The lineup for next season’s ACC/Big Ten challenge is out and there are some big games to look forward to. In the first part of our two-part Challenge breakdown, we take a look at the top five match ups.
Boston College will not participate this year after finishing last season at the bottom of the standings in the 15-team ACC.
2016 ACC/Big Ten Challenge schedule:
(times and networks will be announced at a later date)
Mon. Nov. 28
Minnesota at Florida State
Wake Forest at Northwestern
Tues. Nov. 29
No. 17 Syracuse at No. 9 Wisconsin
No. 13 Michigan State at No. 1 Duke
Pittsburgh at No. 14 Maryland
Iowa at Notre Dame
Georgia Tech at Penn State
NC State at Illinois
Wed. Nov. 30
No. 16 Purdue at No. 5 Louisville
No. 6 North Carolina at No. 8 Indiana
Ohio State at No. 7 Virginia
Virginia Tech at Michigan
Rutgers at Miami
Nebraska at Clemson
Michigan State @ Duke
The biggest clash of the challenge will feature two of the best coaches in basketball in Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski, but the teams will look a bit different than last season. Duke lost standout point guard Brandon Ingram to the NBA Draft after just one season. Center Marshall Plumlee graduated and reserve guard Derryck Thornton announced that he will transfer.
Duke reloads of course with a recruiting class that features PF Harry Giles, SF Jayson Tatum, C Marques Bolden, PG Frank Jackson, and PF Javin DeLaurier, all consensus top 50 prospects.
Michigan State faces a similar roster shift after talented players like Matt Costello and star guard Denzel Valentine departing. 6’10” Freshman Deyonta Davis (7.5 points, 5.5 rebounds) decided to leave early for the NBA leaving a hole in the post. The Spartans will also bring in a top-five recruiting class with top-50 players SF Miles Bridges, SG Joshua Langford, PG Cassius Winston, PF Nick Ward.
This game will by highly anticipated and while official times will be released later, this will no doubt be a primetime affair on ESPN.
Wisconsin @ Syracuse
Syracuse is fresh off a surprising run to the Final Four while Wisconsin made another trip to the Sweet 16 before falling to Notre Dame. The Orange won’t have freshman standout Malachi Richardson who entered the NBA Draft, plus Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney both graduated. Despite the losses and continued scholarship reductions due to NCAA sanctions, the Orange will add two talented young wings in Matthew Moyer and Tyus Battle.
The Badgers will enter the program’s first full season under coach Greg Gard who took over after Bo Ryan abruptly retired last season. He’ll have his full rotation back after forward Nigel Hayes announced that he is returning to school after declaring for the NBA Draft.
Given the playing styles of these teams, expect this to be a largely defensive battle. Given Wisconsin’s experience they should have the advantage in this game and are poised to put together yet another strong season in Madison.
North Carolina @ Indiana
The blue bloods will be out in force for this match up of tradition-rich hoops programs. North Carolina was seconds away from winning the national title in April before Villanova shocked the world with one of the best finishes we’ve ever seen. The Tar Heels lose two enormous pieces from last season in the form of all-everything point guard Marcus Paige and outstanding big man Brice Johnson.
Of course, the Heels reload with a nice balanced class that features a big man (PF Tony Bradley), a point guard (Seventh Woods), and a shooting guard (Brandon Robinson). They probably won’t be as good, but they’ll still be formidable.
Indiana loses just as much with the departures of key players Yogi Ferrell and Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Max Bielfeldt to graduation. Junior Troy Williams is also gone for the NBA. Tom Crean put together a nice recruiting class to ease the transition highlighted by forward De’Ron Davis who will help fill a serious need for post help.
These teams should provide a fairly even match up of exciting, but mistake-prone teams that will be forced to rely heavily on youth.
Ohio State @ Virginia
The Buckeyes will be without last year’s top scorer forward Marc Loving (14 PPG) but everyone else returns. The team appears poised to make the jump from the NIT back into the NCAA Tournament with a little luck. Assistant coach Chris Jent will also be back in the fold after a stint in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings and one season coaching the Bakersfield Jam of the NBDL.
This will be Jent’s second go around with the Buckeyes, who went 60-16 during his previous two seasons in Columbus.
People keep waiting for Virginia to come back to Earth after losing major talent to graduation and the NBA, but as long as Tony Bennett is in charge, it’s just not happening folks. Over the last three seasons UVA has compiled an 89-19 overall record and while the losses of ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, and Mike Tobey present a significant challenge, all hope is not lost for the ‘Hoos.
Point guard London Perrantes is back and Bennett will bring in a stud recruiting class led by terrific shooter Kyle Guy. Memphis transfer Austin Nichols will help in the post so there will still be balance to the team. This won’t be the steady veteran squad of recent history, but they’ll still be a pain to play against due to the pack line defense.
Virginia Tech @ Michigan
Will Danny Coale be avenged? Will Jim Harbaugh get confused with which Tech is playing? Football jokes for football schools with surprisingly good basketball teams.
Both squads finished last season with some positive momentum as Michigan beat Purdue and Indiana in the closing weeks to qualify for a play-in game (which they won over an awful Tulsa squad) in the NCAA Tournament. Tech won its final five regular season games including a big win over then No. 7 Miami and managed to earn an NIT bid. The Hokies lost talented but inconsistent guard Jalen Hudson (8.4 points, 2.3 rebounds) to a transfer, but the bulk of a strong lineup will be back.
The Wolverines lost leading scorer Caris LeVert (16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists) but will also return the majority of the team’s lineup including double-figure scorers Zak Irvin and Duncan Robinson. This game is seriously underrated and if you like great coaching match ups John Beilein vs. Buzz Williams will be right up your alley.
Stay tuned for our look at the rest of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in part two later this week.