April 15, 2008

The Big Ten will win the 2008 B10 / ACC Challenge

The match ups for the Big Ten / ACC Challenge have been announced and for once I think the match ups favor the Big Ten. I fully understand that much will happen between now and December. We don't know who will fill out each team's rosters with NBA exits and who knows how incoming recruits will fit in and contribute. But I'm declaring this year as the first victory for the Big Ten in this event.

ACC Wins

North Carolina (14-2) @ Michigan State (12-6) - Assuming nobody leaves UNC it is hard to pick against the Tar Heels. Hansbrough, Ellington and Lawson are good enough to not only carry this team back to the Final Four but they can win it all. Michigan State is at home but they lose Neitzel and Naymick. The Spartans could be a very good team next year with Morgan and Lucas, but at this point the edge has to go to UNC. If a guy or two decide to leave for the NBA then this game gets interesting.

Clemson (10-6) @ Illinois (5-13) - When I saw Illinois they looked like a Final Four team. Obviously they were not and they lose their best two players in Randle and Pruitt. Clemson loses a couple key guys but they still return more plus they add 3 players including a 4-star center. Clemson gets this road win.

Florida State (7-9) @ Northwestern (1-17) - This game is the biggest lock of the Challenge. Sorry Wildcat fans but if FSU graduated their top 13 scorers I'd still give them the edge here. Seriously, FSU brings back their leading scorer in Toney Douglas and has a very good recruiting class coming in. Northwestern only loses 6.9 ppg and will bring a few players who may help them. They'll be improved but they won't have the horses to keep up with the Seminoles.

Iowa (6-12) @ Boston College (4-12) - I believe Iowa will be improved in year two under coach Lickliter. They lose Justin Johnson but gain a highly ranked SG (Matt Gattens) from within the state and a solid big man. Both should help the Hawkeyes improve but BC returns their top 6 scorers, 4 of whom were freshmen last year. Incoming recruit Reggie Jackson will be helpful and they will also enjoy the home court and Iowa has very little chance in this one.

Big Ten Wins

Duke (13-3) @ Purdue (15-3) - Duke loses only one player who happens to be their leading scorer. Purdue loses only 4.5 ppg. With some player development and a little luck the Boilermakers could be 2 or 3 seed who make a Final Four run. This being at home I really think his is a winable game for Purdue.

Penn State (7-11) @ Georgia Tech (7-9) - The Yellow Jackets lose their top two scorers and will bring in Iman Shumpert (who the Gophers pursued). Penn State basically brings back the roster. Geary Claxton is out of eligibility but he missed nearly all of the Big Ten season anyway. Taylor Battle, Stanley Pringle and Jamel Cornley will make a decent core. I know this is on the road, but on paper this is a winable game for Penn State.

Virginia (5-11) @ Minnesota (8-10) - this will be a fun match up. Virginia passed on Ralph Sampson even though his dad was one of college basketball's best as a Cavalier. They had already signed 4-star center John Brandenburg and didn't pursue him enough. Both teams are losing their primary scorers but both also have very good recruiting classes coming in. This will be an intriguing match up that I think goes to Tubby at home.

Wisconsin (16-2) @ Virginia Tech (9-7) - Another intriguing match up that puts a 31 win team from this season on the road. Wisconsin loses more and Virginia Tech could repeat as a top 4 ACC team. But I don't pick against Bo Ryan (until the NCAAs) and my money is on the defending Big Ten champ.

Ohio State (10-8) @ Miami (8-8) - this one could change depending on who returns for the Buckeyes. Butler and Hunter are gone and there is a better chance than not that Koufos leaves as well to play professionally somewhere. But once again they are brining in a top flight recruiting class to reload. BJ Mullens and William Buford will bolster this year's freshmen and this team should be better in 2008-09. Miami is home and returns their top seven scorers. Should be a good game, but I expect Ohio State to get back on track next season

Key Games

Michigan (5-13) @ Maryland (8-8)- both teams return their young guards who lead the team in scoring. And both teams have a good sophomore class who will be coming into the prime of their careers. This is an interesting match up but I give a slight edge to Maryland with the home court. I also think Michigan will be a much better team in Beilein's 2nd season, but time will tell on this one.

Indiana (14-4) @ Wake Forest (7-9) - Wake can only get better as their two leading scorers were freshmen, there was not a senior on the roster and they have a good recruiting class coming in. Indiana loses DJ White to graduation, Eric Gordon to the NBA and coach Sampson to cheating. But they do return Basset, Crawford, Ellis and add Tom Crean who is a very good coach. One team improving vs. another team who will likely take a step back before being able to move forward. I don't know where to give this edge as there are too many variables. If Tom Crean can get his guys playing together and believing they can win, then I am confident they can get this road win.


As I looked more in depth I am less confident but I'm sticking with it calling for a Big Ten win.

Wiki page on B10/ACC history



Dylan said...

Michigan, Indiana, and Penn State are losses IMO.

John M said...

I wish I could share your optimism about the IU-Wake game, but I think it will be a tough one for what will be an inexperienced IU team with a new coach. Also, Jamarcus Ellis and Armon Bassett were thrown off the team by Dan Dakich right before Crean was hired. It seems likely that Bassett will be reinstated by Crean, but it's not clear on Ellis.

I will grudgingly give some credit to ESPN, however: these all look like tossups to me.