Lost amid all of the discussion of FSU to the Big 12 (?) was the release of the matchups for this November’s ACC/B1G Challenge. The ACC won the first 10 of these Challenges, and now the Big Ten has won three in a row.
Here are the three most intriguing games to watch:
No. 3: Minnesota at Florida State
This game has very little name value, as these are both smaller players in hoops hungry conferences. But FSU is the reigning ACC Champion and will be looking to replace four starters. Michael Snaer broke out as a junior and will be the undisputed leader of this team. His development curve has closely mirrored that of former Seminole greats Al Thornton and Toney Douglas, who both had huge senior seasons. Plus, Coach Hamilton calls him the best defender he’s ever coached. FSU won’t get that much press in the preseason other than their loss of 6 seniors being repeated ad nauseum, but those six seniors also had the six highest turnover rates on the roster. Leonard Hamilton’s squad is deep and talented, and still have two scholarships to offer.
Minnesota returns just about everyone from a very good team. Ralph Sampson is gone, as is reserve guard Chip Armelin, but those losses will be more than made up by the return of Trevor Mbakwe. Mbakwe has 1st Team All-Conference talent, and his return should make Minnesota a fringe top-25 team. FSU’s bigs are either undersized or inexperienced, so in an early season game Mbakwe should be a force inside. Couple that with multiple 3-point threats and Minnesota will be a very dangerous team.
No. 2: Virginia at Wisconsin
I’m shocked it took this long for a Tony Bennett vs Bo Ryan face off in the ACC/B1G Challenge. On Tuesday fans will get to watch North Carolina and Indiana running up and down the court at warp speed. Then on Wednesday they’ll get this. Out of 345 Division I teams, exactly zero of them ran a slower system than the Badgers. Virginia was a relative speedy 338th. The Cavaliers lose All-Everything Mike Scott, plus Sammy Zeglinski and some transfers. It will be a very new lineup, and will feature serious minutes from what is a solid (under-rated) recruiting class.
There are also the Bennett/Ryan ties. Dick Bennett, the father of Virginia head coach Tony Bennett, is a former head coach at Wisconsin. Tony Bennett served on the staffs of his father and current Badger head coach Bo Ryan during four years at Wisconsin.
Wisconsin also loses their star – Jordan Taylor in this case. And while the news has all been about Jared Uthoff, the more important players for the Badgers are veterans Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesiwitz, Josh Gasser and Ryan Evans. That’s four starters returning, and they’ll be facing a newer looking Hoos team.
But regardless of who is on the court, this game is intriguing because of the styles.
No. 1: NC State at Michigan
In the preseason hype machines, these two are getting a lot of press. NC State made their run to the Sweet 16 and then found out that star CJ Leslie was returning. Michigan got dumped in the opening round, but that’s alright because freshman sensation Trey Burke is returning.
For the Wolfpack – who have shown up in a lot of way-too-early top-10s – they get four of five starters back, and are bringing in a loaded recruiting class. This will be the most talented, and most anticipated, NC State team in many years. Lorenzo Brown is ready to become a national name, Scott Wood might be the best shooter in college basketball, and CJ Leslie returned to better prepare for the NBA.
Michigan is in a similar position. They return the key components of their best team in recent years, and also bring in a loaded freshmen class. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr will form one of the more dynamic backcourt tandems in the country, and they’ll have freshmen Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III on the front line.
Whoever wins this game will solidy their fans expectations for a great season.