|Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has a record of 6-6 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. (US Presswire)|
It didn't start well for the league up north, but the Big Ten/ACC Challenge has been dominated by the yankees in recent years. After dropping the first 10 challenges, the Big Ten has rallied to win the past three events, including an 8-4 thrashing of their hardwood rivals last November to claim the Commissioner's Cup.
And the Big Ten should be in line to hoist the trophy a fourth-consecutive year as games are set to tip on Tuesday and Wednesday. Here's the top reasons why:
- Depth. The Big Ten has an NCAA-best league RPI of 0.5769. The ACC? Um, it clocks in at sixth behind the Big East (.5675), SEC (0.5651), Big 12 (0.5650), Mountain West Conference (0.5637) with a mark of 0.5554.
- Matchups. Who's afraid of the big bad Duke Blue Devils? Not Ohio State. The Buckeyes posted a 22-point win in Columbus last year and will be prepared for Cameron Indoor Stadium. What about ACC super power North Carolina? A trip to top-ranked Indiana and a raucous Assembly Hall isn't something the young Tar Heels are looking forward to facing. The ACC might have an advantage when Maryland travels to Northwestern, Nebraska heads to Wake Forest and Purdue goes to Clemson, but the Big Ten could be favored in nearly every other pairing. The draw was kind to the Big Ten.
- Defense. The Big Ten touts five teams in the top 50 nationally in scoring defense, compared to just three for the ACC. Northwestern (53.3 points per game allowed), Indiana (56.3), Iowa (56.3), Michigan (56.4) and Ohio State (57.3) are among the stingiest teams in the country. The league also has six teams in the top 50 in field-goal percentage defense, including Iowa (34.7 percent), Indiana (35.5), Minnesota (35.7), Michigan (36.7), Northwestern (36.8) and Michigan State (37.3).
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big Ten bloggers Dave Carey and Mike Singer, follow @CBSSportsBigTen.