Well, that was interesting. The Big Ten took four out of the six games last night with Ohio St. stealing the show by routing Duke. Tonight the BIG looks for their third straight Challenge title.
Indiana @ North Carolina St. (Wednesday ESPN2, 7:15pm)
Indiana looks improved this year and even has a couple of decent wins over Evansville and Butler as proof. However, this looks to be their toughest game yet and will be used as a measuring stick for their progress. They've done a great job shooting the ball and defending two point shots which may be largely attributed to freshman Cody Zeller. NC State also has been effective scoring this season and defending twos but have been burned by the three. Taking care of the ball may be the Wolfpack's greatest strength so there likely won't be a lot of empty possessions on their end. IU will have to overcome this with excellent shooting of their own if they expect to prevail.
The Pick: IU gets hot from downtown and wins in a barn burner 80-74.
Penn St. @ Boston College (Wednesday ESPNU, 7:15pm)
This game is scheduled to air on ESPNU for a reason - it's the worst team from each conference. Penn St. has been a one man show thus far, led by point guard Tim Frazier. He currently leads the team in points, rebounds, assists, and FG%. Basically, he's forced to do his Talor Battle impression since the rest of the team is so offensively challenged. BC meanwhile may be the youngest team in a major conference and it shows. They're not good on offense and even worse on defense. Even so, I have a feeling this game will be low scoring.
The Pick: BC wins 59-57.
Florida St. @ Michigan St. (Wednesday ESPN, 7:30pm)
Florida St. is one of those teams that's consistently underrated during the season but flakes out in the NCAA Tournament. They're typically good to great on defense while they love to attack the rim on offense. They will get to the line but can they prevent the Spartans from getting there, too? Michigan St. is led by Draymond Green and Keith Appling but newcomers Branden Dawson and Brandon Wood have struggled especially from the perimeter. This game is likely to feature a lot of missed shots, a lot of offensive rebounds and be generally scrappy game overall. Every year a Big Ten/ACC Challenge game goes to overtime and this is my pick this year.
The Pick: The home team wins. MSU 74-FSU 70.
Virginia Tech @ Minnesota (Wednesday ESPN2, 9:15pm)
Boy, this game couldn't come at a worse time for Minnesota. The Gophers lost star player Trevor Mbakwe over the weekend to a torn ACL and his season and college career are over. Now Ralph Sampson III and Rodney Williams will need to shoulder more of the load both offensively and defensively yet there has been no indication that either is up for the task. The Gophers are plagued by turnovers and their young backcourt hasn't proven they are capable of being consistent offensive threats. Virgina Tech has struggled limiting their opponents from getting offensive rebounds but the nation's best offensive rebounder will not be playing. The Hokies excel at making threes and defending the three - a good sign since Minnesota will now likely be forced to adjust their offense to a more perimeter oriented attack.
The Pick: Virginia Tech big. 68-55.
Wake Forest @ Nebraska (Wednesday ESPNU, 9:15pm)
Nebraska gets to host Wake Forest in their inaugural Challenge game. The Demon Deacons are off to a rough start this season though expectations were not that high to begin with. Wake has been buoyed by some excellent three point shooting from their two stars CJ Harris (48%) and Travis McKie (47%) and an impressive number of trips to the free throw line. The Huskers have a very good defense and will make Wake work for good shots while preventing them from getting any offensive rebounds. They're going to slow down the pace of the game to maximize their offensive possessions and to try and make Wake Forest impatient. The outcome of this game will be decided by how well Nebraska capitalizes on the Deacons mistakes.
The Pick: Nebraska 65-Wake Forest 56.
Wisconsin @ North Carolina (Wednesday ESPN, 9:30pm)
This game not only represents the premiere game of the event but also the end of Wisconsin's cupcake schedule while Carolina is coming off their first loss of the season. Wisconsin hasn't been challenged yet; displaying their typical slow style and hyper efficient offense. They've also shown to have an improved defense but North Carolina will see if that's for real or only a result of the schedule. The Tar Heels will look to attack down low and take advantage of their size while future lottery pick Harrison Barnes causes matchup problems away from the basket. The game may very well come down to the charity stripe and each team has shown chinks in the armor in this regard. The Badgers seem completely unable to figure out how to get there (9.5 attempts per game) while UNC hasn't been able to convert the attempts they've earned (60% team FT%).
The Pick: North Carolina cause too many matchup problems and prevail 67-56.
I've got the ACC and BIG splitting the second night's action 3-3 giving the total edge to the Big Ten 7-5 thereby earning their third straight Big Ten/ACC Challenge title.