The Big Ten/ACC Challenge tips off tomorrow night, and I had intended to write about how this was the year. How after 10 straight losses — the entire history of the Challenge — the Big Ten was finally going to win. Then I looked at the match-ups. I’m no longer very confident.
I’m a fan of Big Ten athletics but I don’t claim it’s the best conference every year, in football or basketball. I did, however, enter this hoops season believing the Big Ten was the best conference in the country. It has a couple of really good teams (Michigan State and Purdue) and aside from its two worst (Indiana and Iowa), is very strong top to bottom. Most of the teams in the consensus three through nine (Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois) are very good.
The ACC, on the other hand, appears to be in a bit of a down year. North Carolina, despite its high preseason ranking, has a ton of young, unproven players. Duke should be strong again, but overall the conference simply doesn’t have the depth of the Big Ten. The Big Ten takes a lot of flack for whatever reason, and its winless streak in the Challenge was not helping matters. Yet it seemed to be in great position to end that streak this year.
So why am I less certain now than I was before I knew the match-ups? Let’s take a look:
Penn State at Virginia
Wake Forest at Purdue
Maryland at Indiana
Northwestern at North Carolina State
Michigan State at North Carolina
Virginia Tech at Iowa
Illinois at Clemson
Boston College at Michigan
Minnesota at Miami
Duke at Wisconsin
Florida State at Ohio State
The Challenge sets up favorably for the ACC. Two teams that are likely going to lose no matter what, Indiana and Iowa, are “wastes” of home teams. In some of the more balanced match-ups, the ACC has home court advantage (North Carolina, Clemson, North Carolina State).
But these just sound like excuses for the Big Ten, which has had 10 previous attempts to win the Challenge and failed each time. So, although I wasn’t as confident as I once was, I’m still going to say that this is the year for the Big Ten. It should certainly grab wins with Ohio State, Michigan, and Purdue. Virginia Tech and Maryland will most likely prevail for the ACC. Other than those, it’s difficult to project winners, but I think the Big Ten will get the requisite six victories to win the Challenge.
Just for the heck of it, here are my projected winners.
Big Ten: Penn State, Purdue, Northwestern, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State
ACC: Maryland, Virginia Tech, Duke, North Carolina, Clemson
Do you agree that the Big Ten will end its drought or will the ACC win its eleventh straight? Share your opinions in the comments section.