College Basketball Odds, Picks, Preview: How Big Ten/ACC Challenge Will Play Out
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images. Pictured: Paolo Banchero and Wendell Moore
The 23rd annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge began on Monday night with two games. However, there will be a total of 12 showdowns in the event across Tuesday and Wednesday evening.
The Big Ten looks to make it a three-peat as the conference has won the past two years. The ACC currently leads the series 12-7-3, with a total game record of 138-113.
With both conferences off to a shaky start this season, it will be worth monitoring which teams start to shake off some of the rust and begin to figure it out, or which squads might be in real trouble as we get closer to conference play.
With Purdue and Duke looking like early national championship contenders, the rest of the conference’s teams will need to pick it up — and fast — if they want any realistic shot at dethroning them down the road.
Note: With lines not being available before writing, you can follow me and the rest of the college basketball analysts for our up-to-date betting picks in the Action App. The picks in this piece are simply who I believe will win straight up.
Tuesday’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge Games
Minnesota vs. Pittsburgh
This has potential blowout written all over it. Pitt is bad, very bad. The Panthers have been an embarrassment so far early in the season, as they have dropped buy games to teams like The Citadel.
Minnesota, on the other hand, was predicted to struggle and be at the bottom of the barrel. However, the Gophers have proven otherwise, so far. Despite losing their top six scorers that totaled a whopping 62.9 points per game last season, they are still finding ways to win to the tune of 5-0.
Just give the point to the Big Ten already for this one and turn your attention to ESPN2 at this time slot.
Indiana vs. Syracuse
This is one of the most interesting games on the slate for the week.
The Cuse have actually been shockingly bad on defense to start the season. They recently gave up 100 to Colgate and will need to learn the ins and outs of this 2-3 zone fast.
Indiana has been a pleasant surprise. Trayce Jackson-Davis is the leader of this squad, as he’s coming off of a 43-point, five-rebound, four-assist performance against Marshall. He will be a handful for the struggling Cuse defense.
I lean toward Indiana in this one. If the Hoosiers can take care of the ball and penetrate the Cuse zone, they will expose this defense.
Florida State vs. Purdue
Purdue is a juggernaut. The Boilermakers are big down low, have shooters spacing the floor and have an incredible amount of depth. This team is for real and is my early pick to win it all.
I placed a preseason future on them at +2500 shortly after Baylor cut down the nets and that number now sits around +1300.
Florida State is no pushover itself, as it constantly generates talent year in and year out. The Seminoles have a wide variety of scorers and a lengthy defense — which is always their identity. Purdue just may be too much for them this early in the season.
Jaden Ivey is a potential Player of the Year candidate, Trevion Williams a force to be reckoned with and barely anyone can match up to Zach Edey’s size and strength.
This isn’t even accounting for the other capable seven players that Purdue can roll with.
Clemson vs. Rutgers
Like Indiana-Syracuse, this is also a key battle for each conference to win, as it may decide which league captures the Challenge.
Clemson is near even on both sides of ball, yet it is unable to take the next step needed to be more of a formidable threat in the ACC. The Tigers found themselves nearly having a perfect record, dropping close games to respectable squads in West Virginia and St. Bonaventure.
Rutgers, on the other hand, has been downright awful with its offense going ice cold. The Scarlet Knights are currently on a three-game losing streak, dropping games to DePaul, Lafayette and UMass.
As of writing, I lean towards Clemson. We know what to expect out of the Tigers at this point. Also, Rutgers may be without stud guard Geo Baker, which is a massive blow.
Northwestern vs. Wake Forest
This is another game that is expected to be close (at least in terms of the spread).
This is as nearly as unpredictable as it gets for the Challenge. Both teams have only faced one team inside the top 100 in KenPom, but both teams lost.
Wake Forest will look to push the ball, while Northwestern has the talent to stop it. Northwestern also leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Northwestern is a two-man team with Pete Nance and Boo Buie. If the Wildcats can get help from anyone else, I would have them comfortably winning this game.
I lean toward Wake Forest, as it has the home-court advantage and the size advantage down low with towers Jake LaRavia and Dallas Walton clogging the paint. This will open up more for their offense on the outside.
Pick: Wake Forest
Duke vs. Ohio State
Like Purdue, Duke is looking like a serious threat to win it all come March.
The Blue Devils recently beat Gonzaga, another serious title threat. Star freshman Paolo Banchero has been terrific and will only get better as the season progresses.
Big man Mark Williams was the best player in the paint against the Zags, a game that included Drew Timme and No. 1 recruit Chet Holmgren.
Ohio State, on the other hand, has been doing everything that it can to stay afloat. The Buckeyes nearly lost to Akron and Seton Hall and dropped games to Xavier and Florida.
While Duke has weapons all over that can take over the game at any point, Ohio State has been more of a one-man army, relying on the production of E.J. Liddell.
Liddell will get his, but Duke simply is in another tier and will be too much to handle for the Buckeyes.
Wednesday’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge Games
Louisville vs. Michigan State
Insert the Spiderman gif of them pointing at each other because that is exactly what this matchup is with Louisville traveling to East Lansing.
After both teams started the season in a shaky manner, they bounced back in their respective preseason tournaments during Feast Week. Louisville won the Baha Mar Bahamas Championship title and Michigan State made the final of a loaded Battle 4 Atlantis.
Both offenses have been struggling to find their identity, while both defenses are elite.
This will be a low-scoring affair, but I give the edge to the Spartans, as I expect Izzo to come in with a plan to shut down the only consistent offense Louisville has in Noah Locke.
Pick: Michigan State
Nebraska vs. NC State
I’m very curious to see what this game opens at, as these teams are polar opposites in where their production comes from.
Nebraska is currently a two-headed dragon with Bryce McGowens and Alonzo Verge Jr., but no one else has stepped up to help ease the load off of their shoulders.
NC State, on the other hand, has looked miles better as a team overall.
The Wolfpack will look to cut at least one head off of the twin dragons — if not both — to cruise to victory.
Pick: NC State
Virginia Tech vs. Maryland
Virginia Tech is two very close games away from a perfect record, dropping matchups against top-25 opponents Memphis and Xavier.
The Hokies’ defense is elite and their offense is good enough to keep them in games against the best.
Meanwhile, Maryland has been reeling since the start of the season. The Terps rely on Eric Ayala and Fatts Russell, but the remainder of the roster has been inconsistent. This has led to their offense going stagnant, and teams taking advantage of their struggles to score.
Maryland has a decent defense, but the offensive woes will take it out of this game.
Pick: Virginia Tech
Miami (FL) vs. Penn State
It’s a shame that this will be overshadowed by Michigan at North Carolina because this is another coin toss of a game.
Miami has an electric offense that is carried by Isaiah Wong, but defense has been its Achilles’ heel. I’m not 100% sold the Hurricanes figure out their defense this soon, as Penn State has enough firepower to take advantage of the woes.
Penn State is carried by the duo of Seth Lundy and Sam Sessoms, who will once again look to fire on all cylinders and exploit this defense.
With home-court advantage and a clear mismatch, Penn State should win.
Pick: Penn State
Michigan vs. North Carolina
This is the main event — a battle of titans that have both grossly under-performed so far this season.
Michigan came into the season as the Big Ten favorite, but now, it looks like it will be chasing after Purdue.
The Wolverines have struggled to find an offensive identity outside of stud big man Hunter Dickinson. They still have talent all over, but it just may take some time to figure out how to bring it all together.
Meanwhile, UNC is the definition of two extremes. The offense has been terrific, but the defense has been absolutely atrocious.
North Carolina’s defense may be too big of a problem, as Michigan will be able to score at will. UNC’s Armando Bacot will do what he can to slow down Dickinson, but the rest of the Wolverines will pick North Carolina apart.
Wisconsin vs. Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech was one of the fun surprises at the end of last year and it continues to be a team to monitor this year. The Yellow Jackets face one problem on Wednesday: they haven’t seen a defense quite like Wisconsin’s this year.
Wisconsin comes in as one of the best defensive units and is starting to round into form on offense after shockingly winning the Maui Invitational.
Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis will look to continue his high level of play by tearing apart the Yellow Jackets’ defense.
Georgia Tech will simply not have enough firepower to be able to crack Wisconsin’s pesky defense. With the Badgers’ offense starting to click, they should roll this game.
Challenge Winner: Big Ten
What To Watch For in Big Ten/ACC Challenge
- Coin-flip spreads: For any games I noted as a coin flip, I will be looking to take the underdog at +3.5 or better. With it being too early in the season to get a firm grasp on teams struggling to find their identity, I will take the points.
- Michigan-UNC performance: Both of these teams were considered one of the best in their conferences. Even though it’s early, their struggles are somewhat alarming. If they want to avoid getting boat raced by contenders like Purdue and Duke, they will need to figure it out fast.
- Reminder: Lines are not out yet so be sure to follow me and the rest of the crew on the app and turn on alerts for all real-time picks as we put them in.