ACC/BIG 10 Challenge: Day 1 Preview and Predictions

College basketball is in full swing this holiday season with premier match-ups wherever you look. As the Thanksgiving holiday tip-off tournaments came to a conclusion yesterday, it is now time to preview the annual ACC/BIG 10 Challenge that is now a three-day affair. That’s right basketball fans, the slam-packed two-day event is back and better than ever with three days of exciting action this year to determine which conference has the upper-hand early in this basketball season. Without further ado, let’s discuss the two appetizer games this evening before the main course of non-stop college ball Tuesday and Wednesday.

Rutgers (3-3, RPI: 170) Vs. Clemson (4-2, RPI: 262), 7:00 PM ET, ESPNU

The Skinny

Shooting a whopping 37% from the field as a team (326th in the nation) the Rutgers Scarlet Knights will attempt to recover from a Saturday afternoon loss to #8 Virginia after scoring a meager 26 points in the entire game. The 26 point offensive embarrassment did little to aid their standing in the national scoring category, where Rutgers currently sits at 336th in the country in points per game at 55.7. The Scarlet Knights are led by second year head coach Eddie Jordan and are looking to improve upon a 12-21 record from a year ago. Senior guard Myles Mack is the player to watch for Rutgers as he leads the team at 14.3 points per game, shooting at a nearly 41% clip. In his second year at the helm, Eddie Jordan has instilled a defense-first mentality, as the team ranks 88th nationally in points allowed at 60.8 per game. This ranks the team in the nation’s top third in scoring defense, which is one aspect of the game where the Scarlet Knights shine. Rutgers holds a modest RPI of 170 out of a possible 351 in this early season, which is a statistical measure of the team’s strength of schedule and how the team performs against the slate. The lower the RPI, the better the team performs against the competition, so 170 is a fair start to the season when looking at Rutgers.

Meanwhile, the Clemson Tigers come into tonight’s match-up 289th in RPI after a tame 62-59 victory over the High Point Panthers to improve to 4-2 on the season. The Tigers boast the nation’s 168th best offense, scoring at just over 69 points per game. After losing the team’s leading scorer from last year’s squad, K.J. McDaniels (no relation) to the NBA, the Tigers evenly spread the scoring around amongst their 8-9 man rotation. The team’s leading scorer is junior Landry Nnoko, and he is a beast down low, averaging 12.2 points along with his 7.5 rebounds per game. Senior guard Rod Hall is questionable for tonight’s contest, after rolling an ankle in the opening minutes against High Point. If he plays, he is the player to watch, as he shoots nearly 57% from 3 point land and is the Tigers’ most explosive scorer. Like Rutgers, Clemson will take their stout defense into the game as they only give up 60 points per game, good for 72nd in the nation.


While the Scarlet Knights played tight defense against #8 UVA on Saturday, going head to head with one of the top teams in the country in my opinion, I simply don’t believe their offense will be able to get the job done against a tough Clemson defense. While the potential absence of Rod Hall could leave the Tigers struggling to score, I believe that they will have just enough to cover their -8.5 home spread against Rutgers in a defensive struggle.

Clemson 55  Rutgers 46

Nebraska (4-1, RPI: 114) Vs. Florida State (3-3, RPI: 101), 7:00 PM ET, ESPN2

The Skinny

While Nebraska has not been tested thus far as far as non-conference opponents are concerned, they do have an ugly overtime loss to Rhode Island in which they committed 16 turnovers and shot 3-20 (15%) from beyond the arc. Nebraska isn’t as bad offensively as they displayed in their lone blemish on this young season. In reality, they are quite good when there isn’t a lid on the rim. The Cornhuskers have a dynamic junior duo in Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields. The two swingmen average around 20 points per game and account for a majority of the team’s scoring. Nebraska’s offense comes in ranked in the top 70 nationally in both points per game and field goal percentage, and thrive out on the break when they can get their athletes in space. Defensively, the Cornhuskers are a little above average, ranking 124th in opponents points per game, giving up nearly 63 per contest. They can score with the best of them and will always be competitive, but it remains to be seen how the defense will perform against better opponents on nights when scoring may be at a premium.

The turbulent Florida State Seminoles have been a mixed bag thus far under their always charismatic head coach, Leonard Hamilton. After a three game home skid that featured losses to Northeastern, UMass, and a 26 point blowout to Providence, the Seminoles would prefer to never play anyone from the Northeast ever again. The offense, to put it delicately, has been an embarrassment. Against one of the weakest non-conference schedules in the country, the ‘Noles have only averaged a little north of 66 points per game, ranking them outside of the top 200 in the country. Defensively, they have managed to keep themselves in most games as they have been able to hold five out of their first six opponents to under 70 points. The team’s leading scorer, junior guard Aaron Thomas is a 6’5″ nightmare when penetrating to the basket, as he is averaging 14 points per game thus far this season. He has struggled on the perimeter to make shots, but his ability to get to the bucket has helped him to lead the Seminoles in scoring. True freshman guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes is making noise as a potential All-Freshman Conference candidate as he has had a strong start as a member of the Florida State backcourt. Rathan-Mayes has already eclipsed the 20-point mark twice in six games, and his scoring ability will continue to important if Florida State wants to be competitive in this game tonight, into conference play, and beyond.


While Florida State will be at home for tonight’s tilt, Nebraska comes in as a 2 point favorite. With the Vegas line aside, it is hard to believe that the ‘Noles will be able to score enough to keep up with Nebraska’s duo of 20 point scorers in Petteway and Shields. However, if the Seminoles are able to contain one of the two swingmen, they will have a chance to pull off an upset in this evening’s nationally televised game. While it will be close, I still like Nebraska to come in and cover the spread, defeating the aforementioned Seminoles.

Nebraska 76 Florida State 68



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