Things to learn from the men’s ACC-big ten challenge. Before the start of the postseason, the ACC/Big Ten Challenge has become one of the most anticipated events on the college basketball calendar. For the 23rd consecutive year, teams from the ACC and Big Ten will meet in a showcase of some of the best teams in the country.
The ACC won the challenge every year for the first ten years of its existence, but in 2021 the Big Ten hopes to win the event for the third time in a row. Since the ACC/Big Ten Challenge began in 1999, the ACC has had a 12-7-3 advantage all-time.
The men’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge will feature 14 games this season, all of which will be broadcast on ESPN. Duke headlines the event after beating Gonzaga in Las Vegas last week. Paolo Banchero, the Blue Devils’ freshman forward who could be the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, leads the Blue Devils. Indiana is the Big Ten’s top representative this year. It is expected that sophomore guard Jaden Ivey will be drafted in the lottery come June.
Despite a valiant effort on the third and final day, the ACC was unable to overcome the Big Ten’s 6-2 lead after Tuesday. Wisconsin won the Big Ten Challenge with a 70-66 win at Georgia Tech, giving the conference its third straight win and giving the conference an 8-6 lead.
As Ohio State rallied to defeat No. 1 Duke, and No. 3 Purdue defeated an always dangerous Florida State squad. The Buckeyes and Purdue picked up the biggest wins during the week.
As conference play approaches – the ACC and Big Ten start this weekend – let’s take a look at some lessons learned over the weekend.
Purdue isn’t just good, they’re great
There was a group of people in West Lafayette, Indiana, who felt that the Boilermakers should have been the top vote-getter in the AP poll when the then-No. 1 Gonzaga team lost to Duke. As a result, the Blue Devils leapfrogged Purdue as the team to beat.
How did Purdue respond?
Florida State, a team likely to finish among the top-4 in the ACC, was completely handled by them. Purdue has good outside shooting, including four players making at least 40 percent with at least 20 attempts (Isaiah Thompson is making 61 percent on 23 shots). The Hoosiers have also done well down low, led by Zach Edey’s performance. In sum, Jaden Ivey is a genuine star point guard for Matt Painter who does a little bit of everything.
Iowa looms for the Boilermakers, but if they can handle business, college basketball should have a new No. 1 on Monday.
Duke isn’t untouchable
Duke is not a cause for concern. Paolo Banchero, one of the best freshmen in the country (if not THE best), has already won over Kentucky and Gonzaga this season.
However, they aren’t untouchable.
Blue Devils took a 43-30 lead into halftime against Ohio State. After the break, the Buckeyes controlled the game. In the final 20 minutes of the game, Duke scored 23 points – yes, 23 – and didn’t score for the final 4:29. With 5:19 left in the game, Trevor Keels made a layup for the final field goal of the game. That’s…not ideal.
Duke shoots just 33 percent from three this season, and if they can’t make shots from outside, the pressure increases.
The Big Ten and ACC are pretty even
The challenge this year was absolutely bonkers. The aforementioned upset of No. 1, multiple overtime games, and several buzzer-beaters all occurred over the past three days. The nine games were decided by a combined 30 points, averaging out to 3.33 points per game. Northwestern was beaten by Wake Forest in overtime. A game between Syracuse and Indiana went into double overtime, but then Nebraska and NC State said, “hold my old Tuffy,” and went four overtimes.
With eight seconds left, Virginia came back from 21 points down only to lose by one on a shot by Iowa’s Joe Toussaint. Golden Gophers go on to win by one point over heartbroken Pitt thanks to a put-back by Minnesota.
The ACC and Big Ten have clear leaders – Duke for the ACC and Purdue for the Big Ten – but North Carolina has impressed with a win over Michigan, Wisconsin continues to demonstrate grit and determination, and maybe we should start taking Michigan State and Virginia Tech more seriously?
Virginia’s offense showed some life
As the 2019 National Champs, the Cavaliers lost to the Navy Midshipmen at home to start the season. Sam Hauser, Jay Huff, and Trey Murphy III left Virginia, which was capable of shooting threes but struggled in the paint. Now that ECU transfers Jayden Gardner and redshirt sophomore Kadin Shedrick has bolstered Virginia’s options down low, there are still many questions about who will be able to score.
Virginia struggled both offensively and defensively against Iowa on Monday night, as the Hawkeyes hit every contested shot to lead by 14 points at halftime. However, they showed some fights in the second half. True freshman Taine Murray from New Zealand went 4-for-6 from three off the bench, finishing with 14 points as they clawed their way back to take a late lead.
Fans in Charlottesville may not be satisfied with moral victories, but Bennett and the Cavaliers can build on this performance.
Hello, Michigan State and Wisconsin
Spartans entered the week with two losses, but when they played No. Three Kansas and the reigning champ Baylor can’t be all that mad. Michigan State has had a challenging schedule thus far, and they handled Louisville relatively easily on Wednesday. The Spartans have been excellent on defense, holding all their opponents below 65 points, with the exception of the aforementioned top-10 teams. There are still many questions for the offense, but what we’ve seen so far is encouraging.
Wisconsin pulled away from Georgia Tech late in the second half to win a much tighter game. They have one win over a very good Houston team and one loss to a solid Providence team on their resume. Jonathan Davis has been a revelation, and Brad Davison is still the same gritty player he has been for ten seasons in Madison.