ACC-Big 10 Challenge Recap
Make it 10 straight for the ACC.
This one, however, came a little bit harder than most of the conference’s previous nine wins in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge, and was a little bit more difficult than expected.
So bragging rights go to the ACC yet again, but let’s be honest, this is pretty much all about the individual teams. It’s only December, but it’s never too early to start having your own best interests in mind, especially when it comes to a Big Dance that is just three–yes, just three–months away.
So let’s take a look at the 11 winners, in order, who helped themselves most in terms of NCAA Tournament positioning.
Note: home team in bold
Ohio State 73, Miami 68
It’s hard to imagine that the Buckeyes would have won this game if Miami star Jack McClinton had not been ejected in the first half. But we’ll never know and it doesn’t matter. McClinton got the boot and Ohio State got a big win. The Buckeyes are certainly not a lock for the NCAA Tournament, but they should contend for a berth. If they end up being on the bubble, the committee will love this road win and it could be the difference. Beating a Top 25 team on its home court is always a major boost.
Duke 76, Purdue 60
Duke, as always, is a lock for the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Devils, however, are not one of the big favorites to win it all as they sometimes are, so chalking up one of the four No. 1 seeds is not a foregone conclusion. But they are definitely looking like a No. 1 seed right now, and they especially did at Purdue. A road win against a Top 10 opponent is nothing short of huge. If Duke finishes a solid second in the ACC (or first if UNC somehow falters), this victory could have Coach K and company in line for a top seed.
Wisconsin 74, Virginia Tech 72
Wisconsin is a borderline certainty for the Big Dance, but the Badgers are not as good as they were last season. Then again, don’t tell them that after they picked up a big win away from home against Virginia Tech on Monday night. The Hokies, who had their bubble burst last season, could very well be a Tournament team this time around. Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, Wisconsin can thank Trevon Hughes’ buzzer-beater for bolstering the team’s resume.
Clemson 76, Illinois 74
Most people probably expected Clemson to pull this one out against a less talented Illinois squad, but it was far from easy. A back-and-forth game the whole way saw Clemson take a two-point late lead and the Illini failed to get a shot off in the final seconds. It’s not exactly a standout win for the Tigers, but any road win against a Big 10 team is good one and will be just that in the eyes of the committee. Clemson could end up being a bubble team, too, so this will help.
Maryland 75, Michigan 70
This was a big win for Maryland more for confidence than for NCAA Tournament standing. The Terrapins, after stunning Michigan State, got blown out by Gonzaga and Georgia, so they needed this one. Michigan—a shocking upset of UCLA notwithstanding—is not a tournament team, so Maryland had to have this one at home to save from sliding even further into early-season doldrums. Greivis Vasquez did it all against the Wolverines, and if he continues such play, Maryland has a decent chance of dancing.
Penn State 85, Georgia Tech 83
Neither team is of NCAA Tournament-caliber, but this was still an impressive win for the Nittany Lions. Georgia Tech has more talent and had home-court advantage, but could not get the job done. Guards Stanley Pringle and Talor Battle were lethal against the Yellow Jackets, and Penn State could make some noise in the Big 10 if they continue to shoot lights out. If PSU somehow got on the bubble, this win would look good on a tournament resume.
Minnesota 66, Virginia 56
This was one of the few ACC-Big 10 Challenge games in which there’s a good chance neither competitor will end up even contending for the NCAA Tournament. Still, it was an important, albeit to five one young team or the other confidence heading into conference play rather than for Big Dance positioning. But if the Gophers surprises in Big 10 play and puts itself in tourney contention, it will be a good thing they took care of business at home. A loss would have been crippling.
North Carolina 98, Michigan State 63
The Tar Heels are going to get the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament (barring disaster) anyway. They won’t need an emphatic blowout win over Michigan State (on a neutral court, but much closer to Michigan State), but they got it nonetheless. What this will possibly do is strike even more fear into the hearts of ACC opponents.
Northwestern 73, Florida State 59
This is a very nice win for Northwestern, unfortunately it probably won’t mean much by the end of the season. The program appears to be on the rise, but the NIT (as opposed to the NCAA Tournament) is a realistic goal. As for Florida State, this won’t hurt too bad since it came on the road, but the Seminoles are most like a bubble team at best, so they need everything they can get.
Boston College 57, Iowa 55
This win is good simply because a loss would have been disastrous. Boston College was favored to get the best of Iowa, but the hosts barely survived when the Hawkeyes’ Andrew Brommer missed the front end of a one-and-one with less than a second left while down by two. The Eagles do not project to be an NCAA Tournament team at the moment, but you never know. If they had lost to Iowa at home, well, you’d know.
Wake Forest 83, Indiana 58
This was pretty much a no-win situation for Wake Forest, playing at home against arguably the worst team in the Big 10. Nonetheless, the Demon Deacons did what they had to do; which was take care of business and blow out the Hoosiers in routine fashion. This will not do anything for Wake Forest’s NCAA Tournament hopes since Indiana is terrible. The good news, though, is that the Deacons are good enough such that they probably won’t need a good against the Big 10.
Overall: ACC 6, Big Ten 5