Ranking the ACC/Big Ten Challenge games

14 Jun

By Justin Young
National Hoops Report

The ACC-Big Ten Challenge was last month and truth be told, the match-ups are not the most enticing as they have been in year’s past.

The talent in the middle isn’t as a strong as it has been for both conferences. Because of that, the overall challenge doesn’t jump out as a must-see series.

Everyone loves rankings. So why not rank the games from worst to first in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge?

12. Wake Forest at Nebraska
If there is one game you have to skip during the ACC-Big Ten challenge it is this one. Let’s be honest for a second. This game isn’t getting you excited. There are few, if any, storylines to watch. The star power is lacking. Oh, and if Nebraska seems out of place on this list it is because it is. This is the first year in the Big Ten for the Huskers.
MUST WATCH MATCH-UP: Travis McKie vs. Anyone. McKie was the only real shining light last season. He doesn’t take to losing very well and given an even bigger role as a sophomore, McKie should shine in the spotlight. Nebraska doesn’t have anyone that can match-up with him either.

11. Penn State at Boston College
This will be a snoozer. Both teams will be young. Penn State lost its coach and four of its top five players. Boston College will rely on the giant recruiting class from 2011.
MUST WATCH MATCH-UP: Tim Frazier vs. Lonnie Jackson. Frazier will have the ball in his hands from the outset. He’s the go-to player for a Penn State team that is searching for its identity. Jackson could be the best of the bunch for the Boston College freshman.
: Boston College

10. Northwestern at Georgia Tech

Brian Gregory, a Chicago guy, will play host to his hometown school. He’ll be doing it without Iman Shumpert, a Chi-Town product. Enter the Glen Rice, Jr. era. He’ll be the go-to guy for the Jackets all season long. Northwestern’s John Shurna should have a field day against the unproven Yellow Jacket frontline. On a side note, Northwestern has actively recruited Atlanta well over the last four years. This is a nice trip to show face in front of recruits.
: JerShon Cobb vs. Glen Rice, Jr. Cobb is an Atlanta native and the type of player that Georgia Tech generally lands. He’ll be ready to go against the team that looked past him. Rice, Jr., will likely draw the assignment of defending Cobb. For Atlanta natives, this should be a good one to watch.
: Northwestern

9. Clemson at Iowa
Both teams are evenly matched and from a basketball perspective you have two of the better coaches in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge going head to head in Brad Brownell and Fran McCaffery paired against each other.
MUST WATCH MATCH-UP: Tanner Smith vs. Matt Gatens. Both will be the senior leaders of their respective teams. Both are big, strong guards. Both are instinctual players. Both are get it guys. The match-up won’t be a barn-burner when it comes to numbers but if you like to see two seniors compete head to head, this is your kind of match-up.

8. Illinois at Maryland
This is a big year for Illinois and Bruce Weber. The sophomore and junior class has to find its identity right away. A game on the road at a place like Maryland could be the best starting point for the Illini. The Terps are starting anew with a new coach and a new system. Illinois could walk away with a big win.
MUST WATCH MATCH-UP: Tracy Abrams vs. Terrell Stoglin. The battle of the young and quick point guards will be fun to watch. Stoglin was one of the top freshmen in the country last year. Abrams, a freshman, could play a lot as the point guard for the Illini. Both are two of the best points in the country that don’t get a lot of hype.
: Illinois

7. Indiana at North Carolina State
If this were the 1980s, you’d be reading about the greatest of this game on your Commodore 64, you’d jump in your Datsun, pop in your Thriller tape and leave your Rubik’s Cube at home. This is a big deal. Today? Not so much. The game doesn’t quite have the draw like it should. History buffs will love it but it lacks a lot.
MUST WATCH MATCH-UP: Maurice Creek vs. Lorenzo Brown. Creek went down at the halfway point of the season due to a knee injury. He’s hungry to get back. Brown will be the de facto point guard for the Wolf Pack. Both players have a lot to prove. Both are 6-foot-3 guards that can play both positions.

6. Virginia Tech at Minnesota
Seth Greenburg has to replace a good outbound senior class. He has his best recruiting class coming in. The team will be young but there is a nice foundation of talent to move forward with. Tubby Smith has a roster of uncertainty and question marks. Who is this team exactly? Not sure, yet. That’s part of the intrigue.
MUST WATCH MATCH-UP: Dorian Finney-Smith vs. Rodney Williams. DFS is the new face for the Hokies. Williams could be the go-to guy for the Gophers. The two may not square off head-to-head but they will be competing for the spotlight. Both know how to perform when people are watching.
: Virginia Tech

5. Miami at Purdue
Two teams that are trying to find their identity pair up in what could be a very interesting game. Miami has the talent and a new coach. Purdue lost its talent and a coach that almost left. This game is in West Lafayette. That boded well for the Boilermakers. But what will the team look like come game day. This one has major intrigue.
MUST WATCH MATCH-UP: Malcolm Grant vs. Lewis Jackson. This point guard battle between two seniors should be good. Jackson is Purdue’s best returning player from last season. Grant is one of the most underappreciated players in the country. You don’t get this kind of point guard match-up very often.

4. Florida State at Michigan State
If you are looking for a high-scoring track meet, look away. This isn’t your game. If you are looking for a grind it out, half court match-up, get your popcorn ready. Leonard Hamilton and Tom Izzo traditionally have great defensive teams. FSU has to find its face now that Chris Singleton is gone. Michigan State has to re-find its fire.
MUST WATCH MATCH-UP: Michael Snaer vs. Brandon Wood. Snaer was a big-time recruit that has had to wait for his turn in Tallahassee. This is his year to shine. He’s a good athlete and a fine athlete. Now in his junior year, Snaer has to finally turn the page. Wood, a Valparaiso transfer, is the new go-to guy for the Spartans. Both have a lot to prove in this match-up.
WAY TOO EARLY PICK: Michigan State

3. Michigan at Virginia
This is a game that coaches will be watching. John Belien and Tony Bennett are two of the best coaches in the game today. It will be fun to watch the two go head-to-head with their personnel. Michigan will be hurting from the loss of Darius Morris while Virginia is a team that many believe to be the sleeper team to watch in the ACC this year.
MUST WATCH MATCH-UP: Tim Hardaway, Jr. vs. Joe Harris. These two may not match-up against each other, per se, but here you have two of the biggest freshman surprises in the country from last season on the court at the same time. Both players are two of the bigger sophomores to watch this season. Hardaway may already be on the star on the rise list. Harris may not be that far off.
: Virginia

2. Wisconsin at North Carolina
Bo Ryan’s slow-you-down defense vs. Roy Williams’s push the tempo and defense be damned style will be an interesting storyline to watch. Both teams do a great job within the framework of what they do. Which style will win out? This game doesn’t have a lot of hype right now. By game time, it will be.
MUST WATCH MATCH-UP: Jordan Taylor vs. Dexter Strickland. Taylor is one of the best seniors in the nation and shined on the big stages last year for the Badgers. He’s a dynamic scorer, bull with the ball and the ultimate tough guy for a tough guy team. Strickland is the best backcourt defender for the Tar Heels. Can he slow down Taylor, the undisputed go-to guy for Wisconsin?
WAY TOO EARLY PICK: North Carolina

1. Duke at Ohio State
This is, hands down, the best match-up of the entire challenge. Coach K vs. Thad Matta. The draw of the Blue Devils vs. the returning star power and talented youth movement of the Buckeyes. Does it get any better than this? Probably not. This game has the makings of an Elite Eight match-up. Circle this one on the calendar.
MUST WATCH MATCH-UP: Duke’s frontline rotation vs. Jared Sullinger. Duke has a big rotation of players to throw at the most dominant big man in college basketball. The Blue Devils know how to slow down a big man. You better believe Coach K and his staff will be pulling out the tapes of Sean May and Tyler Hansbrough. Sullinger is more skilled than both of those guys. This should be a dandy of a battle.

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