A look at the winners and losers from this year’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge

The ACC-Big Ten Challenge concluded Wednesday night with each league winning six games. I've already written about Indiana's two-three zone woes, Nik Stauskas' rough night with the Cameron Crazies, LaQuinton Ross' breakout game and North Carolina's baffling unpredictability. Here's a look at some of the other winners and losers from this year's Challenge:


Michigan State entered the week as the top-ranked team in the nation. Ohio State boasts the best perimeter defense in the nation. Michigan returns three stars from last season's national runner-up team. So you know which Big Ten power boasts the best collection of early-season wins? Surprisingly, it's Wisconsin. In storming to the first 9-0 start of the Bo Ryan era, the Badgers have beaten a handful of high-quality opponents including SEC contender Florida, defending Atlantic 10 champ Saint Louis, improving St. John's and West Virginia and quality mid-majors Green Bay and North Dakota. The Badgers added another notable pelt to the list Wednesday, taking down Virginia 48-38 in a grind-it-out defensive battle. The style of the game was noteworthy because Wisconsin had played at a faster tempo this season and won with its offensive efficiency more than its defense. The Cavs found a way to slow the Badgers down with their pack-line defense, yet Wisconsin still found a way to emerge with a quality road win.


Lost amid all the talk of how confounding North Carolina has been so far this season were concerns about the health of some of Michigan State's top players. Some of the issues were minor: Keith Appling seemed no worse for wear despite a nasty first-half spill that resulted in a hip pointer and Matt Costello was Michigan State's most effective interior rebounder and defender despite a case of mononucleosis. Of more concern, however, are Gary Harris' nagging right ankle injury and Adreian Payne’s plantar fasciitis. Harris lacked his usual explosiveness once again Wednesday night and Payne has missed a lot of practice time, perhaps contributing to the cramps that sidelined him for stretches of the second half against the Tar Heels. With its other stars hurting, Michigan State certainly could have used a strong performance from Branden Dawson to pick up the slack. Didn't happen. The junior forward scored only two points in 17 listless minutes and spent much of the second half on the bench after giving up consecutive baskets.


Iowa coach Fran McCaffery always likes to praise how many different scoring options his high-octane offense has at its disposal. That's certainly true, but there's also no doubt the Hawkeyes have a go-to scorer too when they need one. Slashing wing Roy Devyn Marble is leading Iowa at 16.8 points per game, a slight increase over his production from a breakout junior season. Though his big scoring games against Xavier and Villanova at the Battle 4 Atlantis required 20-plus shots, he shot 7 of 14 in lighting up Notre Dame for 17 points in Iowa's 98-93 win on Tuesday night. Marble had 13 straight points in the second half as Iowa fended off run after run from the Irish to bounce back from its first loss of the season against Villanova just three nights earlier.


The more Robinson plays without Trey Burke, the harder it is to believe he probably would have been a first-round pick had he turned pro last spring and he was projected by some to be taken in the lottery next June. Robinson has shown neither the aggressiveness nor the ability to create his own shot as his production has stayed constant and his efficiency has dropped way off without Burke setting him up for open shots. The lack of development of Robinson was especially glaring in Tuesday night's loss to Duke because the Blue Devils' perimeter defense was geared almost entirely toward denying Nik Stauskas the ball. That should have created opportunities for Robinson to pick up the slack, but he instead finished with a quiet eight points on 4 of 9 shooting. It was Caris LeVert who took advantage of Duke's defense and carried Michigan the way Robinson was supposed to, finishing with 24 points.


If the biggest question facing Syracuse entering the season was whether the Orange could replace guards Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche, so far the newcomers have done a terrific job of answering it. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse's highly touted freshman point guard, has blossomed in his last three games, averaging 18.7 points, seven assists and only one turnover. And shooting guard Trevor Cooney has taken advantage of increased playing time to get in a rhythm he could never achieve off the bench last season, sinking 47.3 percent of his tries from behind the arc despite attempting nearly seven threes a game. Both Ennis and Cooney were particularly efficient in Syracuse's 69-52 rout of Indiana on Tuesday night. While the Orange's vaunted two-three zone got most of the attention -- perhaps rightfully so -- Cooney scored 21 points and sank five threes and Ennis finished with an efficient 17 points, eight assists and only one turnover. Pair that production with Syracuse's long, athletic frontcourt, and the Orange are going to be tough for anyone to beat.


When Maryland coach Mark Turgeon announced before the season that he intended to play Dez Wells at point guard while starter Seth Allen recovered from a broken foot, it seemed like a decision steeped in desperation. Wells is a wing with little experience as a distributor, yet Turgeon didn't feel comfortable entrusting the position to freshman Roddy Peters yet. Questions about Maryland's point guard situation have only increased eight games into the season with the Terrapins sporting a disappointing 5-3 record thanks in part to an inefficient offense that ranks second-to-last in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio. Those problems not surprisingly were accentuated facing Ohio State's vaunted perimeter defense on Wednesday. Wells scored 17 points but didn't effectively set up his teammates and Peters committed five turnovers off the bench as Maryland finished with more than twice as many turnovers as assists.


With no true rim protector to clean up mistakes by altering shots in the paint, Duke likely is going to have to outscore some teams to win this season. Still, the Blue Devils deserve credit for improving defensively during the three games since surrendering an astonishing 90 points at home against Vermont. Duke did a better job containing dribble penetration in a win over Alabama and a loss to Arizona during the NIT Season Tip-Off in New York. The improvement continued Tuesday night as the Blue Devils shut down high-powered Michigan en route to a 79-69 victory. Tyler Thornton and Matt Jones combined to do an excellent job on Michigan leading scorer Nik Stauskas, denying him the ball and limiting him to just two shots. Michigan shot under 40 percent much of the night until a late surge in the final minutes after the game was out of reach.


Like many people, I thought Boston College's young nucleus would improve enough to vault the Eagles into fringe NCAA tournament contention this season. Turns out we were all probably wrong. The primary culprit for Boston College's horrendous 3-5 start is a defense that lacks the physicality or athleticism necessary to force turnovers, guard the 3-point line or keep opponents off the offensive glass. In all but two of Boston College's eight games this season, its opponent has scored 78 or more points and averaged more than 1.1 points per possession. The Eagles are also the worst rebounding team in the ACC. That trend continued Wednesday as a Purdue team not exactly known for its potent offense shot 52.2 percent from the floor and gobbled up 14 offensive boards en route to an 88-67 rout. The duo of Olivier Hanlan and Ryan Anderson is a nice one-two punch on offense, but it won't matter unless Boston College becomes less porous at the other end of the floor.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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