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2016 ACC-Big Ten Challenge Preview & How to Watch

Purdue normally runs this thing, but this year it faces its toughest test since Duke came to West Lafayette.

NCAA Basketball: ACC/Big Ten Challenge-Wake Forest vs Northwestern Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

It was a bit under the radar last night, but the ACC-Big Ten Challenge got underway with a pair of games. The conferences split, mostly because Minnesota remembered that they still suck once the second half started against Florida State. Northwestern picked up an important win in its quest to finally reach the NCAA Tournament. The event gets underway in earnest tonight with six games followed by six more tomorrow. Here is a quick preview, with a brief recap of Monday’s action:

Florida State 75, Minnesota 67

The Gophers looked like they could pull off the upset early on. They led 33-31 at halftime, but were outscored 39-18 over the first 15 minutes of the second half to pull away. Minnesota might struggle against Purdue later because they were outscored 40-18 in the paint. For those curious, C.J. Walker had 4 points in 13 minutes.

Northwestern 65, Wake Forest 58

The Demon Deacons led by one at halftime, but Bryant McIntosh had 23 points to lead the Wildcats to an important home win. That included a key three-pointer with 1:06 left that pushed a three point lead out to six. Northwestern is now 5-2 with nice wins over Wake Forest and Texas and close losses to Butler and Notre Dame. This might be the year!

Tuesday games:

Pittsburgh (5-1) at Maryland (7-0) 7pm, ESPN2

You have to like Maryland here, as the Terrapins are undefeated and playing at home. Pittsburgh is a decent team, but has lost to SMU in the 2K Sports Classic. SMU is, well, SMU. I have to go with the team that has the best player, and in this case it is Melo Trimble. Pick: Maryland

Georgia Tech (4-1) at Penn State (4-3) 7pm, ESPNU

Penn state lost its season opener to Albany. Georgia Tech is better than Albany. Even though this is being played at the Bryce-Jordan Mausoleum, that’s not going to help the Nittany Lions. Their powers of lulling a better team to sleep for an upset only work in conference games. Pick: Georgia Tech

Syracuse (4-1) at Wisconsin (5-2) 7:30pm, ESPN

This is a rematch of last year’s game in the Carrier Dome, which was a critical overtime win for Wisconsin, as they needed it after all the bad non-conference losses to get into the tournament. It is the only game between ranked teams tonight, and you should always pick the Badgers in Madison. Pick: Wisconsin

NC State (5-1) at Illinois (4-3) 9pm, ESPNU

Illinois lost at home to Winthrop. That started a three game losing streak which included a 32 point loss to West Virginia. This does not bode well for the Illini. Pick: NC State

Iowa (3-3) at Notre Dame (6-0) 9pm, ESPN2

The Fighting Irish are quietly putting together another great season, making me a tad worried for the Crossroads Classic in a few weeks. Beating Colorado and Northwestern isn’t all-world, but they are a pair of good wins. The Hawkeyes have not been good so far. Pick: Notre Dame

Michigan State (4-3) at Duke (6-1) 9:30pm, ESPN

The relentless opening stretch for Michigan State continues with a trip to Duke. They have already played (and lost to) Arizona, Kentucky, and Baylor while playing on two home games to this point. Let’s not forget their controversial one point win over Florida Gulf Coast. Their schedule gets much easier after this, but it problems means 0-4 against their four toughest opponents. Pick: Duke

Wednesday games:

Purdue (5-1) at Louisville (5-1) 7:15pm, ESPN

We get the premier spot in the early games on Wednesday, but it is a road game against a really tough opponent. Purdue owns the best Big Ten record (9-6) in the Challenge and has won seven in a row (more than anyone else regardless of conference), but it is a marquee non-conference game away from home against a potential Final Four team. Purdue has not done well of late against potential Final Four teams. The Cardinals are going to press better than anyone we have played yet, and I see another agonizing “close but not quite” game, as is our M.O. I hope I am wrong. Pick: Louisville

Rutgers (6-0) at Miami (4-2) 7:15pm, ESPNU

Rutgers is undefeated in basketball. No, that is not a mistake. Rutgers. Is undefeated. In basketball. Miami dropped two of three in the Advocare Invitational to Iowa State and Florida, but they Hurricanes were a Sweet 16 team a year ago. This is Rutgers’ first real test, so if they win they might actually be good. Pick: Miami

Virginia Tech (5-1) at Michigan (5-1) 7:15pm, ESPN2

Michigan lost to South Carolina because… wait a minute… South Carolina is good in basketball? They are even ranked? Well okay then. I guess that really isn’t that bad. I do know that Virginia Tech usually sucks in this thing though. Pick: Michigan

Nebraska (4-2) at Clemson (3-2) 9:15pm, ESPNU

You can’t make me watch or care about this game. I am picking the home team. Pick: Clemson

North Carolina (7-0) at Indiana (4-1) 9:15pm, ESPN

The loss at Fort Wayne is already being explained away as “a tough road game early in the season and Indiana gets credit for having the balls to go there”. That’s fine and true. My question is will this win or the Kansas win be considered The Greatest November Win in College Basketball History? Probably this one since North Carolina is undefeated and was in the title game last year. There is also a measure of vengeance since Carolina put Indiana out of last year’s tournament. Indiana is winning this game because they just do not lose at home, and IU fans will go fully turgid with two early top 5 wins. Pick: Indiana

Ohio State (6-0) at Virginia (6-0) 9:15pm, ESPN2

Virginia has already smoked one Big Ten team in Iowa (74-41). As usual, they are playing stifling defense. They have held three of their six opponents below 40 points. Ohio State hasn’t really played anyone at all. These teams also met in Columbus last year with Virginia winning by 6. Pick: Virginia