Today's Top Picks: Best bets for the Big Ten-ACC Challenge

The Big Ten-ACC Challenge is an annual rite of passage in college basketball. It's not as much about the actual score between two of the sport's best basketball conferences, but instead the tiered-out matchups that the event provides each December. For the most part, the best teams from the ACC are matched up against the best teams from the Big Ten in games whose significance will carry all the way to Selection Sunday in March. 

The challenge also comes at a very raw time in the college basketball calendar. We've got about seven or eight games of data to work with in our handicapping efforts, but usually about half of those have come against mid-major competition. Teams are still figuring out their strengths and weaknesses, overcoming early injuries and remain far from the product that we'll see when conference play takes hold of the schedule in January. 

So that's why it's as important to watch the Big Ten-ACC Challenge with your winning ticket in one hand and a notepad in the other, so we can take advantage of what we learn in December to help us profit in January. 

Here are three picks for Tuesday night's college hoops slate: 

Michigan (+5.5) at Louisville

Louisville has a fair claim as one of the best teams in college basketball and it's going to be tough to pick against the Cardinals come March because of their talent, experience and coaching. But Jordan Nwora, Dwayne Sutton and the rest of this Louisville team enters this particular contest a little bit less battle-tested than Michigan, and I think that creates some real value on the Wolverines. No team has been able to bring the fight to Louisville like Michigan can, and I think that keeps this as a one-possession game regardless of winner. 

Duke (+6.5) at Michigan State 

Last year there were very few standing alongside Michigan State heading into an Elite Eight matchup that was predicted to break the Blue Devils' way just like so many of Mike Krzyzewski's matchups against Tom Izzo. Izzo and his staff put together a fantastic gameplan for that win, which sent the Spartans to the Final Four But that gameplan that helped slow Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett won't be very effective against an entirely different Duke team. That's why we're going right back to the 11-2 advantage Coach K has against Izzo. I think the Blue Devils can keep it close. 

Florida State (+1.5) at Indiana  

Nearly every year Leonard Hamilton's Florida State program gets overlooked and underrated, creating value for those who are confident backing one of the best defensive programs of the modern era. The Seminoles currently rank No. 3 in the nation in defensive efficiency and already have three quality wins against Florida, Tennessee and Purdue. Indiana, on the other hand, is 7-0 but has yet to face a top-75 team. 

CBS Sports Writer

Chip Patterson has spent his young career covering college sports from the Old North State. He's been writing and talking about football and basketball for CBS Sports since 2010. You may have heard him... Full Bio

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