Ranking the Big Ten-ACC Challenge games from most to least intriguing
ESPN announced the schedule for next season's Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Wednesday. Here's a look at each of the games ranked from 1 to 12.
1. Michigan at Duke (Dec. 3): If the Wolverines and Blue Devils had to go this long without meeting in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, at least it's a marquee matchup that ought to be worth the wait. Both teams should begin the season in the top 10 with Michigan returning three starters from a team that reached the national title game and Duke boasting one of the nation's best perimeter units.
2. North Carolina at Michigan State (Dec. 4): Two experienced potential top 10 teams will meet in East Lansing for the fifth time in Challenge history, with both teams having split the previous four meetings. Michigan State returns every key player besides Derrick Nix, while North Carolina is highlighted by the inside-outside duo of James Michael McAdoo and P.J. Hairston.
3. Indiana at Syracuse (Dec. 3): A young but talented Hoosiers team seeking to replace Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo will try to prove it has learned how to attack a two-three zone. Indiana had little success against Syracuse in the Sweet 16 this past March when the Orange sprung an upset on their way to the Final Four.
4. Maryland at Ohio State (Dec. 4): The ACC's latest parting shot to Big Ten-bound Maryland? How about a road game against a Big Ten title contender? Deshaun Thomas' departure creates a scoring void for the Buckeyes, but Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross are capable of filling it. Plus, Aaron Craft should be a nightmare defensive matchup for Maryland freshman point guard Roddy Peters.
5. Wisconsin at Virginia (Dec. 4): The most talented Virginia team of Tony Bennett's tenure will meet a Wisconsin team that once again figures to challenge for a top-four finish in the Big Ten. The Badgers lost a lot of front court talent, but forward Sam Dekker will be primed for a breakout season and emotional leader Josh Gasser will be back after missing last season with a knee injury.
6. Notre Dame at Iowa (Dec. 3): Notre Dame's first-ever Big Ten-ACC Challenge matchup will come against an Iowa team that could begin the season on the fringes of the Top 25. The Hawkeyes return every key player from a team that reached the NIT title game last season and they'll also add Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff at power forward.
7. Florida State at Minnesota (Dec. 3): If it seems as though you've seen this game before, it's probably because you have. Minnesota won at Florida State 77-68 last year, evening the Challenge history between the two teams at two wins apiece. A guard-heavy Gophers team could have a more difficult time this year as the Seminoles return every key player besides Michael Snaer and could add Andrew Wiggins to that group.
8. Penn State at Pittsburgh (Dec. 3): Know who boasts one of the top backcourts in the Big Ten next year? Believe it or not, it's Penn State. D.J. Newbill, Jermaine Marshall and a returning Tim Frazier form a good enough trio to pose a threat to a Pittsburgh team making its Challenge debut. The two in-state foes have not met since 2005 and the Panthers have won the past five contests.
9. Northwestern at NC State (Dec. 4): It would be a bad omen for NC State if it were to lose this game and a good omen for Northwestern if it were to win it. The Wolfpack have lots of questions with C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown turning pro, Rodney Purvis transferring and Richard Howell and Scott Wood graduating. NC State's freshmen and sophomores will be challenged by a Northwestern team boosted by new coach Chris Collins and returning standout Drew Crawford.
1o. Boston College at Purdue (Dec. 4): This is actually a significant momentum game for two young teams looking to rise in the standings. Boston College is building around the inside-outside tandem of junior Ryan Anderson and sophomore Olivier Hanlan, while Purdue will rely on the development of senior Terone Johnson and a group of sophomore standouts.
11. Illinois at Georgia Tech (Dec. 3): I might be underselling this matchup at No. 11, but I suspect both these teams will struggle next year. An Illinois team that didn't have a whole lot of frontcourt offense last season loses its two leading perimeter scorers in D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul, while Georgia Tech still feels as though it's at least a year away from an upper-division ACC finish.
12. Miami at Nebraska (Dec. 4): Thanks to the opening of its sparkling new arena, Nebraska will have a sellout crowd for this and every home game next year. Huskers fans didn't exactly get rewarded with the greatest matchup, however, as Miami is replacing all five starters from last year's ACC championship team and likely will be rebuilding, especially if Kansas State transfer Angel Rodriguez isn't granted a waiver to play right away.
* Not participating this year: Clemson, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech (That's basically the ACC office telling us which three teams it expects to be at or near the bottom of the league standings).