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.
It’s that time of year again, when the powers of the Midwest exert their basketball dominance over the Atlantic Coasters. Or at least that’s been the story in recent years, with the Big Ten taking three of the last four Challenges (last season was an unsatisfying tie). We won’t talk about what happened in the 10 prior Challenges.
It was while watching a Purdue team fall to Nebraska in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament last year that I assured my colleague, Tom Dienhart, that the Boilermakers were simply in a rebounding season. They would be back next year, I told him, and I had no reservations about that.
While most of the nation feasted, several Big Ten teams were playing for tournament hardware. Let’s get right into the meat and potatoes of what’s worth knowing.
Tuesday and Wednesday brought a flurry of interesting results for Big Ten teams. Let’s dive in to what it all means.
Michigan survived a tough test against Florida State, a team whom not many thought much of coming into the season. This was, after all, a bad team last year that was losing its best player in Michael Snaer. But sometimes, weird things happen. In the Seminoles’ case, the player wearing the #30 jersey is clearly someone pretending to be Ian Miller.
The consensus amongst, well, everyone, was that Nebraska was set to finish last in the Big Ten this year. And we’re still very early in the season, so it’s premature to start upsetting the prediction apple cart too much based on a handful of games. But it’s impossible not to notice the fact that Tim Miles’ team is well ahead of where most figured it would be this year. To wit, the Huskers entered the season ranked as the #123 team in the Pomeroy ratings, which reflects an assessment of how last year’s team played, along with what players they have returning to and entering into the program. But after last night’s tough loss to a good UMass team, Nebraska checks in at number 74.
Frank Kaminsky clearly had a nice game last night, but where does the Wisconsin single-game record 43 points rank among the Big Ten’s other top single-game performances of the past five seasons? See where the Big Ten Geeks rank Kaminsky’s career night in this post.
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The Big Ten suffered its first losses over the past couple nights, and we learned just a little bit more about the shape of this conference. Let’s dive in. In a formula that might become common this season, Illinois struggled to score over Valparaiso’s length but did enough on defense to secure the victory. After facing two decidedly smaller teams to open the season, Illinois had trouble converting over Valpo’s big and experienced frontline. In fact, the Illini’s 35.6 effective field goal percentage is the lowest mark of the John Groce era, and last season’s team wasn’t exactly a collection of sharpshooters.
In the night’s top matchup, Michigan State ran out to an early 10-0 lead against a young Kentucky team and did just enough the rest of the way to pick up a very big win. It was a tale of two halves, as the Spartans made the Wildcats look slow and disorganized over the first 20 minutes.
We resume our season preview back-and-forth, with Mike answering Josh’s question about Wisconsin–is this team becoming the Atlanta Braves of college basketball? Always a good team, always in the postseason, but never a real threat to win it all?
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In a tradition unlike any other, we like to begin every season with a back-and-forth dialogue, in which we scan the conference and get out our thoughts and concerns. With the season’s first big games set to tip off tonight, we present our season preview back-and-forth.
Most of the Big Ten cruised to easy wins over cupcakes—with one notable exception—but the Wisconsin Badgers faced a formidable challenge against St. John’s. The Red Storm was mediocre last year, but the team returned everyone, including a healthy dose of rising sophomores. The team is expected to be much-improved, much like Wisconsin’s offense.
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It’s gotten to the point of cliche. “As long as Bo Ryan is head coach at Wisconsin, put the Badgers in your top 25.” We Geeks take pride in scoffing at conventional wisdom, but don’t some things become cliche for a reason?
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It was a frustrating and disappointing season for Purdue basketball. For just the second time in the Matt Painter era, the Boilermakers missed the NCAA tournament, and they really weren’t even that close. Will things be better this time around?
It was a lost season for Penn State after Tim Frazier went down with an injury. Can the Nittany Lions make up for lost time in Frazier’s final go-round?
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Last season, the Ohio State basketball program just kept on rolling. Its run to the Elite 8 made it four straight seasons that the Buckeyes reached the Sweet Sixteen or beyond. Now, in the final go-round for Aaron Craft, will Ohio State be good enough to do it again?
Change is afoot in Evanston, as the Northwestern basketball program moves away from the Princeton offense and into a new era. Will that change bring immediate success?
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Enthusiasm is running high as Nebraska basketball enters Year Two of the Tim Miles era. As our season previews roll on, let’s take a look at just how much improvement can be expected from the Huskers.
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Last year, the Gophers started out strong but ended the season on a low note. Soon after Minnesota was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, Athletic Director Norwood Teague made a change at the top, dismissing Tubby Smith after 6 seasons at the helm.
Michigan State won 27 games last year, the 5th time in 6 years it’s won at least that many.
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Last year Michigan started and finished the season on a red-hot streak, going 18-1 against teams from other conferences.
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Last year Iowa returned to respectability, amassing 25 wins for the first time since Steve Alford was the coach.
Last year, the Hoosiers moved on from a rebuilding job to regaining its place among the best teams in college basketball. But Indiana came up short against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone in the Sweet 16.