Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood’s team (or the Big Ten):
The Big Ten/ACC Challenge got underway Monday night with a pair of games. It's a tie after one day, with Illinois losing to Miami and Minnesota winning at home against Clemson. That leaves 12 more games in the next two days between the Big Ten and ACC. A lot of basketball to watch, which is why I’ve decided to help you prioritize the ones you should watch and the ones to avoid.
No. 4 Michigan at No. 1 Louisville; Tuesday 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)
So this only exists as a No. 1 at No. 2 on my ballot. Either I’ll be immediately vindicated by jumping the Wolverines all the way to the top spot from unranked a week ago, or the Cardinals will crush me by winning at the KFC Yum! Center where, well, they’re the favorites.
No. 6 Ohio State at No. 7 North Carolina; Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
The Buckeyes picked up some good early wins by beating Cincinnati and absolutely blitzing Villanova. The level of competition then took a dip and will pick up in a big way at the Dean Dome against UNC and freshman guard Cole Anthony (20.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, four assists and two steals per game).
No. 10 Duke at No. 11 Michigan State; Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Both of these teams were ranked No. 1 this season. That we’re on a fourth different top team and it’s only the first week of December is a little strange. Duke losing to Stephen F. Austin and Michigan State losing twice (and once to the team picked 14th in the ACC) sent them tumbling. Still a good matchup, though.
No. 17 Florida State at Indiana; Tuesday, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Florida State is proving once again that it’s a mistake to discount a Leonard Hamilton team. The Seminoles lost their season opener at Pittsburgh and then reeled off seven straight wins, including victories against Florida, Tennessee and Purdue. Beating the Hoosiers, who haven’t exactly challenged themselves so far this season, would be another feather in Hamilton’s cap.
Notre Dame at No. 3 Maryland; Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)
The Terrapins picked up their most impressive win of the season Sunday in a 21-point beatdown of Markus Howard and Marquette. Maryland point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. has elevated his game another level, and Notre Dame might not have the guards to stop him.
No. 5 Virginia at Purdue; Wednesday, 6:15 p.m. (ESPN2)
This game should probably be ranked higher, but it kind of depends on what you like most about basketball. If it’s scoring, don’t tune in. Virginia’s No. 1-ranked defense is allowing just 40.3 points per game and won last week in a brutal 46-26 game against Maine.
Wake Forest at Penn State; Wednesday, 8:15 p.m. (ESPNU)
Penn State was one blow second half lead against Ole Miss from going into this game undefeated. Bouncing back with a 21-point win against Syracuse was a good sign for the Nittany Lions, and Lamar Stevens has yet to hit his peak form from a year ago.
Iowa at Syracuse; Tuesday, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Syracuse hasn’t beaten anybody other than the sure things on the schedule, and the Orange also weren’t particularly close in their three losses. Iowa lost at home to DePaul but beat Texas Tech by 11 in Las Vegas. You figure this one out.
Rutgers at Pittsburgh; Tuesday, 8 p.m. (ESPNU)
I remain relatively high on Steve Pikiell and Rutgers based on how he built Stony Brook from basically nothing to a regular 20-win team. Still, it’s a long road for the Scarlet Knights. They did get a road win in last year’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge at Miami, so maybe lightning will strike twice.
Wisconsin at North Carolina State; Wednesday, 8:15 p.m. (ESPN2)
The Badgers are coming off losses to Richmond and New Mexico. The grumbling you hear from the north is the Wisconsin faithful turning, en masse, against Greg Gard.
Nebraska at Georgia Tech; Wednesday, 6:15 p.m. (ESPNU)
Northwestern at Boston College; Tuesday, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)