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  • Now that the 2019 Big Ten/ACC slate is set, let's dig into some of the best matchups of the nonconference season.
By Mitchell Gladstone
June 06, 2019

For the 21st consecutive season, two of the nation's premier conferences will go head-to-head, and as always, there are plenty of top-tier matchups as well as intriguing storylines. The 2019 Big Ten/ACC Challenge (or ACC/Big Ten Challenge, as it is called in even-numbered years) will feature 14 games spread across three days in the start of December.

The full 2019 matchups are below:

Monday, December 2

Clemson at Minnesota
Miami at Illinois

Tuesday, December 3

Northwestern at Boston College
Duke at Michigan State
Florida State at Indiana
Michigan at Louisville
Rutgers at Pitt
Iowa at Syracuse

Wednesday, December 4

Nebraska at Georgia Tech
Ohio State at North Carolina
Wisconsin at NC State
Notre Dame at Maryland
Virginia at Purdue
Wake Forest at Penn State

With five of the teams in the top 10 of SI.com's latest 2019–20 preseason rankings involved, including a potential top-five battle between Duke and Michigan State, we dived into the biggest storylines of this year's edition.

Run It Back

Three of the 14 contests are rematches from last season (though not necessarily from the Challenge), not to mention a reprise of the 2013 national title game between Michigan and Louisville. Wolverine fans will be looking for revenge against a Cardinal team that was later stripped of that title, but the real teams that will be out for vengeance are the Blue Devils and Purdue. Duke gets to make its first trip to East Lansing since 2003, when JJ Redick and Shelden Williams were running the show for it. Coach K has only lost twice to Tom Izzo, but the most recent defeat came in March, when the Spartans held on for a 68–67 win to get to the Final Four and stun the top overall seed.

And speaking of Elite Eight rematches, Virginia will go to Purdue to rehash what might've been the most fun game of the entire 2019 NCAA tournament. Sure, there will be no Carsen Edwards nor Kyle Guy nor Ty Jerome, but Mamadi Diakite will get at least one more chance to remind the Boilermakers of the time he robbed them of their first Final Four appearance since 1980.

Michigan at Louisville, meanwhile pits the surprise team of last season against a potential sleeper this year (although the expectations for the Cardinals are already going through the roof). Neither of the coaches from 2013 are still around, with Rick Pitino somewhere in Greece and John Beilein now in Cleveland, but the Cardinals do have a potential ACC Player of the Year candidate in Jordan Nwora and boast one of the best venues in all of college basketball.

Plus, while the NC State-Wisconsin game in Madison during last year's Challenge was far from a flop, it's clear that there's already some extra charge in this year's contest.

Don't Sleep

For as good as the Big Ten and ACC were at the top last season, putting four teams into the Elite Eight, there were also some really bad squads among the group. But two games will each feature a pair of teams that finished below .500 in conference play in 2018–19, yet have a chance to end 2019–20 with winning records.

Miami travels to play Illinois, a team that started 1–7 in the Big Ten before fighting back to end 7–13 and just on the outside of the NCAA tournament bubble. The Illini bring back their three leading scorers, including Ayo Dosunmu, who could've left for the NBA draft but opted to return to Champaign. The Hurricanes will not have the majority of their starting five from last year, but will benefit from a pair of big-time transfers in Keith Stone (formerly of Florida) and Nysier Brooks (Cincinnati).

The other contest, set for Dec. 3, is Rutgers at Pittsburgh. Steve Pikiell got the Scarlet Knights to seven wins, four more than in any previous season since Rutgers joined the Big Ten in 2014. The Panthers, a three-win team last year in the ACC, lost by just single digits in seven of their 15 defeats and will have the benefit of a young roster that features a decent four-man 2019 recruiting class led by four-star wing Gerald Drumgoole.

The Lone Survivor

With the ACC currently comprised of 15 teams and the Big Ten holding strong at 14, that means there's always going to be one team left out. In the past, that spot has been reserved for one of the worst teams in the ACC—last season it was Wake Forest, and the two years before that it was Pittsburgh and Boston College, respectively.

This year, that title belongs to Virginia Tech, a team that advanced to the Sweet 16 last season before coming up inches short of getting to overtime against Duke.

The Hokies are totally in flux this year and it's hard to figure out exactly how they're going to shape up. Former head coach Buzz Williams departed for Texas A&M and was replaced by Wofford's Mike Young. Justin Robinson, Ahmed Hill, and Ty Outlaw are all graduated. Kerry Blackshear also graduated, but will likely take his final year of eligibility elsewhere. Nickeil Alexander-Walker bounced from Blacksburg for the NBA draft. Virginia Tech almost certainly isn't going to finish dead last in the ACC, but guessing who starts for the Hokies opening night remains a puzzle and is reasonable guess as to why they were left out of this year's Challenge.

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