Wednesday, November 30, 2005

ACC/Big Ten Challenge even

With five games to be played tonight the ACC/Big Ten Challenge is even at 3-3. It is possible that the ACC could squeak out a 6-5 victory tonight but that wouldn't do much to convince me that this is one of the least impressive collection of teams in recent memory for the conference. The matchups for the ACC were not all that bad and the bottom feeder squads like Clemson and FSU got good draws with some truly dreadful teams. The two new weak sisters of ACC basketball, Miami and Virginia Tech, both got embarrassed by middle of the road Big Ten teams. Unless NC State can pull what in my mind would be a huge upset at Iowa (who unlike State has actually played some very good teams so far) then the challenge will come down to Northwestern at Virginia of all games.

Some quick thoughts on last night's games:

Illinois vs UNC: Vitale was in superhype midseason form last night. Sure, UNC has some nice young players but did they really look that good? Not to me. Illinois was extremely sloppy and finished with more turnovers than UNC's collection of freshman. They held a double digit lead until squandering it in the last 6 minutes. Carolina won't be totally inept this year but they are going to take some brutal lumps in ACC play. Unless Reyshawn Terry gets going from the outside the Heels won't beat anyone very good.

Wisconsin vs Wake Forest: The Justin Gray show. There may not be a better pure scorer in the ACC than Gray. Unfortunately the Deacons also need a point guard. Wisconsin isn't known for it's full court pressure and the athletic teams in the ACC are going to test Wake's ballhandling to its limit. In spite of scoring 91 points the bench only chipped in 11, which means Gray will have to have many of these career games for them to beat the better teams in the ACC.

Miami vs Michigan: A brutal loss for the Hurricanes. It drops them to 4-3 on the season and even though it is still November makes the NCAAs a real longshot unless they can upset a few of the heavies on their schedule. My 8-8 prediction in the ACC looks very shaky at this point. They have to hope that the return of Hamilton is the missing ingredient because right now they don't look competitive at all. Diaz still guns the ball every chance he gets and probably scores the most worthless 20 points a game in college basketball. Their defense is atrocious. Michigan only shot 38% from the floor and still won by 21 points, incredible.

Clemson vs Penn State: It would be charitable to describe UPS as a basketball team. There are probably about 30-40 mid-majors that could go to Happy Valley and win on any given night. Clemson has a decent backcourt and is getting some interior play from Akingbala and Mays. Still, allowing UPS to score 88 points and shoot 52% from the floor is very concerning. When Long Island does a better job on defense against a team than you do it is a warning flag. I'm still holding to my prediction of Clemson being a surprise team but they can't rely on outscoring ACC foes.

FSU vs Purdue: Wow, they beat the Boilermakers by 40 points that must mean that FSU is really good. You might think that until you realize that FSU shot 60% from the field and over 50% from 3-point range, then recognize that Purdue shot 39% and turned the ball over 28 times. They should have rolled a utterly terrible Purdue squad. Alexander Johnson has dropped so much weight he looks almost unrecognizable and if he shapes up his attitude as well he could be a solid player. One major concern, Purdue out rebounded FSU 35-27 and grabbed 18 offensive rebounds. It's not like Purdue has the kind of frontcourt that the Seminoles will see on a nightly basis in the ACC.

Virginia Tech vs Ohio State: Do we really have to call the Hokies an ACC basketball team? Maybe "former Big East squad" would be a better name for everyone. This is an ugly team. Apparently guards Jamon Gordon and Zabian Dowdell were miffed that they were not included on the preseason All-ACC lists, have they been smoking JJ Redick's Panama Red trip weed? The Hokies have little inside game and lack the toughness that Carlos Dixon brought to last year's team. They were getting blown out by 20 points to a fairly mediocre Buckeye team until a furious comeback fueled by some bad shot selection on OSU's part made it a "respectable" 13 point loss. With a 5-2 record already and Duke coming up I think you can forget any talk about the Hokies in the NCAAs, or contending for a top 4 finish in the ACC.

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