ACC-Big Ten Challenge Breakdown

With the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge tipping off tonight, the real challenge is will the Big Ten Conference ever win the event? Badger Nation's Benjamin Worgull tells you what you need to know.

MADISON - One of these years, the Big Ten is going to figure out how to beat those guys.

Until that time, it's an ACC's world and we're living in it, which is probably just fine if you're Dick Vitale.

Big Ten will get its annual chance to try and break its futility against the ACC when Iowa-Wake Forest tip-off the ninth annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge tonight in Iowa City.

Since the inception of the event, the Big Ten has yet to stand victorious – going 0-for-8 in the previous eight challenges.

"It's disappointing when you look at the history that (our conference) hasn't won one," senior Brian Butch said. "It makes it all that more important to go out and represent our conference."

The Big Ten has been close in years past to win the challenge, losing 5-4 in 1999, 2000, and 2002 and 6-5 in 2005.

Last season, however, the Big Ten was crushed 8-3 - only Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin were able to defend the conference – and went 0-for-6 on the road.

Even though the ACC is a combined 48-27 in the event, both teams have consistent representatives in the post season. Since the event began in 1999, a total of nine ACC or Big Ten teams have gone on to play in the Final Four with four of them – Michigan State (2000), Duke (2001), Maryland (2002) and North Carolina (2005) – winning the championship.

With the challenge tipping off this evening for the ninth-straight year, Wisconsin and the other 10 Big Ten teams will get a chance to take down big brother and get win number one for the conference.

"It motivated our guys," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. "We know who we are scheduled to play and we just play. I don't treat it any differently from one game to the next, but it's nice to have your league doing well.

"Winning goes in spurts. The Big Ten will pull through one of these years."

Here's a breakdown and prediction for each of the challenge games.

Monday, November 26

Wake Forest (3-0) at Iowa (4-2), 6:05 p.m.

Wake Forest is playing with plenty of emotional baggage this season after long-time coach Skip Prosser passed away in late July of an apparent massive heart attack.

Sophomore guard L.D. Williams has been the main form of offense this year for the Demon Deacons, leading the team with 15 points and nearly eight rebounds per game.

After starting the season 4-0, Iowa went 0-2 in South Padre Island, Texas, losing to Bradley and Utah State. Seniors Justin Johnson and Kurt Looby are the two main threats offensively, averaging 15.3 and 7.8 points per game, respectively.

Wake Forest is 6-1 in this event and should have no problem against Iowa.

ACC 1-0

Tuesday, November 27

Georgia Tech (3-2) at Indiana (4-1), 6 p.m.

After eclipsing 30 points in three of his first four games, Xavier University finally figured out how to stop Indiana freshman-sensation Eric Gordon, who made only four of 12 shots in Indiana's first loss of the season at the Chicago Invitational Challenge.

Even so, Gordon is putting up 27 points per game and is living up to his reputation as an instant game changer.

After losing by six at Winthrop, Georgia Tech rebounded with a clutch road victory at Notre Dame, using a Matt Causey three-pointer bucket with two seconds left to win by one. Senior Anthony Morrow leads the Yellow Jackets with 19 points per contest.

Indiana has won 20 straight games at home and, with 30+ from Gordon, will beat Georgia Tech.

Tied 1-1

Northwestern (1-3) at Virginia (5-1), 6 p.m.

Although dropping its last game at home, Virginia has registered one of the big early upsets of this season, beating then-No.17 Arizona in Tucson. One of the big reasons for that victory was the play of three-year captain Sean Singletary, who scored 24 points despite battling the flu.

Virginia's senior point guard leads the team with 21.5 points per game.

After narrowly upsetting Stanford in its season opener, Northwestern has been up and down. Losing by one at DePaul in a game they should have won, the Wildcats beat Division III Benedictine before losing by six at home against Brown. Northwestern does have a balance scoring output, as NU has four players scoring more than 10 points a game.

These two teams played in 2004 with Virginia squeaking out a four-point victory. Same result this year, but a much larger margin.

ACC 2-1

Minnesota (3-0) at Florida State (5-2), 6:30 p.m.

The Tubby Smith-era is off to a 3-0 start, but Minnesota escaped against winless Central Michigan, despite committing 24 turnovers. Seniors Dan Coleman, Lawrence McKenzie and Spencer Tollackson have taken over the scoring burden, combining to score over 35 points and 16 rebounds per game.

Despite losing back-to-back games at home to Cleveland State and South Florida, the Seminoles had no problem going into Gainesville and snapping the Gators 24-game home winning streak, winning 65-51. Senior guard Isaiah Swann leads the team in field-goal and three-point percentage, assists, scoring and hasn't missed a free throw all season.

Florida State athleticism and experience will be no match for Minnesota, especially since the game is in Tallahassee.

ACC 3-1

Wisconsin (5-0) at Duke (6-0), 8 p.m.

Two of the winningest programs in the last five years and each a participant in the last nine NCAA tournaments, the Badgers and the Blue Devils will meet for the first time in their respective histories.

Wisconsin is coming off three wins in the America's Youth Classic tournament and a hard-fought victory over Georgia, a game in which Wisconsin trailed by nine at halftime. Wisconsin point guard Trevon Hughes, who leads the team with 19.4 points per game, shook off a 2-for-11 start to finish 6-for-18 and lead the team with 18 points – the fourth time he's led the Badgers in points this season.

Duke's all-around best player is freshman Kyle Singler, leading the team in points (15.8), field goal and free throw percentage (60.0 and 90.9, respectively) and scored 25 points in the finals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational championship against Marquette.

Duke has never lost in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, going a perfect 8-0.

This is a great chance for Wisconsin and it signals that the Badgers have arrived as a national power in basketball. Although the game will be close in the first half and Duke will pull away late, Badger fans should enjoy this experience, win or lose.

ACC 4-1

Purdue (3-0) at Clemson (5-0), 8:30 p.m.

After three cupcake wins (including squeaking out a four-point victory over Lipscomb), Matt Painter will see how good his team actually is. Missing Carl Landry's 18.9 points per game to graduation and having to kick Gordon Watt off the team before the season began for violating team rules, Purdue has turned to a highly-touted freshman class –E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, Robbie Hummel and Scott Martin - to carry the load. The plan is working, as the foursome are the four leading scorers on the team.

While Purdue was playing the cupcakes, the Clemson Tigers already have a legitimate road victory (a two-point win against Mississippi) and beat media-darling Gardner Webb (who beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena earlier in the year). Boasting a talent one-two frontcourt of K.C. Rivers and James Mays, the Tigers are in position to content for an ACC crown.

With the game in Clemson and the Tigers boasting a 6-2 record in the event, Tigers will roll.

ACC 5-1

Wednesday, November 28

North Carolina State (4-1) at Michigan State (4-1), 6 p.m.

Once thought to be a sure victory for the Big Ten is now directly on the fence. Picked to run away with the Big Ten, Michigan State has looked rather pedestrian in the early season. The Spartans lost to Grand Valley State and nearly tanked against Michigan Tech in the exhibition season and narrowly lost to Oakland University at home two days ago. Then again, Sparty had No.1 UCLA on the ropes in a neutral site game in Kansas City, leading by 11 at the half before fading.

After losing at home to New Orleans, N.C. State pulled a big upset in Florida against then-No.19 Villanova on Sunday, thanks to 21 points from junior guard Courtney Fells.

The two matchups to watch is Michigan State point guard Drew Neitzel matched up against NCST Farnold Degand, who leads the Wolfpack in steals. The other match up is in the paint, as MSU's leading scorer Raymar Morgan will be matched up with NCST's leading scorer J.J. Hickson.

This game is at home and Izzo's boys are the only Big Ten team with a winning record in this event … so we'll give Michigan State the benefit of the doubt.

ACC 5-2

Boston College (4-0) at Michigan (3-3), 6 p.m.

Coming into the season, BC fans in Chestnut Hill knew that the Eagles would be a solid team with junior Tyrese Rice and his 21 points per game leading the offense. Through four games, however, freshman guard Rakim Sanders is matching Rice's numbers, scoring 22 in the season opener and another 22 against Rhode Island, including a momentum-changing three-pointer in the final minute.

Returning from the Great Alaskan Shootout in Anchorage with a fifth-place finish, Michigan looks like the team that is trying to replace four senior starters. The frontcourt is littered with underclassmen and only Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims are averaging over 10 points a contest.

Boston College won its first game as a member of the ACC last year and should have no problem winning number two this year, clinching the victory for the conference in the process.

ACC 6-2

Illinois (4-1) at Maryland (4-2), 6:30 p.m.

Despite having two potent scorers returning for their senior year and a sophomore leading the team in scoring, the results for the Maryland Terrapins have not matched the expectations. Losing two games at the CBE Classic to UCLA and Missouri, Maryland has narrowly beat Hampton and Northeastern at home.

Despite having two players face life-threatening situations last season and watching Eric Gordon switch his commitment from Illinois to Indiana, head coach Bruce Weber has his Illini playing decent basketball, including an impressive showing in Maui, finishing third. Illinois' frontcourt is without a doubt its strength, as seniors Brian Randle and Shaun Pruitt continue to put up impressive numbers.

This could be the must-watch game of the day, as both teams share a lot of similarities. Big Ten has got to win more than two games, so I'll go with Illinois in the ‘upset.'

ACC 6-3

North Carolina (5-0) at Ohio State (4-2), 8 p.m.

Ranked number one in the land, North Carolina has certainly dodged some bullets in the early going. After narrowly being upset in the season opener in a neutral site game against Davidson, the Tar Heels needed a late surge to beat BYU to win the Las Vegas Invitational.

Rated as one of the best college basketball players in the country, junior Tyler Hansbrough has lived up to that billing, posting 23 points and nine rebounds per contest.

A year after losing in the national championship game and losing multiple starters to the pros, including number-one draft pick Greg Oden, Thad Matta has reloaded the Buckeyes and found his new interior big man in freshman Kosta Koufos. The 7-foot, 265 pound forward has put in nearly 18 points a game, helping the Buckeyes fill that scoring void. When Koufos struggles, however, the Buckeyes struggle, which was evident in their blowout loss to Texas A&M in the preseason NIT finals.

Ohio State is at home, where they haven't lost in over two years, but North Carolina looks to be even stronger than the team that won the 2005 NCAA championship, which means UNC will pull away late.

ACC 7-3

Virginia Tech (2-2) at Penn State (2-3), 8:30 p.m.

The only Big Ten team having a losing record coming into the challenge, Penn State went 0-for-Florida after losing all three games at Disney World in the Old Spice Classic to South Carolina, Rider and Central Florida. Geary Claxton continues to be the offense for Penn State, leading the team in scoring and rebounding, but isn't getting much help from anywhere else.

Much like Michigan, Virginia Tech didn't have much success in the Last Frontier, losing to both Butler and Gonzaga in the Alaskan Shootout. Unlike Michigan, however, the Hokies are getting balance from all their starters, as a different Techster leads the team in points, rebounds and assists.

Penn State's only win in this event was its opening year (1999). The struggles will continue for the Nittany Lions on the hardwood.

ACC 8-3

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