top-seeded Hoosiers. Gone are Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls. Instead, Yogi Ferrell will have to get freshman Noah Vonleh involved often, while still scoring himself.

Tom Crean had difficulty adjusting his game plan to Syracuse's patented zone last March, so look for plenty of turnovers leading to breaks for 'Cuse. Freshman guard Tyler Ennis has moved into Michael Carter-Williams' role from last season, while C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant are a deadly tandem at forward.

Penn State @ Pittsburgh 7:30 EST ESPNU

This in-state battle could be closer than many expect. Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill are the best backcourt that you've never heard of, while Brandon Taylor and Ross Travis are emerging forwards for Patrick Chambers' bunch. Pitt transfer and now Nittany Lion John Johnson is unable to play until late December.

Per usual, Pitt will play a deep bench, with nine players playing between 14.0 and 27.7 minutes per game. The unbeaten Panthers are led in scoring by Lamar Patterson, while Talib Zanna does most of the yeoman's work on the boards for Jamie Dixon's crew.

Michigan @ Duke 9:15 EST ESPN

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With Nik Stauskas' playing status up in the air for this game, John Beilein has already had to deal with more injuries than he'd like to start the 2013-14 season. Mitch McGary is back (pun intended), while Glenn Robinson doesn't seem bothered by his own back issue. Caris LeVert will need to step up again.

Though the Blue Devils have two losses to their name, losing to Kansas and Arizona on neutral courts helps solidify their case for a top ten ranking. Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood are combining for 43.0 points per night, while Quinn Cook is a solid third option as a scorer and top distributor for Coach K.

Notre Dame @ Iowa 9:15 EST ESPN2

To me, this game seems to be flying under the radar. Notre Dame is a perennial NCAA Tournament invitee and comes to Iowa City with a 5-1 record. Experienced guards Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins will lead the way for the Irish, while former Michigan State Spartan Garrick Sherman offers size up front.

Speaking of size, Iowa has Aaron White, Zach McCabe, Jarrod Uthoff, Gabriel Olaseni, Melsahn Basabe and Adam Woodbury, all of whom are forwards or centers playing between 15 and 24 minutes and averaging between five and 13 points. Still, Roy Devyn Marble is the Hawkeyes' number one option.

Florida State @ Minnesota 9:30 EST ESPNU

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As a Big Ten fan, my heart told me to pick Minnesota, though my head won as I chose Florida State to win, giving the ACC an early 4-2 advantage. Ian Miller has been deadly for the Seminoles, with Okaro White pitching in. FSU's two losses have come by a combined three points, to Michigan and Florida.

After hanging around with Syracuse to open the Maui Invitational, the Golden Gophers struggled, barely holding off host Chaminade to finish seventh in the eight-team field. A guard heavy team, Andre and Austin Hollins (unrelated) are the team's best scorers. Deandre Mathieu has been solid at point guard.

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