The Big Ten will enter Wednesday’s second and final night of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge trailing 4-2, and needing to win five of the six remaining games to take the annual event. Here’s our preview and predictions for Wednesday’s Challenge games.
Maryland vs. Ohio State
Pomeroy Says: Ohio State by 11.
The Teams: Ohio State enters the game undefeated, though it has not faced any elite teams, yet. Maryland has one bad loss (at home, to Oregon State), and one good loss (a one-point loss to UConn in Brooklyn).
What to Look For: Both of these teams put defense well before offense. Ohio State just does both of these things, better. If there is any cause for concern for OSU, it’s that LaQuinton Ross actually hasn’t been very good this season (29 percent on 2s, 32 percent on 3s). Something to keep an eye on.
Geeks Say: Ohio State.
Wisconsin vs. Virginia
Pomeroy Says: Virginia by 4.
The Teams: Wisconsin is 8-0, and it’s a battle-tested 8-0. No team in the Big Ten has played a tougher schedule, to date. Virginia’s lone blemish is a home loss resulting from a 25-foot heave against VCU.
What to Look For: Virginia is one of the few teams that Wisconsin plays faster than. But a deeper dive into the numbers tells us that’s largely because Wisconsin’s defense is allowing quicker shots. The offense is as plodding as ever. Virginia plays great defense, but it’s a defense built around shutting down the paint. Wisconsin’s offensive focus is on 3s, so the Badgers should be able to avoid the worst of it.
Geeks Say: Wisconsin.
Northwestern vs. N.C. State
Pomeroy Says: N.C. State by 6.
The Teams: Northwestern has lost to every opponent within the top-200 Pomeroy teams. N.C. State is 4-2, in the midst of a rebuilding year.
What to Look For: The Wolfpack actually has a pretty good interior attack, spearheaded by sophomore T.J. Warren. Northwestern is a mess on both ends, but stylistically you can see how Chris Collins intends to play. A former point guard that loved to jack 3s and played in an overplay defensive system, Collins is trying to make sure that the Wildcats attempt the lion’s share of three-pointers in every game.
Geeks Say: N.C. State.
North Carolina vs. Michigan State
Pomeroy Says: Michigan State by 9.
The Teams: MSU hasn’t really been challenged outside its win over Kentucky. But the Spartans look every bit the part of title contender. North Carolina beat Louisville—convincingly—but has also dropped games to UAB and Belmont (at home in the latter).
What to Look For: Roy Williams is the anti-Chris Collins—he wants the other team to attempt all of the 3s. And Tom Izzo is a little like that, but not to such an extreme. Both teams will try and run in this game, and it should be fairly entertaining as a result. Also, James Michael McAdoo gets the press, but Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson are UNC’s best players. But that’s about as deep as UNC goes on above-average players these days, at least while the NCAA sifts through Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston’s wild summer.
Geeks Say: Michigan State.
Boston College vs. Purdue
Pomeroy Says: Purdue by 2.
The Teams: Both have been tremendous disappointments. BC is 3-4 and has lost to every non-cupcake it’s faced. It’s also almost dropped a couple of games to sub-200 Pomeroy teams. Ditto Purdue, except it’s had a softer schedule, and is thus a prettier 6-2.
What to Look For: This could be just what the doctor ordered for a sleepwalking Purdue offense. The Eagles’ defense is horrible, in large part because Steve Donahue is the coach. He’s an offensive genius, but “defense” has been a four-letter word in the Donahue household for some time. To wit, a whopping 46 percent of BC opponents’ shots have been at the rim. That’s the good news. The bad news is the offensive genius part. It’s going to be a challenge for Purdue to get stops—the once-proud Boiler defense really hasn’t been the same since JaJuan Johnson graduated.
Geeks Say: Boston College.
Miami vs. Nebraska
Pomeroy Says: Nebraska by 3.
The Teams: Miami lost a lot off of last year’s team, but it should be better than the losses to St. Francis and UCF indicate. The win over Arizona State is a step in the right direction. Nebraska has been up and down all season as far as scoring margins, but hasn’t gotten any unexpected wins or losses so far.
What to Look For: Tim Miles likes to force mid-range shots, and so far this Miami team has been more than willing to take them. If the Huskers can force Miami into low-payoff jumpshots, they should be fine. On the other end of the floor, the normally risk-averse Cornhusker offense can afford to take some chances against a Miami defense that is not likely to force many turnovers. That is probably the path to take, as Nebraska’s normal strategy of one-on-one play leading to free throws isn’t likely to be successful against a Hurricane defense that rarely fouls.
Geeks Say: Nebraska.