There are some premiere college basketball match ups this week between the ACC and the Big ten in their annual challenge. Basically the match ups between the two conferences are set up depending on skill levels of the teams coming into the season. Usually the Big 10 blows - but that's not the case this year so it might actually make for an exciting 'challenge'. I'll make some picks on the week 4 lineup of basketball after the jump...
Tuesday, November 29th
No. 14 Michigan @ Virginia (-3), 7 ET - ESPN2 -W
Having watched Michigan play all week in Hawaii, we know that they are a good team that is patient on offense, can knock down the open jumper, and relies on their three guards Tim Hardaway, Jr., Trey Burke, and Scott Novak to do their scoring. After finishing third in the Maui Invitational it would be easy for Michigan to overlook this Virginia team. The Cavaliers haven't played quite the level of competition that Michigan has (Memphis, Duke, UCLA) but they have beaten my beloved Dragons of Drexel. The Cavaliers held Drexel to 35 points which isn't a mistake - they only allow 45 ppg this season. Virginia is a defense-first team (33.5 percent shooting for opponents) and plays extremely aggressive defense on the ball. I look for the Cavaliers to give the Wolverines all they can handle in their first true road game of the season. I'll take Virginia at home to get the job done. Plus if Virginia wins this game it makes Drexel's strength of schedule look that much harder.
Miami (Fla.) @ Purdue (-9), 9 ET - ESPN2 - L
I'm drawn to this game - mostly because a good buddy of mine attended to University of Miami and I like to keep tabs on their athletics program. But also, because Purdue was a legitimate national contender last year before Robbie Hummel went down with an injury at the beginning of the season. Purdue lost some talent to the NBA in E'twaun Moore (Celtics) and JaJuan Johnson (Celtics). I actually had no recollection that these two players both ended up on the Celtics. If the Boilermakers lost such great talent - I'm not sure Hummel will be able to take care of decent teams on his own. I look for the Hurricanes of Miami to keep this one close.
No. 3 Duke @ No. 2 Ohio State (-6), 9:30 ET - ESPN - W
In the best matchup of the week Duke and Ohio State will do battle in Columbus, Ohio. Both teams come into this game ranked in the top 5 and have been very impressive in the early part of the season. Duke won its 5th Maui Invitational tournament, while the Buckeyes have coasted along. As good as some of the teams Duke has faced none have had the talent that the Buckeyes have, particularly down low with AP All American Jared Sullinger. Sullinger has not disappointed so far this year averaging 18.8 ppg and 10.7 rpg. When it comes down to it - I think the inside dominance of Sullinger coupled with the home court advantage will be enough for Ohio State to hold off a fast-rising Duke team. I'll take the Buckeyes at home and lay the points.
Wednesday, November 30th
No. 9 Wisconsin @ No. 5 UNC (-8), 9:30 ET - ESPN - W
In a continuation of the ACC/Big 10 Challenge we get this gem between two top ten ranked teams in the country. The Big 10 posted a 4-2 record on Tuesday night to get things started off. The Badgers have flown under the radar seeing as to how its usually their football program that has any business in the top 10 - but their basketball team is pretty darn good. The employ a lethal combination of stout defense and sharp-shooter accuracy from beyond the arc. The Badgers lead the nation in points against as they have allowed only 39 pts/game in their first 6 contests. They connect from three point rage at a staggering 47% and have 9 different players that have connected so far. Plus they have arguably the best point guard in the country, Jordan Taylor. I cannot wait to watch Kendall Marshall and Taylor matchup. For UNC to bounce back to their upset loss at UNLV last weekend they will need to bring nothing less than their A-game. I think Wisconsin gives them all they can handle on both sides of the ball. I'll ride with the Badgers to cover here.
Notre Dame @ No. 19 Gonzaga (-10), 11:15 ET - ESPN2 - W
In the night cap of Wednesday's college basketball action, the Fighting Irish take on the Zags. I was wondering why the Fighting Irish, a typically strong Big East team, were getting so many points in this game. Did a little bit of research and found that their co-captain and do-it-all player Tim Abromaitis is out for the season with a torn ACL. That hurts. Gonzaga so far has rolled to a 4-0 start to the season and have outscored opponents by an average of 14 points. Notre Dame's ball control will be tested against the Zags who have caused 45 turnovers in their last two games. Basically this game will come down to who can take care of the ball better and will Notre Dame continue to stay hot from three land. I'll take the Zags to avenge their four point loss in South Bend last year.
Saturday, December 3rd
No. 5 UNC @ No. 1 Kentucky (-6), Noon - CBS - W
Probably the best game of the college basketball season so far. This game that touts more young talent than the Victoria's secret fashion show - huh. I expect to watch a game in which the shot clock never gets to single digits because both of these teams love running up and down the floor at a ferocious pace. UNC leads the all-time series 22-12 and will rely on its savvy veterans (Barnes, Marshall, Henson, and Strickland). All you need to know about this Kentucky team is that they throw an unreal amount of alley-oops. John Calipari has a great freshman class - but the reason I can't back them in this premiere match up is because of Anthony Davis aka "unibrow". That thing is legendary. I'll roll with the Tar Heels to get back on track.
This Week: 5-1
Season Record: 13-3-1