2007 ACC-Big 10 Challenge Preview
Apparently the Big 10 has nine lives.
The annual ACC-Big 10 Challenge is still going strong despite eight straight losses by the Big 10. That’s right; the conference has never come out on top in this event since its inception in 1999. Overall, the ACC is 48-27 in individual games.
In the early years of the Challenge, the Big 10 always managed to keep it close, but in recent meetings the ACC teams have really put a beating down on their more northern counterparts. Since 2003, the ACC is 28-12 overall. In the first four meetings the margin was only a combined 20-15, with three of the Challenges being decided 5-4 in favor of the ACC and the other, in 2001, a 5-3 edge (only eight games were played because Virginia vs. Michigan State was cancelled just after halftime due to a wet floor).
Will the tide turn in 2007? Will the ninth life be the charm?
While the Big 10’s prospects don’t look especially enticing, there is most definitely a chance. The ACC boasts the No. 1 team in the nation (both AP and ESPN/Coaches polls) in the North Carolina and three other Top 25 teams (AP Poll) in Duke, Clemson, and Virginia. Overall, however, it looks like a relatively “down” year for the conference. After all, aren’t we accustomed to no less than two ACC schools contending for the National Championship every year? Barring an unforeseen overachievement or if a young Duke team keeps up its Maui Invitational form, only UNC looks like legit Final Four player.
The Big 10, however, isn’t exactly flying sky high. Following the expected early departures of Greg Oden and Mike Conley from NCAA runner-up Ohio State, the conference seems to lack a true elite college basketball team, at least for the moment. That’s not to say there isn’t any firepower up there in the Midwest. Freshman phenom Eric Gordon has arrived in Bloomington—where the Hoosiers are currently ranked No. 8 in both polls (although sure to fall after a 15-point loss to Xavier)—and already seems poised to restore some of the star power to the Big 10 left by Conley and Oden. Senior point guard Drew Neitzel leads a Michigan State team (No. 10 AP, No. 11 ESPN/Coaches) that should feature a nice blend of experience and a strong freshman class.
Of course with 11 games on the docket, the ACC-Big 10 Challenge comes down to conference depth rather than power at the top. The ACC looks like it has one great team in UNC, one very good team in Duke, and almost all of the rest are at least solid. The Big 10 just looks like one giant question mark. Indiana and Michigan State should be able to defend their home courts to give the conference two wins. UNC should be able to go into Ohio State and trounce a new-look Buckeye squad and Virginia will handle Northwestern at home with relative ease. After that it will boil down to the ACC being a stronger conference all the way through. It won’t matter that the Big 10 hosts six games while the ACC only hosts five. Don’t expect an 8-3 (or worse) blowout like we’ve seen in the past, but a 7-4 prevailing margin for the men of the Atlantic Coast would not come as a big surprise.
Here are the matchups, previewed individually, for the 2007 ACC-Big 10 Challenge (predicted winners in bold).
Overall prediction: ACC 7, Big 10 4.