We've been riding high as a conference the last two years after breaking a 10-year drought in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Last year Purdue brought it home for the Big Ten with an overtime win at Virginia Tech, much to the dismay of some dancing fool on the Hokies' bench who thought the game was over when they took a two point lead with 17 minutes left. As far as we're concerned, the ACC is awesome, not mediocre, and the challenge never existed for these past two years.
Things can change this year. For the first time ever there could be a tie, as we have an even number of games. Second, every member of both conferences will take part for the first time. Third, we have Nebraska on board, as we will expect the Cornhuskers to carry their weight even before their first conference game. Fourth, my marriage could end.
As for point #4, I am thankful this is not baseball or football. Mrs. T-Mill is a Miami alum, but she cares about those two sports a lot more than basketball. When you win nine National Championships combined in a 20 year span in those two sports I can see why. She really doesn't care about basketball, but my pride is at stake since I breathe basketball from November-March. I am sure to hear about it if the Hurricanes come into Mackey Arena and snap our home winning streak.
So what should we expect? The matchups look to be fairly balanced, but who is really favored to win in 2012. Well, that's why I am here to pick the games. You can take these to Vegas and bet your house or your money back:
Miami Hurricanes at Purdue Boilermakers - Miami knows the sting of Missouri, as the Tigers stole Frank Haith away. That may be a blessing in the end. The ‘Canes couldn't win close games with Haith and now they have Jim Larranaga of George Mason fame. This should be a pretty good team with Durand Scott, Malcolm Grant, and Reggie Johnson all returning as double figures scorers. In fact, they only lose forward Adrian Thomas. Johnson is a 6'10" big we're going to struggle against, while Grant and Scott are a solid backcourt. If this were a neutral floor I'd pick Miami, but the ‘Canes haven't experienced the Paint Crew. Pick: Purdue
Northwestern Wildcats at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets - Northwestern has helped the Big Ten win this thing of late, and some pick next year as the year they finally get an NCAA bid. A road win in ACC country would definitely help. I'll pick an experienced Northwestern team over a 13-18 Georgia Tech team from last year. Pick: Northwestern
Illinois Fighting Illini at Maryland Terrapins - This is a rematch from last year when Illinois won by four at home. Losing almost all their starters means they will struggle in this early season road test. Pick: Maryland
Michigan Wolverines at Virginia Cavaliers - Virginia was about as mediocre as they come last year. Michigan was a team that really grew up in its late run to the NCAA Tournament. They damn near sprung an upset of Duke to reach the Sweet 16. Even without Darius Morris they will be the better team. Pick: Michigan
Clemson Tigers at Iowa Hawkeyes - Iowa was officially feisty at home last year, beating Michigan State and Purdue and challenging Wisconsin and Ohio State. Melsahn Basabe is a very nice piece to build around in year two of the Fran. Andre Young is the top scorer returning from a senior-laden Clemson team that made the NCAAs as a First Four team. I give Clemson the edge, but not by a lot. Pick: Clemson
Duke Blue Devils at Ohio State Buckeyes - Everyone is ready to hand the Big Ten to Ohio State next year, but they do lose a whole lot. This will be the marquee game of the Challenge and it is possible it will be a battle of top 5 teams. Both know how to recruit and reload. One thing to remember: Duke is 11-1 all-time in the Challenge. Pick: Duke
Indiana Hoosiers at North Carolina State Wolfpack - We all know Jesu-, I mean, Cody Zeller is coming, but that 3-41 record away from Assembly Hall for Tom Crean is too much to pick against. Sorry Clappy, you're going to have to prove you can win on the road first. Pick: NC State
Penn State Nittany Lions at Boston College Eagles - It is going to be a dark time in Happy Valley next year, as Penn State loses virtually everything after making a run to the NCAAs. BC wins in a walk here. Pick: Boston College
Florida State Seminoles at Michigan State Spartans - Sparty gets a home game and it is not against Duke or North Carolina, who have taken turns beating the crap out of MSU the last few years in this thing. I think Spartan fans will be very relieved. Pick: Michigan State
Virginia Tech Hokies at Minnesota Golden Gophers - Va Tech can't get a resume building win. No really, look it up. There is an NCAA bylaw that states they must be on the bubble every year. That gives the edge to Minnesota, who has quite a bit to rally around now that Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson III are back. No word on if they have performed a sacrifice to cleanse the curse from their floor. Pick: Minnesota
Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Nebraska Cornhuskers - Their first year in the league and the Cornhuskers are given a slowpitch softball. Wake Forest, all of 8-24 last year, has to come halfway across the country to play in Lincoln. Nebraska isn't great, but we'll take the point from them here. Pick: Nebraska.
Wisconsin Badgers at North Carolina Tar Heels - I'd love to see Harrison Barnes and the Tar Heels wilt in the heat of the Kohl Center here, but it is at the Dean Dome. Wisconsin is just not the same team away from home. Jordan Taylor is good, but he can't beat Barnes and Tyler Zeller. Pick: North Carolina
Final record: Big Ten 6, ACC 6