The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Predicting all 12 games in this week’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge slate

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Cody Zeller (Getty Images)

This year's Big Ten-ACC Challenge begins Tuesday evening. Here's a look at the 12 games on this year's slate and predictions for each matchup:

TUESDAY

Iowa (5-1) at Virginia Tech (5-0), 7:15 p.m. EST: In Virginia Tech's five games so far this season, guard Erick Green has averaged 24.4 points and scored at least 21 in each of them. Green will attempt to duplicate that production against improved competition on Tuesday when the Hokies meet their first quality foe of the season. Iowa has the talent to make a leap into NCAA tournament contention this winter, but the Hawkeyes lost their only marquee matchup of the season by 12 to Wichita State last week. Predicted winner: Virginia Tech

Minnesota (6-1) at Florida State (4-1), 7:15 p.m. EST: Since a loss to South Alabama in its opener, Florida State has responded admirably with four straight victories including solid wins over BYU and Saint Joseph's. The Seminoles boast the most offensive talent they've had recently, but the complementary pieces surrounding senior Michael Snaer are inexperienced and a bit erratic. A Minnesota team that won two games at the loaded Battle 4 Atlantis tournament will pose a challenge for Florida State. Trevor Mbakwe showed he is closer to regaining his form with 19 points and 12 rebounds in the fifth-place game against Stanford on Saturday. Predicted winner: Minnesota

[Related: Duke tops No. 2 Louisville, wins yet another preseason tourney]

NC State (4-1) at Michigan (5-0), 7:30 p.m. EST: NC State arrives in Ann Arbor with a lot to prove. The highly touted Wolfpack haven't looked worthy of their preseason hype, falling by 20 to Oklahoma State in Puerto Rico and narrowly escaping UNC Asheville's upset bid the following game. Returners Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie in particular have endured some rough moments, Brown shooting just 34.8 percent from the floor and Leslie fouling out with 17 minutes to go against the Cowboys. It won't be easy for the Wolfpack to rebound in Ann Arbor, however, as Michigan is coming off a NIT Season Tip-Off title and has one of the nation's best backcourts. Predicted winner: Michigan

Nebraska (4-1) at Wake Forest (3-2), 9:15 p.m. EST: Since last year's snoozefest between the Huskers and Demon Deacons was such a thriller, the good folks at ESPN decided to give us a rematch. Nebraska has suffered a 14-point neutral-court loss to Kent State. Wake Forest has sustained a 26-point neutral-court drubbing against Iona. Neither of these teams will finish higher than the bottom third of their respective conferences, but the slight edge goes to the Huskers, even on the road, because their win over preseason Horizon League favorite Valparaiso was mildly impressive. Predicted winner: Nebraska

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James Michael McAdoo (Getty Images)

Maryland (4-1) at Northwestern (6-0), 9:15 p.m. EST: One year removed from its best chance in program history to make its first-ever NCAA tournament, Northwestern is quietly off to strong start. John Shurna has graduated, but the trio of Drew Crawford, Reggie Hearn and Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire have propelled the Wildcats to a 6-0 record that includes a solid home win over Illinois State. Maryland will be a major step up in competition, however, and a big test for Northwestern's revamped frontcourt. Look for Terps center Alex Len to have a big game and for Maryland's superior depth and athleticism to be the difference. Predicted winner: Maryland

North Carolina (5-1) at Indiana (6-0), 9:30 p.m. EST: North Carolina may yet develop into an ACC title-caliber team, but the Tar Heels haven't quite played at that level so far this season. With four starters from last season in the NBA and Roy Williams relying heavily on freshmen and former role players to complement star James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina hasn't defended well at all and it has relied heavily on offensive rebounding for points. Lackadaisical defense is a recipe for disaster against a powerful Indiana team that is shooting 52.5 percent as a team and has gotten to the free throw line more than all but three teams nationally. If the Tar Heels don't defend better, the Hoosiers will make them pay. Predicted winner: Indiana

WEDNESDAY

Virginia (4-2) at Wisconsin (4-2), 7:15 p.m. EST: Questions at point guard persist for Wisconsin in the wake of Josh Gasser's season-ending knee injury during practice a few weeks ago. Replacements George Marshall and Traevon Jackson have done an adequate job so far but Jackson isn't shooting well and Marshall is averaging only 1.5 assists per game, contributing to early losses against Florida and Creighton. Still, this Virginia team is a far cry from either the Gators or Bluejays offensively. The combination of home court advantage at the Kohl Center and a formidable frontcourt highlighted by Jared Berggren should enable Wisconsin to win comfortably. Predicted winner: Wisconsin

[Related: In an act of desperation, the Big East adds Tulane basketball]

Purdue (2-3) at Clemson (4-1), 7:15 p.m.: The post-Robbie Hummel era at Purdue is off to a discouraging start. Not only have the Boilermakers lost to Bucknell, Villanova and Oregon State, they're shooting just 42.5 percent from the field as a team and a meager 25 percent from behind the arc. That's not a great recipe for success against a Clemson team whose only loss is a scrappy eight-point setback against undefeated Gonzaga. The Tigers have yielded only 38.7 percent shooting so far this season and have not allowed an opponent to score more than 57 points. Predicted winner: Clemson

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Quinn Cook (Getty Images)

Michigan State (5-1) at Miami (3-1), 7:30 p.m. EST: It's hard to know which Michigan State team you're going to get these days when the Spartans take the floor. Is it the one that upset Kansas on a neutral floor in Atlanta? Or is it the one that got beat by rebuilding UConn in Germany and barely escaped Boise State and Louisiana-Lafayette in East Lansing? Michigan State will need a far better effort to win on the road at a talented but erratic Miami team, especially with the Spartans' top freshman, Gary Harris, sidelined the next couple weeks with a shoulder injury. The key will be whether Keith Appling gets enough help from Branden Dawson and the frontcourt to overcome Miami's high-scoring duo of Durand Scott and Shane Larkin. Predicted winner: Michigan State

Georgia Tech (4-1) at Illinois (7-0), 9 p.m. EST: This is a game that suddenly looks a lot more appealing than it did before the season began. Illinois won the Maui Invitational behind the play of a strong backcourt highlighted by high-scoring Brandon Paul. Georgia Tech took third at the DIRECTV Classic in Anaheim, pushing Cal in the semifinals and upsetting Saint Mary's in the third-place game by holding Gaels star Matthew Dellavedova to five points on 1 of 8 shooting. A road win at Illinois would be a big step forward for a Yellowjackets team that still lacks a go-to scorer, but don't count Georgia Tech out if it can deliver another stellar defensive performance. Predicted winner: Illinois

Boston College (2-4) at Penn State (3-2), 9:15 p.m. EST: Here's the most damning indictment of the worst game on the Big Ten-ACC slate: It's less watchable than Nebraska-Wake Forest. Penn State already wasn't going to be good before losing leading scorer Tim Frazier to a season-ending injury. Boston College has lost four of five including a humiliating 56-54 setback against Bryant University on Sunday. Since the Nittany Lions are at home and they showed some life with a decent win over Bucknell last week, they're the pick. Predicted winner: Penn State

Ohio State (4-0) at Duke (6-0), 9:30 p.m. EST: The last time Ohio State met Duke, the Buckeyes stormed to an 11-0 lead and never wavered, winning 85-63 in Columbus last November. It probably won't be as lopsided this year with the Buckeyes traveling to Durham, Jared Sullinger in the NBA and the Blue Devils playing as well as any team in the nation. Thanks to Mason Plumlee emerging as a star and Quinn Cook entrenching himself as starting point guard, Duke is undefeated with wins over Kentucky, Louisville, VCU and Minnesota. No team in the nation has anywhere near as good a collection of wins. Predicted winner: Duke

Overall Prediction: Big Ten 8, ACC 4

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