Gary Harris

Previewing and Predicting Wednesday’s ACC Big 10 Challenge Games

Fresh off a 5-1 start (DAMN YOU FLORIDA STATE) I am back to predict the remaining games in this year's ACC Big 10 challenge, where the Big 10 has some work to do if it wants to avoid ceding the challenge for the first time in 5 years.

Maryland at Ohio State

The Buckeyes have struggled a bit on offense this year (to be expected when Deshaun Thomas was basically the whole thing last year), but it hasn't mattered much as Ohio State happens to have the best defense in the country. Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott haven't been effected by the new rules (or, perhaps they haven't been held to the same standard as some other guys), and they've been effective on the interior as well. The Terps, meanwhile, will probably have to win this one from beyond the arc, and they are more than capable of doing so, as they are shooting 40% from three on the season. Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz is shooting 45.5% from beyond the arc, and is carrying the load on offense a tick more than he did at Michigan. He'll also be able to tell his teammates about the importance of beating Ohio State, but I don't see that being enough in this one (ACC 4-Big 10 3)

Wisconsin at Virginia

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oh sorry, fell asleep for a sec there. The Badgers are 342nd nationally in average possession length on offense and Virginia comes in at 290th. Wisconsin is more efficient offensively than the Cavaliers, but they're both pretty good defensively (with UVA, at least thus far, being elite). If they can get off enough shots between them, it should be really run to watch Joe Harris (65.5% from two, 55.2% from three) and Sam Dekker (55.7%, 37.9%) go at it. Wisconsin flat out doesn't give up three pointers, and the fact that they take quite a few should neutralize Virginia's interior defense a bit. That's why I'm taking Wisconsin even though Virginia is the slight favorite (ACC 4-Big 10 4)

Northwestern at NC State

Neither team has been great so far, with NC State's offense being the only unit ranked in the top 60 in the nation so far. Northwestern has really tried to slow things down this year under first year coach Chris Collins, and it's reflected in both their pace and offensive rebounding numbers. NC State, meanwhile, has done a good job of both taking care of the ball (15% turnover rate) and scoring inside (56.2% from two) though they have played just one top 100 opponent thus far this season. It should be a bit of a pillow fight, but home court should allow NC State to come away with the win. (ACC 5-Big 10 4).

North Carolina at Michigan State

No one has any idea what to make of the Heels right now after they snuck a win over Lousiville between losses to Belmont and UAB. The Heels have gotten a tad unlucky on defense this year, putting opponents on the line quite a bit and then having them shoot over 78% from there, but they've been very good at preventing teams from scoring inside. The Spartans, meanwhile, are on pace to have their best team ever under Tom Izzo in terms of taking care of the ball, and Gary Harris has said he'll be back for the game. If good Carolina shows up this will be a good game, but regardless I don't see the Spartans losing (ACC 5-Big 10 5).

Boston College at Purdue

The Eagles haven't improved as expected yet, starting their season with 3 straight losses and just narrowly beating Sacred Heart at home in overtime. They do have the 13th best offense in the country however despite shooting just 34.6% from beyond the arc. They'll also have the best player in the game as Olivier Hanlan has picked up where he left off: he's taking more shots, shooting at a higher percentage, drawing more fouls, dishing out more assists and turning it over less than he did last year. Also of note: Boston College leads the nation in free throw percentage, so they have the edge if this one is close. (ACC 6-Big 10 5).

Miami at Nebraska

Speaking of pillow fights, the challenge finishes with a whimper. As such, I should probably taper this post off with a whimper as well. Neither team has really loaded up its schedule, but Nebraska only lost to UMass by 6 on a neutral floor and the Canes lost to St. Francis and Central Florida at home. The Canes can't shoot, Nebraska isn't very good defensively, and the flipside isn't  much more attractive. Nebraska is at home, so I'll give them the win (ACC 6-Big 10 6)

 

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