Last night Big Duke Balls delivered part one of our peak ahead to the ACC/Big Ten challenge. Obviously I’m off to another losing start in my pointless predictions with Virginia taking down Minnesota. If you foresaw the Cavaliers hitting 10-13 from three and beating Minnesota, call me, I need to borrow your Grey’s Sports Almanac.
As exciting as that write was though, today is a new day and it’s time to really impress you with part two. Impressed yet? You shouldn’t be, I haven’t even started yet.
Wednesday, December 1st
Purdue @ Virginia Tech
The Hokies and Boilermakers will face off first the first time in this challenge. Virginia Tech has only played in five of these so far, but they’ve managed to take three of the five. Purdue has never really proven itself in this challenge. They’re only 3-6, including an 0-4 mark on the road. In fact, they are one of three teams (Michigan and Iowa are the other two) that have never won on the road in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Purdue got off to a nice start to the season, winning five straight, before running into Richmond. Of course, like so many teams who start the season undefeated, Purdue hasn’t really played anyone and they really won’t until Big Ten play. Virginia Tech could be their toughest test.
So far, Purdue’s mission has been to find a solid third option with Ronnie Hummel out for the season. The fact is, a threesome is always better than a twosome. I believe I saw that on a video clip I found on the Internet. So far, that mission has not been a success.
E-Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson have combined to score over 37 points per game. That accounts for 47-percent of Purdue’s points. They’ve taken nearly half of the team’s shots. You have to figure that number is going to get worse once the Boilermakers stop playing cream puffs and get into the meat of their schedule.
Speaking of cream puffs, Virginia Tech has been crucified (and left out of the tournament) because of their non-threatening non-conference schedule in the past. This season, Seth Greenberg finally put some steak and potatoes on the schedule, but the problem is, someone has to remind them that they need to actually win one or two of these bad boys.
The problem for the Hokies so far is the fact they have two great guards, but they’re both naturally shooting guards. Both Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson can score points (they’re producing over 32 a game right now), but both are struggling to hold on to the ball. Hudson has only 10 assists to 18 turnovers, but Delaney (who is actually playing the point) is worse. He has only 18 assists to 35 turnovers (that’s nearly six a game).
If the Hokies are going to get this ship turned around, there is no better time then a televised game, at home with the crowd going nuts.
WORTHLESS PREDICTION: Virginia Tech, 81-77
North Carolina State @ Wisconsin
These two have never met in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Wisconsin has won three of their last four games in the challenge, including heading Duke its first loss in this challenge last year. North Carolina State has dropped three of four.
The Wolfpack lost Tracy Smith for three weeks to a knee injury and so far, NC State has survived without their senior big man thanks to a balanced effort. In four games, a player has scored in double figures 17 times, yet no one has broken 20 points.
Heading into the season, C.J. Leslie and Ryan Harrow were the two big-named freshman headed to Raleigh, but freshman Lorenzo Brown has been the one getting it done. He leads the team in minutes (31.2), points (12.5), assists (4.2), steals (1.8) and is second in rebounds (5.2).
Wisconsin is off to a slow start, already suffering two loses to UNLV and Notre Dame. Neither defeat was a major upset, but the fact is, the Badgers are desperately looking for a go-to guy, who will take care of business during clutch time.
Against UNLV, the Badgers had a one-point lead with 4:38 to play. While they hit their free throws, they didn’t make a single shot down the stretch (shooting 0-5, turning it over three times).
At Notre Dame, Wisconsin had a nine-point lead with 10 to play. However, they would only hit two more shots the rest of the way before putting in a worthless three with seven seconds to go.
In the end though, the home crowd can get wild in Madison. The big question will be, how will NC State’s freshman handle the crowd and the pressure. My gut says they’ll crack in the end.
WORTHLESS PREDICTION: Wisconsin, 65-60
Indiana @ Boston College
Who would have thought that Boston College is the only undefeated team in this tournament. Sure they’ve only played four games, but that’s still impressive. One team they’ve never played is Indiana, who is only 3-6 in the challenge.
These two teams couldn’t be more opposite. It would be like matching up Paris Hilton with one of the Jonas Brothers. One is stacked with experience, while the other has none.
Of the 14 players on BC’s roster, two are freshman, three are juniors and a stunning nine are seniors. Based solely on games played, there is no more experienced team in the ACC. Yet, no one would bet their first born and say this is a good team.
If you look at just scoring totals, one might think Boston College is struggling to score. They’re averaging just over 67 per game (tied for last with Virginia in the ACC). However, sometimes numbers can lie. The reality is, the Eagles are actually 21st in the nation in AdjO, according to Ken Pom.
New coach Steve Donahue has forced his experienced squad to slow it down a bit and play smart, efficient basketball. The Eagles are fifth in turnover percentage, dishing out 25 more assists than turnovers. They’re also leading the ACC in free throw percentage (77-percent). Most importantly, they’re first in the ACC in scoring defense, giving up just 59 points per game.
Of course Indiana is in the process of a huge youth movement. Last year, Tom Cream’s group produced six wins, stuck playing a ton of freshman. This season, seven of their top eight scorers are either freshman or sophomores, yet they have already equaled their win total from last year.
Defense has been a big difference in 2010-2011. Last year the Hoosiers were last in the Big Ten in scoring defense, but this year they are giving up 16 points less per game. They’ve allowed their opponents to hit just 37-percent of their shots, while they’ve hit just under 50-percent from the floor.
Having said that, Indiana hasn’t really faced a real test so far. Their six opponents are just 14-19 and Indiana has handled them by the tune of 21 per game. At least the Eagles have already been through some competition this year.
WORTHLESS PREDICTION: Boston College, 76-68
Maryland @ Penn State
Someday someone will have to explain how Penn State, who went 11-20 last year got matched up with last year’s co-champ of the ACC.
The Nittany Lions are led by point guard Taylor Battle. Despite being just 6’0 on a good day standing on the tip of his toes, he actually led this team in everything (and I mean everything), points, assists, rebounds, steals and three-point shooting. This year, he’s getting a little help with the rebounding from athletic forwards, Jeff Brooks and David Jackson, but he’s 39 threes leads the team by a lot. In fact, no two players have combined to take 39 threes so far this season.
Maryland has shown flashes of a good team, but they’re still searching for a signature win they can hang their shells on (sorry, I had to go there). They walked away from MSG 0-2 and have only munched up on cupcakes so far.
Jordan Williams has been better than advertised in the paint this season. The gigantic sophomore is averaging a double-double. He’s third in the ACC in scoring and he’s first in rebounds. His .566 shooting percentage is also tops in the conference.
He’s only flaw seems to be (and I’m nit-picking here), when he gets the ball, he really only does one thing with it…scores or at least tries to. Again, he’s shooting 57-percent, so I can’t blame him. However, seven games in and the big guy only has two assists.
WORTHLESS PREDICTION: Maryland, 87-77
Michigan State @ Duke
Let’s be honest, this is the game everyone really wants to see. Despite all the success of these two programs, they haven’t met in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge since 2004. In fact, they went back-to-back in 2003-2004. Duke won both games rather easily. Of course Duke winning in this thing is nothing new in this chllange. They were undefeated (10-0) until they finally lost to Wisconsin last year. Michigan State is just 5-5, including 1-4 in games away from East Lansing.
So far this season, Michigan State has looked less than impressive, which is nothing new since Izzo’s club always seems to start slow. Right now their three top guards, Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers and Korie Lucious are the ones who do most of the scoring (40 per game). However, they’ve struggled to hold on to the rock. They have more turnovers (43) than assists (42).
The fact is, despite all the experience the Spartans’ have at the guard spot, they won’t be able to match what Duke can deliver in the back court. The trick for them is, they need to win the battle of the paint. They have four guys, starting with Draymond Green, who can do some kind of damage inside. They need to get the ball under the rim and challenge Mason Plumlee. Get him in foul trouble and Duke is not the same team.
As for Duke, the fact is, they simply just win at home and it all starts with the guards. Kyrie Irving and Nolan Smith make up the best back court in basketball and the Swat team (Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry) could be the second best. In fact, Irving and Smith are 1-2 in assists in the ACC, combining for 11.5 per game, while Curry and Dawkins are hitting 52-percent of their threes (26-50) on the season.
While I expect Tom Izzo to have his boys ready and Michigan State will probably play their best ball of the season, it still won’t be enough to beat this Duke team…not at home.
WORTHLESS PREDICTION: Duke, 84-72
FINAL ACC/BIG TEN RESULT: ACC WINS, 6-5