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Big Ten’s bound to win its 3rd straight Challenge vs. ACC


Mike Miller

The Big Ten didn’t win any of the first 10 ACC/Big Ten Challenges. Now they’re headed for a third-straight “title.”

Next up? A little respect.

OK, not really. I’m sure college hoops fans will continue dogging the conference for its style (read: slow play). But remember, the ACC’s doing its best to match that deliberate style. An influx of new coaches the last few years – notably at places like Clemson, Boston College, Virginia, Maryland and Georgia Tech – is slowing down the ACC. (Not that they’ll match Wisconsin.)

ANYWAY, the Big Ten’s likely headed for seven, possibly eight wins. At worst, they’ll tie the ACC, but that’s only if there more than a few surprises, such as Miami beating Purdue or Wake Forest beating Nebraska. (This despite the Deacons’ excellent record in this thing.) Seriously. The Big Ten should run away with this thing.

Beyond basic “who wins?” questions, here’s the schedule and a few storylines to watch:

Tue, Nov. 29
7 p.m.- No. 14 Michigan at Virginia (ESPN2)
7:15 p.m. - Northwestern at Georgia Tech (ESPNU)
7:30 p.m. - Illinois at Maryland (ESPN)
9 p.m. - Miami at Purdue (ESPN2)
9:15 p.m. - Clemson at Iowa (ESPNU)
9:30 p.m. - No.3 Duke at No. 2 Ohio State (ESPN)

Wed, Nov. 30
7:15 p.m. - Indiana at North Carolina State (ESPN2)
7:15 p.m. - Penn State at Boston College (ESPNU)
7:30 p.m. - Florida State at Michigan State (ESPN)
9:15 p.m. - Virginia Tech at Minnesota (ESPN2)
9:15 p.m. - Wake Forest at Nebraska (ESPNU)
9:30 p.m. - No.9 Wisconsin at No. 5 North Carolina (ESPN)

The must-see matchup
Duke’s unbeaten. Ohio State’s unbeaten. That should be enough. But consider the Devils’ absurd outside shooting (46 percent from beyond the arc) against yet another incredibly efficient Buckeyes offense and this should be a game that’s just pure, beautiful basketball. And for Duke haters, there’s a good chance Coach K’s team loses. So there’s that.

Will North Carolina lose two straight?
The Heels lost their first game of the season Saturday and may not have leading scorer Harrison Barnes for the Badgers. That’s hardly ideal against Wisconsin, which seems to be in midseason form. It’s thrashed teams thanks to its excellent perimeter shooting (with new scoring threats to boot!). Carolina’s still capable of winning this game without Barnes, but all bets are off.

Defense aficionados, this one’s for you
Florida State’s defense is the stuff of offensive nightmares. Bernard James? Yeah, he’s scary. But Michigan State’s right behind in defensive efficiency, which must warm Tom Izzo’s heart. I expect a total of eight open shots.

Shooting for 100
If you combine the final score of the Michigan-Virginia game, that is. Neither prefers to run. It’s not that they don’t like scoring, it’s just that they don’t push it like UNC or Iowa. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just what the game will be like. Also, it’ll go down to the final minutes. That counts for something.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.