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ACC/Big Ten Challenge Preview, Predictions

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Marquee matchups highlight the 14 games in the 2016 ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Big Ten has not dropped the event since the ACC last won it in 2008.


The annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge – or Big Ten/ACC Challenge every other year – began way back in 1999, and the first 10 events weren’t much of a challenge for the ACC. Not only was it winning the majority of games, but most of the made-for-TV matchups pitting national contenders also went its way.

There’s been a shift as the Big Ten has gone 5-0-2 since the ACC last won the Challenge in 2008, but there are a plenty of reasons to believe the ACC can end that run this year. Here’s a breakdown and preview of the entire Challenge, along with predictions for each game.

Monday

Minnesota (6-0) at Florida State (5-1)

The Golden Gophers have played all of their games at Williams Arena, an advantage that’s helped them tie their best start since beginning 12-0 in 2008-09. They’ll have to get their seventh win on the road, though. Freshman guard Amir Coffey has been their best player, averaging 15.8 points while shooting 52.5 percent from the field.

Florida State was ranked No. 25 in last week’s AP poll after a 4-0 start, but it lost to Temple over the weekend before bouncing back with a win over Illinois. Sophomore guard Dwayne Bacon has been on fire, shooting 48.3 percent from 3-point range and averaging 18.2 points per game.

Minnesota vs. Florida State Prediction: Florida State 81, Minnesota 68

Wake Forest (5-1) at Northwestern (5-2)

Northwestern coach Chris Collins is determined to bring the Wildcats to their first-ever NCAA Tournament, and this could be the team to do it. Northwestern’s two losses have come against Notre Dame and Butler by a combined six points. The Wildcats also own a victory over then-No. 22 Texas and has a healthy Vic Law, who is averaging 17.7 points after sitting out all of last season with an injury.

Danny Manning has Wake Forest’s offense running and gunning with an average of 86.3 points per game, but the competition hasn’t been that great. The Demon Deacons’ only true test came in a 96-77 loss to Villanova. Sophomore big man John Collins could give the Wildcats fits down low, as his shooting 66.7 percent while averaging 18.8 points and 8.5 rebounds.

Wake Forest vs. Northwestern Prediction: Northwestern 72, Wake Forest 65

Tuesday

Pittsburgh (5-1) at Maryland (7-0)

Maryland hasn’t played a good team yet, and nearly every game has been close. For example, the Terps have beaten American by six, Georgetown by one, Towson by five, Richmond by six in overtime and Kansas State by one Saturday on a last-second layup from Melo Trimble. Wins are wins, but Maryland hasn’t been impressive at all.

It’s been a similar story for Pittsburgh in Kevin Stallings’ first year. It took the Panthers double overtime to beat Eastern Michigan before losing to SMU, and they’ve beaten Marquette and Yale by a combined eight points.

Pittsburgh vs. Maryland Prediction: Maryland 74, Pittsburgh 72

Georgia Tech (4-1) at Penn State (4-3)

Ben Lammers is a beast for the Yellow Jackets, averaging 17.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 5.6 blocks per game. Freshman guard Josh Okogie, a solid recruit for first-year coach Josh Pastner, is averaging 19 points per contest and went for 38 in Saturday’s win over Tulane.

Two of Penn State’s losses have come to ranked foes Duke and Cincinnati, but that defeat at the hands of Albany to open the season still looks bad. The Nittany Lions have bounced back with consecutive wins over Colgate and George Washington.

Georgia Tech vs. Penn State Prediction: Georgia Tech 81, Penn State 65

No. 22 Syracuse (4-1) at No. 17 Wisconsin (5-2)

The Badgers played a pre-ACC/Big Ten Challenge game in the Maui Invitational title game and got crushed, 71-56, by North Carolina. They took their anger out on Prairie View A&M on Sunday with a 45-point win as Nigel Hayes played his best game of the season.

The Orange started off hot, but they fell back to Earth hard in Saturday’s 64-50 loss to South Carolina. They shot only 31.8 percent from the floor, and Tyler Lydon had six turnovers.

Syracuse vs. Wisconsin Prediction: Wisconsin 66, Syracuse 61

North Carolina State (5-1) at Illinois (4-3)

Both of these teams have underachieved. Illinois has lost three in a row to Winthrop, West Virginia and Florida State, while N.C. State has eked out close wins over Georgia Southern and Loyola (IL) by a combined four points.

North Carolina State vs. Illinois Prediction: N.C. State 68, Illinois 60

Iowa (3-3) at Notre Dame (6-0)

Losses to Seton Hall, Virginia and Memphis have marked a disappointing start for the Hawkeyes, who aren’t getting much production outside of Peter Jok. The senior is averaging 25.3 points per game and had 42 while going 8-of-11 from 3-point range in Saturday’s loss to Memphis.

This might be Notre Dame’s toughest test to date, which isn’t saying much about its non-conference schedule. Bonzie Colson and V.J. Beachem will be too much for Iowa to contain.

Iowa vs. Notre Dame Prediction: Notre Dame 82, Iowa 68

Michigan State (4-3) at No. 5 Duke (6-1)

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo apologized to his young team for the tough schedule, which includes losses to Arizona in Hawaii, Kentucky at Madison Square Garden and Baylor in the Bahamas. Playing at Duke was out of Izzo’s control, but it’ll be another rough game for the Spartans.

The Blue Devils will still be without injured freshmen Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden for this one, and Grayson Allen left Saturday’s win over Appalachian State with a minor injury issue as well. Will they be too banged up to hold off the Spartans? Probably not.

Michigan State vs. Duke Prediction: Duke 73, Michigan State 63

Wednesday

No. 15 Purdue (5-1) at No. 14 Louisville (5-1)

Caleb Swanigan has been a force for the Boilermakers, averaging 18.8 points, 12 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Their only loss came at home against Villanova, but they’ve won four straight since falling to the defending national champs.

Louisville is going to be hungry after losing to Baylor in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game. Donovan Mitchell has been good, but he needs to cut down on his turnovers.

Purdue vs. Louisville Prediction: Louisville 75, Purdue 70

Virginia Tech (5-1) at Michigan (5-1)

Michigan should be coming into this game undefeated, but it shot a dismal 19.2 percent in a loss to South Carolina, a team the Wolverines easily could’ve beaten with a better shooting day. This will be Virginia Tech’s toughest opponent so far.

Virginia Tech vs. Michigan prediction: Michigan 67, Virginia Tech 58

Rutgers (6-0) at Miami (4-2)

Rutgers is off to its best start since 1975-76 under first-year coach Steve Pikiell. That’s all well and good, but the best team the Scarlet Knights have beaten just might be DePaul. Ick.

Miami dropped back-to-back games to Iowa State and Florida over the weekend in its holiday tournament, and wasn’t very competitive in either contest.

Rutgers vs. Miami Prediction: Miami 72, Rutgers 60

No. 3 North Carolina (7-0) at No. 13 Indiana (4-1)

Raise your hand if you thought the alert you received on your phone was some sort of typo. I just raised mine, because I couldn’t believe it when I saw IPFW beat Indiana, 71-68, in overtime on Nov. 22. The Hoosiers bounced back with a win over Mississippi Valley State, but the shocking in-state loss cost them 10 spots in the new poll.

The Tar Heels are coming off the Maui Invitational title and are making their case as the best team in the country. They handled Wisconsin easily in the championship game while getting 22 points from Joel Berry II.

North Carolina vs. Indiana Prediction: North Carolina 83, Indiana 72

Nebraska (4-2) at Clemson (3-2)

Neither team can shoot the ball very well. The best player in this one will be Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame, who is averaging 18.4 points per game.

Nebraska vs. Clemson Prediction: Clemson 62, Nebraska 56

Ohio State (6-0) at No. 6 Virginia (6-0)

The competition hasn’t been great, but it’s still an accomplishment for Thad Matta’s young Buckeyes to get off to such a solid start. It’s going to end, however, as Virginia has a smothering defense that makes up for only one player averaging in double figures.

Ohio State vs. Virginia Prediction: Virginia 61, Ohio State 48

ACC/Big Ten Challenge Prediction: ACC wins, 10-4

MORE: 1-128 College Football Rankings – Week 14

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