Penn State's Talor Battle had never scored 30 points in a game.
But it happened Monday night at Virginia.
The Big Ten has never won the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.
|Keaton Grant and Purdue will try to do their part for the Big Ten against Wake. (AP)|
"Coming into this game, I was struggling from the 3," Battle told reporters after leading Penn State to a 69-66 victory in the first game of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. "I needed a couple of easy baskets, and I got that at the start of the second half, and then I hit a 3, and once I hit that one, I started feeling good. I got a smile on my face and I really had fun in there."
So that's one down, five to go.
Those five are coming, I'm predicting, and I'm not just predicting it after Penn State's win over the Cavaliers. I actually predicted in early November that the Big Ten would win this event, back when I ranked the Big Ten ahead of the ACC in the CBSSports.com conference previews. I listed all 11 games, picked winners in each and, yes, I had Penn State beating Virginia to take a 1-0 advantage.
Now the focus turns to Tuesday night's schedule featuring five matchups, three of which -- North Carolina over Michigan State, Maryland over Indiana and Virginia Tech over Iowa -- I believe the ACC will win to even the series heading into Wednesday. But that's when Minnesota will beat Miami, Michigan will beat Boston College and Ohio State will beat Florida State to give the Big Ten the necessary six wins to clinch.
Now I know what you're thinking: "Hey, Parrish, if you're so smart why'd you have Butler and Clemson playing in the 76 Classic championship game?" To that, I say, let's not dwell on the past. And either way, I'm willing to acknowledge up front that Miami might beat Minnesota just like Florida State might beat Ohio State. But on the other hand, Michigan State might beat North Carolina just like Wisconsin might beat Duke. Point being, it'll work itself out, one way or another and the end result will be the Big Ten -- after 10 consecutive losses in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge -- celebrating a victory in this event for the first time ever.
(Cue the music!)
Need more convincing?
|ACC-Big Ten Challenge videos|
|More ACC-Big Ten Challenge links|
Consider that home teams are 61-28 all-time in Big Ten/ACC Challenge play, and that the Big Ten -- which entered with home-court advantage -- already has a road win thanks to Penn State winning at Virginia. In other words, six of the final 10 games in this year's event are in Big Ten arenas, and the Big Ten only needs five more wins to clinch. So things are shaping up nicely, and for those who think I'm making a big deal out of this for no reason, I'll have you know this is very much a big deal to the parties involved.
I know because I asked.
"Sure we care," said Clemson coach Oliver Purnell. "If you're a competitor you want to win it."
So badly, in fact, that you find yourself rooting for rivals.
"We have to take care of our business first," said Clemson's Trevor Booker. "But I want all the ACC teams to win."
Sorry, Book, but that isn't happening.
Not this year.
This is the Big Ten's year.
"It's obviously for bragging rights," said Minnesota coach Tubby Smith, "and they've had them for a long time."
Yes, they have.
But not much longer.