Dec. 1, 2:30 p.m.: Let’s run through the matchups in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which starts tonight when Wisconsin visits Virginia Tech. Here are my rankings of the games, from most interesting to the least:
1) North Carolina vs. Michigan State (Wednesday, 9:15 p.m. at Ford Field)
This game has been circled as one of the national games of the year ever since it was announced. The Tar Heels looked dominant in the Maui Classic, while an undermanned Michigan State team struggled mightily against Maryland. The Tar Heels won’t have another legitimate chance to lose until they visit Wake Forest on Jan. 11.
Pick: North Carolina
2) Duke at Purdue (Tuesday, 9 p.m.)
Perhaps the most even and entertaining matchup in the bunch. Expect a lot of three-pointers. Both teams are just outside that top tier of teams this season. Duke may have a hard time containing E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummel.
3) Ohio State at Miami (Tuesday, 7 p.m.)
Miami’s only loss was to Connecticut. The Hurricanes are expected to challenge for second place in the ACC, and this is a game that would enhance their NCAA tournament resume. Ohio State held Samford to 22 points, but the Buckeyes have not played anyone of consequence yet.
4) Michigan at Maryland (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.)
The Terps try to avoid a third consecutive loss. Maryland looked great against Michigan State but then looked overmatched against two tournament-level teams, Gonzaga and Georgetown. Michigan has beaten Northeastern and UCLA, but the Wolverines needed a significant rally to edge Savannah State on Saturday.
5) Wisconsin at Virginia Tech (Monday, 7 p.m.)
The Hokies have been a team hard to figure out so far. They are a halfcourt shot away from owning a victory over Xavier, but they have struggled to beat Mount St. Mary’s and Gardner-Webb. The Badgers have beaten everyone they are supposed to, but edged Iona by two points. A good early-season matchup of two tournament hopefuls.
6) Clemson at Illinois (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.)
Illinois has the home court, but the Tigers are the better team. Illinois has solid wins over Vanderbilt and Kent State and could take another step toward a much needed berth in the NCAA tournament by beating a Clemson team expected to finish in the top half of the ACC. Clemson’s Trevor Booker is nearly averaging a double-double, and the Tigers are usually better in December than they are in March.
7) Iowa at Boston College (Tuesday, 7 p.m.)
Iowa has edged Kansas State and lost handily to West Virginia. The Eagles managed only 50 points in a loss to Saint Louis but notched solid victories over Alabama-Birmingham and St. John’s. It always hinges on whether the Eagles can get offense from players not named Tyrese Rice.
Pick: Boston College
8) Indiana at Wake Forest (Wednesday, 7:15 p.m.)
One of the easiest games to pick. The Demon Deacons have a win against Baylor that will look even better come March. They have a legitimate shot at second in the ACC. Indiana is in rebuilding mode under Tom Crean and may have a hard time finishing anywhere but last in the Big Ten.
Pick: Wake Forest
9) Virginia at Minnesota (Tuesday, 9:30 p.m.)
The Cavaliers are the worst team in the ACC. They played Syracuse tough but got beat by Liberty. Tubby Smith, meantime, has Minnesota at 6-0, but the Golden Gophers have not beaten anyone of significance.
10) Florida State at Northwestern (Wednesday, 9:30 p.m.)
Northwestern nearly beat Butler. Coach Bill Carmody is on the hot seat. Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton may be under pressure as well. The Seminoles already have seven victories, including two over teams from power conferences, Cincinnati and California.
Pick: Florida State
December 1, 2008; 2:34 PM ET
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