ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchups have been released; let's examine!

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer
The release of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge tilts gives us a great excuse to use this Mason Plumlee photo. (US Presswire)

ESPN released the schedule for the 14th annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge Monday afternoon. The made-for-TV event is worth delving into, particularly in mid-May. These kinds of press releases keep the offseason news cycle well-oiled.

So let's look at the matchups, and I'll offer some pithy reaction. Anything to make the workday go faster, right? (If you want the history behind the Challenge, with team records, etc., we've got you covered.)

The 12 games will take place on Nov. 27 and 28, all of them airing on ESPN's networks. I've either forgotten or chosen to ignore that the winner of this event is awarded what's known as the Commissioners Cup. I'm going to assume it's tucked in a utility closet at the headquarters of either conference. Or perhaps Coach K uses it to sip single malt scotch during the offseason. The ACC won the event the first 10 years, with the Big Ten crawling to life the past two seasons. That was when the ACC/BigTC, as I call it, was 11 games. Now the prospect of a tie lingers in the air like a bad fart.

Anything but a tie this year, guys. Nobody likes a tie.

Tuesday games

North Carolina at Indiana. It's the third meeting between the teams. As my colleague Will Brinson notes, it's a damn shame the Zeller parents won't be forced the wear these fashion statements of devotion to the game this year. Then again, who's stopping them? Do it, Zellers. As for the game, it's nice to see a national, blueblood program go into Assembly Hall this year. That's not a shot fired at you, Kentucky, it's just my approval of having big-time teams play each other in on-campus arenas. So zip it. Tom Crean approves, by the way.

  • North Carolina State at Michigan. My favorite game of the Challenge. If N.C. State wins, we'll have a lot of respect for what the program is capable of in 2012-13. Michigan's overall revival and relevancy in the sport continues to please me.
  • Minnesota at Florida State. Trevor Mbakwe gets to face the FSU front line, which won't be as good as last year but will still be respectable. Good enough game, as both teams should be in play for NCAA tournament berths. Ultimately, this has minimal impact, though.
  • Maryland at Northwestern. Maryland's going to be good; Northwestern won't be terrible. This is a basketball game. These teams haven't played each other in more than 50 years.
  • Iowa at Virginia Tech. Hey! What's that over there? (Moving on.)
  • Nebraska at Wake Forest. It's a repeat of last year's vomit bowl of a basketball game. At least Wake and Nebraska should be better this year. Notice I didn't say watchable. Don't ask me who won last year's game because I'll fake a heart attack before knowing the answer.
Wednesday games

  • Ohio State at Duke. The Buckeyes absolutely owned the Blue Devils in Columbus last year. That was some sort of precursor to a Final Four run, right? Duke never did truly find itself in a position where it completely got everything together. This was the Hulk-like blast across the chin that knocked Duke off course, and while it got back on, mostly, I'd argue the effects of the OSU game stayed with the team all season long. And now Duke fans are equal parts laughing at me and really angry.
  • Virginia at Wisconsin. It's the first meeting between these two teams, and with good reason. The slow-pace jokes on Twitter have been coming in faster than ... wait, I just confused myself. Point is, Jarrod Uthoff won't be transferring to Virginia, so Bo Ryan wins, or something like that. Just get this game to 100 total points and keep the earth on its axis.
  • Michigan State at Miami. First time these teams have met. Miami will be pretty good. Not as good as MSU, but this game's in LeBron James' backyard. Really looking forward to this one.
  • Purdue at Clemson. Without question this is the most random game of the entire series. It's also the most nondescript. Consider it the couscous in the cupboard of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. You'll completely forget that it's there.
  • Georgia Tech at Illinois. Rebuilding programs facing off on ESPNU, probably. This is filler, right here.
  • Boston College at Penn State. It's the Nebraska-Wake of Wednesday! These two teams faced each other last season, and we'll keep it at that.

I'd say the Big Ten has the slight edge, but it's May, nobody knows anything and we've still got to deal with another 72 players transferring before we can truly move forward.

 
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