Reason No. 4 Why College Basketball is better than the NBA: Conference Challenges
While there is a Big 12-Pac 10 showdown as well, the main conference duel I'm referring to is the one between the ACC and the Big Ten. This past week marked the tenth year of the event. While the Big Ten had a respectable showing, in the end, for the tenth straight year the ACC was victorious.
The Challenge is always fun because it annually pits arguably the best offensive conference in the country against one of the best defensive conferences. It's great to see the contrasting styles of a North Carolina or a Wake Forest take on Wisconsin or Michigan State. Typically, the ACC schools like to run and gun, lighting up the scoreboard in the process, while the Big Team teams prefer to grind it out and play a low-scoring game. For ten years, run and gun has proven to be triumphant.
However, while the ACC dominated the Challenge the last two years, winning 8-3 each season, this year was far more competitive. In the opening game, Wisconsin beat Virginia Tech by two on a last second shot. 1-0 Big Ten.
The next night featured five games. Minnesota and Duke each won by double digits. The Blue Devils' win improved their record to a perfect 10-0 in the Challenge. Ohio State outscored Miami by 19 in the second half to win by five. Iowa missed the front end of a one-and-one in the final second and lost to Boston College by two, while Illinois failed even to get a shot off in the final possession, losing by two to Clemson.
So after two nights, while it was tied 3-3, if you're a Big Ten fan you had to be thinking about the Iowa and Illinois games. With Wake Forest and North Carolina expected to cruise, the Big Ten had to win the 50/50 games if it was going to take the Challenge. Expecting Michigan and Penn State to earn upset wins on the road, all while Northwestern beat Florida State, was asking for too much.
In the end, Wake and UNC did indeed cruise, and while Georgia Tech and Florida State went down, Maryland held on to beat Michigan by five. ACC 6, Big Ten 5. It was a hard-fought battle, with six of the 11 games decided by five points or fewer. Maybe next year, Big Ten...
Some other interesting notes from the college basketball world...
Basketball Players Aren't Birds
While flipping to the Wake Forest-Indiana game last night, announcer Brad Nessler referred to one of the players' wingspan. He said he didn't want to use the term, since players are humans, not birds, but did so because that's simply the word we've come to use.
So I propose we start calling it "armspan" instead. Makes sense, right? Birds have wingspans, so people should have armspans. Do your part to spread the word.
Beilein on the Right Path
I saw a graphic on television the other night about John Beilein that really impressed me. The guy has been a head coach his whole career, and his teams have always improved over the course of his tenure.
In his first season at Canisius, his squad went 10-18. The next year: 22-7. At Richmond, he went 23-8 his first year, finishing his time there with three 20-win seasons. Beilein was 14-15 his first year at West Virginia, but his team was above .500 in year two, a culminating in a trip to the postseason. He finished his time there with three straight 20-win seasons.
Last season, his first at Michigan, Beilein's bunch went a dismal 10-22. But in this young season, the Wolverines already have half their win total from a year ago, including a victory over then-No. 4 UCLA.
Give Bo Respect
There are only five teams in college basketball that have won 30 or more games each of the past two seasons. Can you name them?
Four of the schools probably won't surprise you—UNC, Kansas, Memphis, and UCLA—but the fifth might: Wisconsin.
Bo Ryan has built a powerhouse program in Madison, and he doesn't get enough credit. In his seven years as head coach, the Badgers have won the Big Ten three times, won at least 19 games each season, and made the NCAA Tournament every year. They reached the Sweet 16 twice, and the Elite Eight in 2005, losing to eventual champion UNC.
Perhaps it's because Wisconsin buys into Ryan's defense-first philosophy, routinely holding opponents under 60 points and winning with a style that isn't always easy on the eyes. Regardless, the fact of the matter is that Ryan is a great coach and Wisconsin has to be considered an elite basketball program.
Check out some of my past reasons.