The Big Ten/ACC Challenge tips off tomorrow — the yearly event is a great measuring stick for teams in two of the best conferences in college basketball. Members of both conferences like to preach conference supremacy, but after this week, only one league can make the claim of being the nation’s best.
The ACC won the first 10 challenges, stretching from 1999-2008, but the Big Ten has won three of the past four, and the one the B1G didn’t win was a tie. I expect the trend of recent Big Ten success will continue this year — the conference is superior to the ACC in many ways again this year and it will be proven on the court.
Here are a few reasons why the Big Ten is going to dominate the ACC this week:
Elite Teams At The Top: The current AP rankings show the disparity among teams at the top between the Big Ten and the ACC.
The Big Ten has five teams ranked in the AP Poll; No. 1 Michigan State (7-0), No. 5 Ohio State (6-0), No. 8 Wisconsin (8-0), No. 22 Michigan (5-2) and No. 23 Iowa (7-1).
The ACC, on the other hand, only has two: No. 4 Syracuse (7-0) and No. 10 Duke (6-2).
The Big Ten has four undefeated teams, while the ACC only has two teams with blemish-free records. Both conferences have other teams that could make the argument to be ranked as well; Illinois (7-0) and Indiana (6-1) for the Big Ten and Pittsburgh (7-0) and Virginia (7-1) for the ACC.
Quality Depth: Not only does the Big Ten have more dominant teams at the top of the conference than the ACC, but it also has better depth throughout.
The ACC has four teams that have three or more losses on the season already while the Big Ten only has one team with more than two losses. The bottom of the Big Ten (Purdue, Michigan, Nebraska, Northwestern) is clearly more competitive than the bottom of the ACC (Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College). The ACC does have three more teams than the Big Ten and that fact may dilute the competitive consistency of the conference.
Currently, the Big Ten is 3-6 as a whole against ranked teams, and the ACC is an abysmal 2-10 against ranked so far on the year. The ACC has to hope that being “battle-tested” helps its cause this week.
Home Court Advantages: The Big Ten has better home court atmospheres than the ACC and is dramatically more competitive at home from top to bottom.
On the season to date, the ACC has only two teams that are undefeated at home in No. 4 Syracuse and Pittsburgh.
So far this year the Big Ten has eight teams that are undefeated at home in No. 1 Michigan State, No. 5 Ohio State, No. 8 Wisconsin, No. 23 Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Purdue and Nebraska.
The ACC is 64-17 at home for a .790 winning percentage.
The Big Ten is 57-4 at home for a .934 winning percentage.
Coaches: The Big Ten simply has better coaching.
The Big Ten’s elite coaches include Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Thad Matta (Ohio State), Bo Ryan (Wisconsin), Tom Crean (Indiana) and Jim Boheim (Michigan). The Big Ten boasts elite coaches leading five of 12 teams.
The ACC’s elite coaches include Coach K (Duke), Roy Williams (North Carolina), Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) and Mike Brey (Notre Dame). The ACC boasts elite coaches leading four of 15 teams.
Top Five Games To Watch:
5. Maryland at No. 5 Ohio State on ESPN at 7:00 PM ET on Wednesday, Dec. 4.
4. No. 8 Wisconsin at Virginia on ESPN2 at 7:00 PM ET on Wednesday, Dec. 4.
3. Indiana at No. 4 Syracuse (Grudge Match) on ESPN at 7:15 PM ET on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
2. No. 22 Michigan at No. 10 Duke on ESPN at 9:15 PM ET on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
1. North Carolina at No. 1 Michigan State on ESPN at 9:00 PM ET on Wednesday, Dec. 4.
My Prediction: Big Ten wins the challenge 7-5.
With the more elite teams, better depth, coaching, and home court environments than the ACC, the Big Ten is poised to continue its reign as the nation’s top conference. The B1G will win the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and extend its unbeaten streak in the challenge to five years.