- December 1st – Wisconsin @ Virginia Tech – 7:00 PM ESPN2
- December 2nd – Duke @ Purdue – 9:00 PM ESPN
- December 2nd – Clemson @ Illinois – 7:30 PM ESPN2
- December 2nd – Ohio State @ Miami – 7:00 PM ESPN
- December 2nd – Virginia @ Minnesota – 9:30 ESPN2
- December 2nd – Iowa @ Boston College – 7:00 PM ESPNU
- December 3rd – North Carolina vs. Michigan State (Ford Field) – 9:15 PM ESPN
- December 3rd – Indiana @ Wake Forest – 7:15 PM ESPN
- December 3rd – Penn State @ Georgia Tech – 7:30 ESPN2
- December 3rd – Florida State @ Northwestern – 9:30 ESPN2
- December 3rd – Michigan @ Maryland – 7:30 ESPNU
First off – now I know the Big Ten has never won this, but c’mon. How does the ACC get 6 home games and the Big Ten gets 4? That’s just ridiculous.
Wisconsin vs. Virginia Tech
Both teams haven’t played too well to start the season. Wisconsin struggled with Iona and Long Beach State while losing to UConn. VT has lost to Seton Hall and Xavier (on that halfcourt shot), while struggling with Mt. Saint Mary’s and Gardner-Webb. So both teams are battle-tested. Big test for the Butch-less UW frontcourt with VT’s Jeff Allen. Dude was a beast against us last year, now he’s no-longer a freshmen. He’s averaging a double-double already this season. Krabbenhoft should be able to handle Vassallo and Hughes should be able to take Delaney. I don’t know how VT’s going to contain Landry. Wisconsin’s gotta take better care of the ball, though. 22.5% TO rate is pretty high for a Bo Ryan club. I just can’t pick against a Bo Ryan team, though, even if they’re not playing in the Kohl Center. I’ll take Wisconsin by 7.
Duke @ Purdue
Best game of the challenge, by far. Purdue’s coming off a tough loss to Oklahoma in the Garden. Duke’s undefeated on the season, surviving URI and beating UM. I really, really like PU in this matchup. It’s in Mackey, so hopefully they should benefit from some calls, unlike the OU game. If Calasan plays like he did against OU, Hummel stays out of foul trouble, and PU cleans up those unforced turnovers, I think PU could bust this one open. Duke will not have been pressured like they will on Tuesday, and they do not have the dominant post guy that could give PU problems. I’ll take the home team. Purdue by 9, as they make their foul shots down the stretch.
Clemson @ Illinois
Very big game for Illinois and another great matchup. Clemson has raced to a 7-0 start, but they haven’t really been tested. They’ve beaten Charlotte 72-71 and Temple 76-72. Illinois has that huge win on the road @ Vanderbilt and they did go on the road and beat Kent State and Tulsa. Clemson had to replace quite a few contributors to last year’s NCAA team, but they also returned a few starters. Illinois appears to have cured their close game woes from last season, already winning 3 close games. Demetri McCamey is a stud, and I’m intrigued to see how good Mike Davis is (averaging 12.7 points and 9.7 boards). Tisdale has tremendously improved, dropping 20 points in one game already (I can’t believe it either). Meacham’s been on fire, connecting on 13-25 threes. Big test for Chet Frazier, will he be able to handle Clemson’s pressure? If Illinois keeps the turnovers to a minimum, I believe they’ll win. Illinois has been tested already, and they’re at home. Illinois by 5.
Ohio State @ Miami
Tough matchup for the Buckeyes. I don’t understand Matta’s OOC schedule. They’ve only played 3 games thus far, all against cupcakes. BJ Mullens clearly isn’t ready to be what he was hyped to be. He’s not even starting and has only been averaging 16.3 minutes a game. Dallas Lauderdale has been holding down the post for the Buckeyes. OSU still has some high flyers in David Lighty, Evan Turner, and true freshmen William Buford. JuCo transfer Jeremie Simmons has been holding down the point thus far, replacing Jamar Butler. He hasn’t been tested, so who knows how good he is. He beat out freshmen, Anthony Crater for the spot. However, Jack McClinton is an absolute stud. Miami is just way too experienced and more talented than OSU. I can’t see an OSU team this inexperienced going on the road and winning this one. Miami by 14.
Virginia @ Minnesota
This is a must-win matchup for the Big Ten. UVA is coming off a respectable performance on the road in the Carrier Dome, losing 73-70. They have, however, lost at home to a good Liberty team, and struggled to beat teams like VMI, Radford, and South Florida. Tough to get a read on this young Minnesota team. They’ve been dominant at home so far, but they haven’t played anyone. They did go on the road and almost lost to a Colorado State team that went 7-25 last year. UVA has been led by freshmen Sylven Landesberg (20 PPG). UVA coach Dave Leitao is still trying to find a rotation, as 9 guys have started so far for the Cavs. They’re deep and talented, but very young. Minnesota’s JuCo transfers Devron Bostick and Paul Carter have underperformed to their hype, but Colton Iverson has been solid for the Gophers inside. Damian Johnson has returned from a broken hand, as well. I’ll take Minnesota at home by 8. They have more talent, a better coach, and have the home-court.
Iowa @ Boston College
Todd Lickliter’s team had a huge win yesterday, beating Kansas State in the consolation of the Las Vegas Invitational. Both teams have played good competition and have mixed results. Iowa played horribly against WVU, but they bounced back the next day. BC has lost to St. Louis and Purdue, but they’ve beaten UAB and St. John’s. Jeff Peterson is going to have his hands full with Tyrese Rice of BC. If they can contain Rice and not turn the ball over like they did against WVU (31.8 TO%!), they’ll give themselves a chance. These young Iowa kids showed a lot of character yesterday, fending off a late Kansas State rally. But they’re just too young to pick them to win on the road, in my opinion. I’ll take BC in a close game by 6.
North Carolina vs. Michigan State
Uh, yeah. Good luck to MSU. Suton’s been out for MSU, and Morgan, despite his talent, is still a headcase. Izzo is still getting a feel for his rotation, playing 11-12 guys a game. UNC has been unstoppable, rolling through Maui like it was an exhibition. Psycho-T is back. Should be a fast-paced, entertaining game, but if MSU keeps it within 10, I’ll be shocked. UNC by 23.
Indiana @ Wake Forest
Uh, yeah. Good luck to Indiana. I’ll give Indiana about a 5% chance of winning. I think Wake Forest is a sleeper team and could be UNC’s primary competition in the ACC (I say that as if they have a chance to win the conference). Wake Forest by 25.
Michigan @ Maryland
This is a very intriguing match-up. Both have beaten overrated top 10 teams on neutral floors already this season. Manny Harris vs. Greivis Vasquez is going to be a great matchup. Both are 6-5 with NBA potential. DeShawn Sims has really progressed in Beilein’s system. He’s playing harder than I’ve ever seen him play before. He’s a stud. Maryland has yet to find anyone to replace graduated F James Gist’s production in the paint. They’re also going to have to rebound after crushing losses against Georgetown and Gonzaga. This is a very winnable game for UM, but it’s their first true road test. UM is still young and they’ll need their freshmen guards to knock down a few treys. Manny Harris can’t turn the ball over 8 times, either. I’ll take UM, though, by 5. DeShawn Sims is the X-Factor.
Florida State @ Northwestern
Northwestern is much-improved from last year’s team. They’ve got a nice 3-man attack with PG Michael Thompson, F Kevin Coble, and 3-point bomber Craig Moore. After those 3, however, NW coach Bill Carmody is still tampering with his rotation. Freshmen John Shurna will be a starter, but he’s only averaging 19 minutes a game. 7 footer, Kyle Rowley also has started all 4 games, but he’s logging just 12 minutes a game. NW has a lot of young, tall options, but who knows how good any of these new players are. They went on the road and lost to Butler (who’s not nearly as good as last year). Florida State is coming into this game rolling. They just won the Global Sports Classic by beating Cincinnati and California. They are young with only 3 upperclassmen in their 9-man rotation, but they are led by senior guard Tony Douglas (19 PPG). Florida State has too much talent and they’ve played not only more games, but better competition. I’ll take the Seminoles by 10.
So that leaves the conference race tied at 5 games a piece. I guess y’all will have to wait for my PSU preview to find out who I believe will win. Other than OSU-Miami, UNC-MSU, and WF-Indiana, I think all the other matchups could go the other way. It should be a much better challenge, considering the ACC isn’t what it was (at least outside of UNC) and the Big Ten is resurging with the addition of coaches like Tubby Smith and John Beilein. GO BIG TEN, let’s win this rigged thing for once (seriously 6 home games vs. 4?)