MJ: Not much of a Challenge
The 15th edition of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge begins Tuesday with Jim Delany’s conference looking to make it four in a row after the ACC won the first 10. Staff writer Marcus Jackson’s look at the 12-game lineup — with predictions to boot:
Indiana at Syracuse,
6:15 p.m. ESPN
The Hoosiers seemed surprised the Orange played zone defense in last year’s Sweet 16 matchup. Indiana is down two top-five picks. Syracuse, playing its first Challenge, returns to the Carrier Dome with momentum after claiming the Maui Invitational title.
Illinois at Georgia Tech,
6:15 p.m. ESPN2
The Yellow Jackets return five of their six top scorers from last year’s team that lost in Champaign. After a lackluster performance Friday following a big road win at UNLV, expect the Illini to regain focus and move their Challenge win streak to five. Winner: Illinois
Penn State at Pittsburgh,
6:30 p.m. ESPNU
The Panthers (7-0), playing in their first Challenge, have an average margin of victory of 24 points although their schedule has been soft. It’ll be the first meeting between the in-state foes since 2005.
Michigan at Duke,
8:15 p.m. ESPN
The signature games of this year’s event will feature plenty of NBA front-office types watching Jabari Parker, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary. They’ll also be looking to see if Duke can extend its nonconference home win streak to 107.
Notre Dame at Iowa,
8:15 p.m. ESPN2
This will be one of the first opportunities for the Hawkeyes to showcase their legitimacy on a national stage with Roy Devyn Marble leading the charge. Fran McCaffery’s club will look to end a seven-game skid in the Challenge against newcomer Notre Dame.
Florida State at Minnesota,
Despite playing without freshman guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Seminoles have been one of the nation’s surprise teams with a blowout win against VCU and near misses to Michigan and Florida. Richard Pitino’s squad has struggled against tougher competition.
Winner: Florida State
Maryland at Ohio State,
6 p.m. ESPN
This is the Terrapins’ last appearance in the event as a member of the ACC before jumping to the Big Ten next season. It won’t be a pleasant one as the Buckeyes have won 72 in a row at home against unranked opponents.
Winner: Ohio State
Wisconsin at Virginia,
6 p.m. ESPN2
Both teams are coming off tournament championships. Although the Badgers are going on the road and have lost two straight in the event, Sam Dekker and Co. have been more impressive en route to starting 8-0 for the first time under Bo Ryan.
Northwestern at North Carolina State,
6:30 p.m. ESPNU
If Drew Crawford is still dealing with his balky lower back issues, Chris Collins’ return to Tobacco Road won’t be a pleasant one. Wolfpack, which has a loss to North Carolina Central on its resume, looks to end a five-game skid in the Challenge.
Winner: N.C. State
North Carolina at Michigan State,
8 p.m. ESPN
This one looked to be one of the signature matchups when the pairings were announced, but the Tar Heels have been taking the floor without top player P.J. Hairston. The top-ranked Spartans will be too much at home where they have won 38 of the last 40.
Winner: Michigan State
Boston College at Purdue,
8:30 p.m. ESPN2
Sophomore big man A.J. Hammons has been a disappointment for the Boilers, who are still trying to find their way. Playing at Mackey Arena seems to bring out the best in Matt Painter’s squad, which is 5-0 in its home gym this season.
Miami at Nebraska,
8:30 p.m. ESPNU
This isn’t the same Hurricanes outfit that squeaked by the Illini in the NCAA tournament in March. Jim Larranaga’s squad lost its top six scorers and scored 48 points in a win against Cal State-Fullerton. Nebraska gets to show off its new arena while trying to move to 2-0 in the event.