Somehow it is already that time of year. The 2010 ACC-Big Ten Challenge tips off on Monday with the Gophers taking on Virginia, and ends in grand fashion with a show down between Michigan State and Duke, the top two teams in all the pre-season polls. We will preview Minnesota’s match-up with the Cavaliers later today, but until then, you might as well prepare yourself for three days of great basketball.

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Florida State Seminoles

Tuesday November 30, 2010

6:30 pm CST on ESPN

Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, FL

Who to watch for the Buckeyes: With Minnesota’s dismantling of Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger is next in line to claim the early season freshman of the year buzz. He leads the Buckeyes in points per game with over 15 and rebounds per game with nearly 9. Sullinger is a bit shorter than most dominating big men at only 6’9” tall. The Seminoles have three players 6’9” taller, so Gopher fans will be able to see just how Sullinger might match up against Minnesota’s height.

What to watch for the Buckeyes: Who is the point guard?  Aaron Craft finally gives the Buckeyes a true point guard, but William Buford has also been doing plenty of ball handling. Thad Matta may have to choose one or the other, especially against a tough opponent in what should be a raucous environment.

Who to watch for the Seminoles: Chris Singleton is another in a long line of long, versatile, slashers than can seemingly do it all. At 6’9” tall, the junior forward is an excellent ball handler and shooter (38.5% from behind the three point line), great defender (better than 3 steals and 3 blocks per game) and averages a double-double. If anyone can match Sullinger, it is Singleton.

What to watch for the Seminoles: Florida State hasn’t been able to take care of the ball, turning it over on nearly a quarter of their possessions. While they have the fourth best defense in all of college basketball, giving up easy baskets off turnovers could give away the game.

Predicted Winner: Ohio State Buckeyes

Further Reading: Scalp ‘Em and Eleven Warriors

North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Illinois Fighting Illini

Tuesday November 30, 2010

8:30 pm on ESPN

Assembly Hall in Champaign, Illinois

Who to watch for the Tar Heels: It seems pretty clear that it was unfair to Harrison Barnes to heap on to his shoulders all the hopes and dreams of one of the most storied basketball programs in the country. While disappointed Tar Heel fans may not go easy on the kid, we will. That is why Tyler Zeller needs to fill the on-court leadership vacuum that has been plaguing Chapel Hill in recent years. He has the skills, the pedigree, and the statistics (leading his team in scoring and second in rebounding) to be the go to guy. Now he needs to demand the ball and will his team to victory.

What to watch for the Tar Heels: Have they learned to play as a team? In terms of stars on recruiting websites, North Carolina is the best team in the country. However, they have not been able to play as much more than a loosely associated collection of talented players. This has led to more turnovers than assists in all but one game.

Who to watch for the Illini: Demetri McCamey was one of the best players in the Big Ten a year ago. Somehow he has managed to improve in nearly every statistical category. Worst of all, at least for Illinois opponents, is that he is now shooting about 48% from behind the three point line. There weren’t any glaring holes in his game last year. There might not be any holes this year.

What to watch for the Illini: In Illinois’ one loss their effective shooting percentage was 45.2%, in their five wins they never shot worse than 52.4%. If they make their open shots, they will be fine.

Predicted winner: Illinois Fighting Illini

Further Reading: Tar Heel Fan and

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. Northwestern Wildcats

Tuesday November 30, 2010

6:00 pm on ESPN2

Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Illinois

Who to watch for the Yellow Jackets: One time Gopher target Glen Rice Jr. (yes, the son of that Glen Rice) averages 11 ppg and leads the team with a 53.8% field goal percentage. He has done all this while only making 1-11 three pointers. Genetics dictate that those outside shots will start to fall.

What to watch for the Yellow Jackets: Georgia Tech is the worst three point shooting major conference team. Northwestern’s defense is designed to give up plenty of three-pointers. Will the Yellow Jackets keep shooting or smartly try to go inside?

Who to watch for the Wildcats: Through three games Drew Crawford has better than doubled his scoring from last year. Of course, NU’s toughest competition so far this season has been Texas Pan-American. He’ll face a much tougher challenge against Georgia Tech.

What to watch for the Wildcats: Do they care about defense…at all? Northwestern ranks in the bottom third of all Division 1 teams in defensive field goal percentage while playing against one of the easiest schedules of any major conference team. The scoring is obviously there (nearly 82 points per game) but they need to stop someone from scoring at some point.

Predicted Winner: Northwestern Wildcats

Further Reading: From the Rumble Seat and Welsh-Ryan Ramblings

Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Wake Forest Deamon Deacons

Tuesday November 30, 2010

6:00 pm on ESPNU

Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, NC

Who to watch for the Hawkeyes: Matt Gatens averaged 12 points per game last season, which was no small feat in Todd Lickliter’s slow ball system. He missed the first three games of the season, and is only averaging 8 points per game in a faster paced offense. This game should help everyone gauge his recovery.

What to watch for the Hawkeyes: Starting point guard Cully Payne is expected to miss the rest of the non-conference season after undergoing hernia surgery. Iowa needs to find a new ballhandler.

Who to watch for the Deacons: Gary Clark has made 13-17 three pointers so far this season. He might just be the best shooter no one has heard of.

What to watch for the Deacons: Wake Forest is one of the best three point shooting teams in the country and won of the worst two-point shooting teams in the country. Their shot selection process should be fascinating.

Predicted winner: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Further Reading: Hawkeye Nerd and Blogger So Dear

Michigan Wolverines at Clemson Tigers

Tuesday November 30, 2010

8:00 pm on ESPN2

Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, SC

Who to watch for the Wolverines: Jordan Morgan has been doing his best to fill in for the departed DeShawn Sims, and has scored in double figures with 8 rebounds in each of the last three games

What to watch for the Wolverines: The Wolverines have an awfully hard time getting to the free-throw line. Can they find a way to get some free-throws against the freebie stingy Tigers?

Who to watch for the Tigers: Demontez Stitt has tried to pick up the scoring slack for the departed Trevor Booker, but has more than doubled his turnovers.

What to watch for the Tigers: Can Clemson, who already struggled with turnovers, take care of the ball against the always confusing 1-3-1 zone that Michigan often uses?

Predicted Winner: Clemson Tigers

Further Reading: UM Hoops and The Op

Michigan State Spartans vs. Duke Blue Devils

Wednesday December 1, 2010

8:30 pm CST on ESPN

Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, NC

Who to watch for the Spartans: Michigan State fans are beginning to wonder if Kalin Lucas is okay. The all Big Ten point guard tore his Achilles’ Tendon during the NCAA tournament, and hasn’t been the same so far this season, with the worst assist to turnover ratio of his career. Of course, his scoring and field goal percentage is better than ever, so maybe expectations are a bit out of whack.

What to watch for the Spartans: Michigan State is usually known for excellent rebounding, but has been below average in preventing offensive rebounds.

Who to watch for the Blue Devils: Kyrie Irving isn’t playing like a freshman. He has a 3-1 assist to turnover ratio and is averaging 14 points per game while shooting 48% from the field, both of which are besting Kyle Singler.

What to watch for the Blue Devils: Can the best of the ACC dominate the best of the Big Ten like they have dominated everyone else?

Predicted winner: Duke Blue Devils

Further Reading: The Only Colors and  Blue Devil Nation

Purdue Boilermakers vs. Virginia Tech Hokies

Wednesday December 1, 2010

6:30 pm CST on ESPN

Cassel Coliseum in Blacksburg,VA

Who to watch for the Boilermakers: With Robbie Hummel out, it has been E’Twaun Moore’s job to score, and he has been doing it in bunches, averaging more than 20 points per game. He is also averaging a career high 6 rebounds per game.

What to watch for the Boilermakers: How does the team bounce back from their loss to Richmond? The Boilermakers will almost certainly lose at least a few more games than last year. Limiting losing streaks will keep them in contention for a decent seed and a finish in the upper half of the Big Ten.

Who to watch for the Hokies: For Virginia Tech to compete for an ACC championship, Malcolm Delaney needed to improve, even if it was just a little. He seems to be exactly the same player he was a year ago. He still averages 19 points per game, but has doubled his turnovers to nearly 6 per game. As Evan Turner found out a year ago, playing point guard without actually being a point guard is never easy.

What to watch for the Hokies: Virginia Tech is an awful three point shooting team making only 25% of their shots. Purdue loves to pressure outside shooters.

Predicted Winner: Purdue Boilermakers

Further Reading: Boiled Sports and Virginia Tech Fan

Indiana Hoosiers vs. Boston College Eagles

Wednesday December 1, 2010

6:15 pm CST on ESPNU

Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, MA

Who to watch for Hoosiers: The Hoosiers looked poised to have a less than awful season a year ago, but then Maurice Creek hurt his knee and things fell apart. Creek is healthy again, averaging in double figures again, and shooting better than before.

What to watch for the Hoosiers: Indiana commits turnovers on nearly a quarter of their offensive possessions. This isn’t good enough to win many games, and should be concerning considering that Verdell Jones is a junior and is accounting for 5 of those turnovers per game.

Who to watch for the Eagles: Reggie Jackson is having a breakout season, and has already recored 30 points in a game, 10 assists in a game, and 8 rebounds in a game. Now if can do all that in one game, his team might avoid losing to teams as bad as Yale.

What to Watch for the Eagles: Can their ability to avoid turnovers make up for their ghastly offensive rebounding?

Predicted Winner: Indiana Hoosiers

Further Reading: Inside the Hall and BC Interruption

North Carolina State Wolfpack vs. Wisconsin Badgers

Wednesday December 1, 2010

6:15 pm CST on ESPN2

Kohl Center in Madison, WI

Who to watch for the Wolfpack: Lorenzo Brown leads a balanced attack with 12.6 points per game. Four of his teammates average better than 9.6 ppg.

What to watch for the Wolfpack: NC State gives up offensive rebounds on nearly 40% of missed shots. This number could be much worse with Wisconsin’s high volume of long jump shots.

Who to watch for the Badgers: John Leuer has improved in every statistical category, and is playing like an All-Big Ten performer.

What to watch for the Badgers: Can Wisconsin score going to the basket? They rely on jump-shooting and rarely get to the free-throw line.

Predicted Winner: Wisconsin Badgers

Further Reading: State Fans Nation and Bucky’s 5th Quarter

Maryland Terrapins vs. Penn State Nittany Lions

Wednesday December 1, 2010

8:15 pm CST on ESPN2

Bryce Jordan Center in State College, PA

Who to watch for the Terrapins: Jordan Williams is an absolute beast in the paint, averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds per game. He is also a bit of a black hole. Once the ball goes to him it doesn’t come back out. He has only 2 assists in 7 games

What to watch for the Terrapins: Will their relatively poor free-throw shooting (65.4%) keep Penn State in the game?

Who to watch for the Nittany Lions: Jeff Brooks is averaging 16 points and a team high 7.8 rebounds per game. He might be the side-kick that Talor Battle desperately needs.

What to watch for the Nittany Lions: Penn States ranks 335th in the country in blocking shots. They will have to find a way to at least challenge  Maryland’s inside game.

Predicted Winner: Maryland Terrapins

Further Reading: Turtle Soup and Raise the Curtains

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