Can Big Ten finally overtake ACC?
If you think about it, it is one of the more remarkable streaks in sports. For the last 10 years, the Big Ten and the ACC have lined up their teams top to bottom and squared off in a made-for-ESPN extravaganza. And every year, for a full decade, the ACC has won more games. That led some of us sardonic press wags to suggest that the ACC should go looking for a stronger partner in this little series -- like, say, the Missouri Valley Conference.
Is this the year the Big Ten finally gets off the schneid? Penn State started things off Monday night with a 69-66 win over Virginia. That means the Big Ten is playing with a little house money heading into tonight's games. As a primer for my loyal Hoop Thinkers, I have provided a game-by-game prediction for how this year's challenge will turn out. As always, any similarities between these predictions and actual course of events are strictly coincidental.
The Boilermakers are still playing without their starting point guard,
On a neutral court and a 10-game series, I would go with the Spartans. But since the game is in Chapel Hill, I'll give the edge to the Tar Heels. Michigan State is much stronger on the perimeter, but the Spartans are a short team, and the one thing North Carolina has is a lot of size inside. The big question will be whether the Tar Heels' defense can hold down Michigan State's impressive field-goal shooting.
Since the game is in Madison, where the Badgers have been nearly impossible to beat under
I didn't quite buy into the preseason hype about Michigan, but I do expect the Wolverines to be in bounce-back mode after their losses to Marquette and Alabama. This team, like all teams coached by
The Seminoles looked impressive during their comeback win over Marquette, but that was on a neutral court against a team that is inferior to Ohio State. For all the attention being lavished on
These are teams with similar makeups. They're both strong up front (
This is the toughest of the bunch to pick, partly because I don't think Miami's Bank United Center is much of a home-court advantage. The Hurricanes are 7-0, but their only reasonably tough game was a 15-point win over a pretty good South Carolina team in Charleston. The Gophers, on the other hand, are coming off three tough games in Anaheim against Butler, Portland and Texas A&M, beating only Butler. Logic says to pick Minnesota, but I have a feeling the quick turnaround and all that travel from one end of the country to the other will take its toll.
It's hard to assess the Wolfpack because they've gone 5-0 by playing a weak schedule. Seems like
This is a case where the ACC really got lucky in the matchups. Maryland showed during losses to Cincinnati and Wisconsin that it is vulnerable, especially in the frontcourt. The Hoosiers, however, are still in rebuilding mode and have a long way to go, as evidenced by their losses to Boston University and George Mason.
Virginia Tech is still trying to get over the hump under
Bottom line: The streak continues.