Though the Big Ten football season reaches its exciting conclusion Saturday night in Indianapolis, one of the best times of the Big Ten basketball season is already here.
The Big Ten-ACC Challenge hits hardwoods across the country this week, starting Monday night.
The Big Ten heads into the annual conference-vs.-conference throwdown a bit hobbled after last week, with just three teams in the most recent top-25 rankings (compared to the ACC's five) and marquee programs coming off upsetting losses. But still, the matchups are always too good to ignore.
Here's a quick rundown of the 14 games hitting your TV screens over the next few nights. All times are Central.
Monday, Nov. 28
Minnesota at Florida State, 6 p.m., ESPNU
The Gophers haven't faced anyone of great significance, but Richard Pitino's team is an attention-grabbing 6-0. Minnesota is getting one great performance after another from freshman Amir Coffey, who is averaging 15.8 points per game and scored 30 three games back in a win over St. John's. This will be the second straight Big Ten opponent for 5-1 Florida State, which handed Illinois a double-digit loss. The Seminoles were ranked as recently as last week and are getting 18.2 points per game from leading scorer Dwayne Bacon.
Wake Forest vs. Northwestern, 6 p.m., ESPNU
Last week's tough loss to Notre Dame is perhaps still stinging for the Cats, who could be 5-1 with a pair of signature wins. But they threw that game away against the Irish and sit at 4-2. Vic Law has been terrific after missing all of last season with a shoulder injury. He's now averaging 17.7 points a game and is 17-for 27 from 3-point range, second in the Big Ten in deep-ball percentage. Wake Forest is 5-1 with its only loss coming against reigning-champion Villanova.
Tuesday, Nov. 29
Pittsburgh at Maryland, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Despite no top-25 ranking at the moment, the Terps have yet to lose in their first seven games. Granted, they aren't really blowing anyone out, with their two best wins one-pointers over Georgetown and Kansas State and wins against American, Towson and Richmond coming by single digits. Still, Melo Trimble is playing well, averaging 21.1 points a game, the second-highest scoring mark in the Big Ten, and he's an eye-popping 50-for-62 from the free-throw line already this season. Pitt, 5-1, is getting even more points from Michael Young, who averages 23.3 a game.
Georgia Tech at Penn State, 6 p.m., ESPNU
Quite the roller-coaster ride for 4-3 Penn State so far, which lost to Albany to open the season and has two other losses to then-ranked opponents, one of them being then-No. 1 Duke. The Nittany Lions have four players averaging double figures, including freshmen Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens. Georgia Tech is 4-1 but has played absolutely no one of note, with Penn State being its first major-conference foe.
No. 22 Syracuse at No. 17 Wisconsin, 6:30 p.m., ESPN
The Badgers have stumbled a couple times already this season, cold-shooting proving their downfall in losses to top-10 opponents Creighton and North Carolina, hence the 5-2 record. Stars Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig have had their hot and cold days, though Ethan Happ has continued to be great, currently second in the Big Ten in rebounding and steals. Another ranked foe awaits in 4-1 Syracuse, fresh off its first loss of the season to South Carolina. Former Nebraska star Andrew White III is leading the Orange in scoring with 15.8 points a game.
North Carolina State at Illinois, 8 p.m., ESPNU
Last week was down right nightmarish for the Illini, who lost three times: first in embarrassing overtime fashion to Winthrop, then in blowout fashion to West Virginia and then by double digits to Florida State. Defense has been the most glaring issue, with Illinois allowing 72.1 points a game (12th in the Big Ten) and allowing opponents to shoot 42.3 percent from the field (also 12th in the Big Ten). Malcolm Hill's still a top-six scorer in the league (18.3 points a game), but the 4-3 Illini are playing as poorly as possible right now, not a good sign with 5-1 NC State coming to Champaign.
Iowa at Notre Dame, 8 p.m., ESPN2
The Hawkeyes are a on a scoring tear right now, averaging 86.3 points a game, the second-best mark in the Big Ten, behind the Big Ten's leading scorer and America's second-leading scorer in Peter Jok, who's averaging 25.3 points a game. Though while scoring 90-plus in four of their six games, they're somehow just 3-3 with a loss to top-10 Virginia but also to unranked Seton Hall and Memphis teams. Notre Dame is a perfect 6-0, avoiding disaster in its previous run in with a Big Ten team last week against Northwestern.
Michigan State at No. 5 Duke, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
The Spartans have had an absolutely brutal schedule to open their season, losing three times already but doing it against three teams currently ranked in the top 16 (No. 1 Kentucky, No. 9 Baylor and No. 16 Arizona). Highly rated freshman Miles Bridges, though, has lived up to the hype, leading the team in scoring and rebounding with 17.4 points and 8.7 rebounds a game, ranking in the top 10 in the Big Ten in both categories. Fifth-ranked and 6-1 Duke provides no reprieve from the onslaught of top teams on Michigan State's schedule. The Blue Devils are getting double-figure scoring averages from five guys and 16-plus scoring averages from three. And that's all without fabulous freshmen Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles even seeing the floor yet.
Wednesday, Nov. 30
Virginia Tech at Michigan, 6:15 p.m., ESPN2
The Wolverines had a brief stay in the top 25, bounced out after just a week thanks to a hideous shooting performance in a loss to South Carolina. Michigan was an almost-unbelievable 10-for-52 from the floor and 2-for-26 from 3-point range in that one and now sit at 5-1. The Hokies are also 5-1, a three-point loss to Texas A&M their lone blemish. Virginia Tech just played and beat a Big Ten team, taking down Nebraska, 66-53.
No. 15 Purdue at No. 14 Louisville, 6:15 p.m., ESPN
The Boilers lost their second game of the season to reigning-champion Villanova but have been a steamroller since. Purdue has won its last three games by a combined 57 points. Caleb Swanigan has been beastly, and he's averaging a double-double with 18.8 points and 12 rebounds a game, fourth and first in the Big Ten in those respective categories. Fellow skyscraper Isaac Haas has also been great, averaging 16.5 points a game. Louisville, 5-1, hasn't been the highest-scoring team this season, but the Cardinals are the best rebounders in the ACC and boast the conference's leader in steals, Donovan Mitchell.
Rutgers at Miami, 6:15 p.m., ESPNU
How about the still-undefeated Scarlet Knights? No, the competition hasn't been very good, but Rutgers has won every game it's played. It travels to play Miami, and only once have the Knights played a true road game during their six-game win streak to open the campaign (at DePaul). The wealth's being spread when it comes to scoring, with five players averaging nine points a game or better, and Deshawn Freeman and Corey Sanders rank in the top five in the Big Ten in rebounding and assists, respectively. After starting the season with four straight wins, Miami has dropped back-to-back games against Iowa State and Florida, two ranked teams.
Nebraska at Clemson, 8:15 p.m., ESPNU
It's a two-game losing streak for the 4-2 Huskers, who have lost back-to-back games to UCLA and Virginia Tech. Tai Webster is playing real well for Nebraska, averaging 18.5 points per game, good for fifth in the Big Ten. Clemson is 3-2 with losses to Xavier and Oklahoma, both coming by only six points. The Tigers are led by the scoring of Jaron Blossomgame, who is averaging 18.4 points a night.
No. 3 North Carolina at No. 13 Indiana, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
This was supposed to be an epic rematch of last year's Elite Eight game and of course still could be, though it would've been two top-five teams had the now 4-1 Hoosiers not lost in shocking fashion to IPFW last week. The offense was not working for Indiana in that game, something it'll need to have going against the powerful Heels. The Hoosiers are still the highest-scoring team in the Big Ten. Carolina is coming off a terrific showing in Maui, defeating Wisconsin soundly in the title game there. A perfect 7-0, the Heels are getting great performance from Joel Berry II (17.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists a game), Justin Jackson (15.4 points and 4.1 rebounds a game) and Kennedy Meeks (13.7 points and 10.7 rebounds a game).
Ohio State at No. 6 Virginia, 8:15 p.m., ESPN2
How many points will Ohio State score at Virginia? A good guess would be "not many." The 6-0 Cavaliers are again playing their trademark shut-down defense, limiting opponents to a nation-low 41.3 points a game. That includes holding Iowa, the Big Ten's second-highest scoring team, to just 41 two games ago. The Buckeyes are a perfect 6-0, too, and have plenty of options to go to for points with sixth guys averaging double figures. But man that Virginia defense is good.