The ACC/Big Ten Challenge has always been dominated by the ACC, winning all nine of the hyped events heading into this year’s clash. I went through the games with popular commenter Brian Sunday night and we determined the Big Ten had a chance to finally come out on top if they held at home and sprung a mildly surprising upset on the road. At the very least, the Big Ten could keep us entertained until the final night.
Turns out they received the stunning upset when Miami was unable to exact revenge from the 2003 Fiesta Bowl on Tuesday night, but were ultimately hurt by Purdue not showing up against Duke and Illinois failing to take care of business on their own floor against Clemson. In the end, the ACC once again touted their superiority over the Big Ten. But hey, don’t get too down, you midwestern diehards. Next year should be your best chance ever with Purdue returning all five starters, Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio State drastically improving, and the Spartans full of talent as always.
Here’s a recap of each game in the event and some extra thoughts, as well:
#22 Wisconsin 74, Virginia Tech 72: The Badgers have two chances to pick up quality road wins this week, the first being in Blacksburg on Monday night and then on Saturday against in-state rival Marquette in Milwaukee. They nearly blew a comfortable lead with under five minutes to play in this game, mostly due to the coming out party of Tech’s A.D. Vassallo, whose 30 points and 6 threes made up for the non-existent Jeff Allen, banished by foul trouble. Vassallo’s triple with 8 seconds to play tied the game at 72 before Hughes calmly dribbled slowly up the floor and threw up a leaner in the face of about three Hokies to give Wisconsin the advantage with 0.8 seconds remaining. Jason Bohannon hit a few huge treys in the second half and sophomore Jon Leuer helped out with 17/6 off the pine. Virginia Tech is hurting their bubble chances with losses to Xavier, Seton Hall and Wisconsin, but I still feel like they’ll be involved in March, meaning it’s a nice road victory for Bo Ryan. They’ll try to reel in an even bigger fish on Saturday.
Boston College 57, Iowa 55: Poor Andrew Brommer. With a chance to send the Hawkeyes into overtime on the road against Boston College following a bonehead Corey Raji foul, Brommer barely scrapped the front rim on the first of a 1-and-1, sending Iowa home in defeat. BC is now 3-0 all-time in the Challenge, the only undefeated team other than 10-0 Duke. They nearly blew an 11-point lead (56-45) in the contest with Tyrese Rice making just three field goals amidst another game mired in foul trouble. The Eagles weren’t supposed to be an outstanding outside shooting team anyway, but only two in this contest has to be troublesome for Al Skinner. BC looks like they’re headed to the NIT while Iowa and coach Todd Lickliter continue their massive rebuilding project, likely not resulting in a postseason spot this season.
#4 Duke 76, #10 Purdue 60: The biggest game in Mackey Arena history. Purdue diehards sleeping outside in tents on Monday night in anticipation of the hugest Purdue home basketball game since the 90′s. Then Duke showed up, the students shut up, and the Blue Devils marched out of West Lafayette with a convincing and super-impressive 16 point victory in their first true road contest of the season against a top-15 team. Kyle Singler was once again phenomenal, leading the way with 20/12 while Jon Scheyer chipped in with his usually smooth stroke from outside and the charity stripe, totaling 20 points, as well. From the tip, Duke charged out to a 7-0 lead and quieted the packed crowd, pretty much controlling the game the entire way. Purdue missed numerous easy layups and the Blue Devils looked like the stronger defensive team Tuesday night. Matt Painter needed big performances from E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummel and he got neither. Duke looks like they could be on their way to a #1 seed and a Final Four, but we’ve said this before recently.
Ohio State 73, #23 Miami (FL) 68- Probably the most surprising result of the entire Challenge. The Buckeyes can thank Jack McClinton for losing his cool in picking up a very important road win for a young Ohio State team. McClinton became frustrated with Ohio State point guard Anthony Crater’s close-knit defense, resulting in a face brushing from the All-ACC guard that prompted an immediate ejection. McClinton was 4-4 from three and Miami was cruising to an easy home victory when this occured, and the Canes still led by 14 early in the second half. Miami guards Lance Hurdle, James Dews and Brian Asbury (they were also without guard Eddie Rios, who was suspended indefinitely pregame) went 2-17 from deep and turned the ball over 10 times against a suffocating pressure defense from the Buckeyes, ultimately losing their comfortable led when Jon Diebler put up a career high 20 points on six triples and Evan Turner chipped in with 19 of his own. Credit Thad Matta for keeping his team motivated. They put up a remarkable 51 second half points and could be flying under the radar here in early December.
Clemson 76, Illinois 74: Champaign, Illinois is not an easy place to win, especially facing an unblemished Illini team brimming with confidence. Coach Oliver Purnell and the Tigers won with a balanced scoring attack: Rivers (14), Sykes (14), Stitt (18), Booker (16) and forced 17 turnovers with a full-court press that baffled the Illinois guards. They shot an impresive 58% on the road and quietly improve to 8-0 on the season. Illinois played extremely well in the first half, but cooled down in the second shooting-wise. Bruce Weber received solid games from forward Mike Davis (28/8) and sweet shooter Demetri McCamey (20 on 4 triples). Outstanding road win for Clemson, especially if Illinois can sneak into the NCAA Tournament.
Minnesota 66, Virginia 56: Tubby Smith and the Gophers stayed undefeated, lucking out and drawing the weakest ACC team in the conference in Virginia. The Cavaliers turned the ball over 19 times resulting in 20 Minnesota points and their top scorer at 20.8 PPG, freshman Sylven Landesberg, shot just 1/11 from the field for 10 points. Another freshman starred for Minnesota- 6’10 center Colton Iverson’s 14 points and 7 rebounds coupled with 12 from Blake Hoffarber and Al Nolen’s five steals were enough to pace an expected victory. Minnesota is now 7-0 and looks like a potential bubble team.
#1 North Carolina 98, Michigan State 63: Okay, the question is no longer: Is North Carolina the clear cut #1 team in the nation? It’s no longer: Can North Carolina stay at #1 the entire season? It’s no longer: Can North Carolina go undefeated? The question is: Is this North Carolina team one of the greatest college basketball teams of all-time? I know, I know…it’s totally premature to be throwing out questions like that in early December after only eight games. But how can you not be impressed completely blown away, jaw-on-the-floor, utterly amazed? This team is so loaded that the word loaded fails to do any justice. The Tar Heels have now dismantled two top-15 opponents in Notre Dame and Michigan State, their average margin of victory this year is somewhere around 35 PPG, they put up nearly 100 points or more in every contest…thus far for Roy Williams, it’s been a cakewalk. This was the game everyone pointed to before the season and said the Heels could slip up. They won by 35. Tyler Hansbrough looks healthy (25/11, 13/13 FT), Ty Lawson had another incredibly efficient game (17 points, 6/11 FG, 2/3 3pt, 8 asst, 7 stl, 0 TO) and the Tar Heels ran away with the game near the midway point of the first half, never looking back and establishing themselves as, potentially, historically dominant.
Maryland 75, Michigan 70: Solid win for the Terps on their home floor against an upstart Michigan team that only received 15 points from their sophomore star Manny Harris. These are two teams who will likely have their fair share of great wins and stunning losses (Michigan has another chance with Duke at home Saturday), and this type of victory could be the difference for a Maryland team likely sitting on the bubble come March. Greivis Vasquez was sensational- 23 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists- while Maryland somehow out-rebounded Michigan 43-26 in the contest. Anthony Wright, DeShawn Sims and Zack Gibson only contributed 10 total rebounds. They’ll need to hit the glass more to win these types of road games. Eric Hayes, Landon Milbourne and Dave Neal also reached double digits in scoring for the Terrapins.
Penn State 85, Georgia Tech 83: Could be a rough season for both of these teams, although Penn State has the potential to turn some heads in the Big Ten. Scoring tandem Stanley Pringle and Talor Battle combined for 40 points and the Nittany Lions simply outplayed Georgia Tech in Atlanta for a notch on the Big Ten belt, surviving despicable free throw shooting in the final minute. It’s official: Paul Hewitt is on the hot seat. Luckily for him, he has two outstanding playmakers in Iman Shumpert (14/12 asst) and lottery pick Gani Lawal, who exploded for 34 points on 15/20 FG and 10 rebounds, likely receiving the Horse Trailer if Tyler Smith didn’t notch the first triple-double in Tennessee history.
#17 Wake Forest 83, Indiana 58: This one actually could have been a lot uglier than the final result. The talent disparity on the floor in this game was simply unfair, clearly noticeable every instance James Johnson or L.D. Williams decided to jump over a Hoosier player for an easy dunk. Wake didn’t totally demolish Indiana due to a lack of three-point shooting (5/11) and sloppy play (22 TO), two negatives in the Deacons game that may ultimately lead to their demise. The athleticism and inside play is absurdly good, though. They shot 62% overall with James Johnson totalling 21, Al-Farouq Aminu 13 and L.D. Williams 16 in the contest. Tom Crean had his team playing very hard, only losing 33-30 in terms of rebounds. Wake Forest improves to 7-0 on the campaign while Indiana falls to 4-3.
Northwestern 73, Florida State 59: Just when you think Leonard Hamilton and the Seminoles are finally hitting their stride and setting up for a tremendous season, they play a stinker like this one Wednesday night in Evanston. Florida State had 22 turnovers and went scoreless for nearly four minutes during a 20-2 Northwestern run that paced the victory. The Wildcats 1-3-1 zone baffled the Florida State offense in the second half of this one, namely freshman Chris Singleton (5 points). Toney Douglas was great once again (7/16 FG, 3/8 3pt, 21 pts) as Florida State drops to 7-1 on the season and look like an NIT team at best despite the impressive record.
Great doubleheader on ESPN tonight with USC-Oklahoma and UCLA-Texas. Enjoy everyone.