Iowa was designated as one of the six Big Ten men’s basketball teams to host games in the late fall’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
The league’s decision confirms the Hawkeyes won’t leave the state before Big Ten season next fall. Iowa priced its season-ticket package to include 20 home games and figured to play at home in the Challenge.
Figuring out who Iowa will play is a crapshoot, but let’s try to narrow it down. Last year six ACC teams — Wake Forest, Florida State, Clemson, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Duke — all played home games in the Challenge. It’s possible an ACC team could play on the road two straight seasons but usually schools rotate home/road dates in the Challenge. You can narrow Iowa’s Challenge prospects by using that criteria and adding Miami (which did not compete in the Challenge last year).
The match-ups usually are slated by the previous year’s standings and upcoming season’s projections. Iowa finished 10th in the Big Ten and even optimistic predictions keep the Hawkeyes in the league’s bottom half entering next season. Looking at the available opponents Duke, Florida State and Clemson played in the NCAA Tournament, while Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College played in the NIT. Wake Forest finished last in the ACC.
Starting at the top, it’s highly unlikely Duke would come to Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Challenge match-ups are dictated mostly by television. The Blue Devils will earn a prime match-up in the Challenge, and Iowa-Duke doesn’t move the TV needle this year, unlike a decade ago.
Iowa played Wake Forest last year — a 76-73 Iowa loss — and a rematch is unlikely, although not impossible. Iowa played Virginia Tech in 2009 (home) and 2006 (away), and played at Boston College in 2008. Those match-ups are not a predictor for this year’s game and both are possibilities.
But based on all the factors, I can see Miami coming to Carver-Hawkeye Arena this fall. Miami did win 21 games last year but finished 6-10 in the ACC. The Hurricanes will have a new coach by then, and the school averaged only 4,763 in paid attendance so a road environment is likely. Say what you will about Iowa’s attendance, but that number is half of Iowa’s worst-ever season.
The Hawkeyes have lost their last five Challenge games, including the last two at home. But Iowa hasn’t been blown out in the series, either. The worst Iowa lost in the Challenge was by nine points to Wake Forest in 2007. Iowa has lost its three road games in the losing streak by a combined nine points, including the last two decided in the final second.
The other Big Ten teams to play Challenge games at home include Minnesota, Michigan State, Ohio State, Nebraska and Purdue. The Big Ten has won the last two Challenges after dropping the first 10.
Here are the match-ups I can see for this year’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge: