Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge and the New Math

Caleb Walker, Jorge Brian Diaz, C.J. Harris

Wake Forest’s C.J. Harris (11) drives to the basket past Nebraska’s Caleb Walker (25) and Jorge Brian Diaz (21), in the closing seconds of an NCAA college basketball game against Nebraska, in Lincoln, Neb., Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011. Harris’ layup with 3.4 seconds left gave Wake Forest a 55-53 victory over Nebraska in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)


The good ol’ RPI. It’s an imperfect tool that plays an inordinately large role in determining Big Dance invites. It’s easily manipulated by anyone who knows what they’re doing, but many big-time schools place a higher value on quantity of wins than they do on quality. Losing to a ranked opponent is more valuable than beating a bottom-feeder.

For teams in the expanding ACC, RPI is going to raise its head even sooner. According to Andy Katz at, RPI might become the deciding factor for which teams are allowed to participate in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, since a one-to-one matchup from top to bottom is not possible.

Boston College-centric blog BC Interruption extrapolated the likely outcome of such a scheme, and found their favorite team on the short end of the stick.

Selecting the ACC’s Challenge 2013 reps based on RPI does pose the question as to whether Boston College will be left out of the event altogether next season. If the league does decide to select the 12 ACC programs based on RPI, the Eagles’ non-conference schedule light on marquee opponents becomes a factor, as does straight Ws and Ls. It does set up the possibility of an exciting quasi-promotion / relegation system for teams at the bottom of the league standings towards the end of the year. But there’s still a good chance BC could be left out of next year’s Challenge, which would suck.

Of course, Boston College could preempt missing out on next year’s Challenge by inking a home-and-home series with Nebraska or Penn State -- the most likely Challenge pairing for the next, say, dozen years.

So, to put it bluntly, if programs don’t want to schedule tough opponents, the ACC will help them out with that goal by taking a Big Ten opponent off the docket as well.