Most successful sports leagues release their schedules in piecemeal to heighten anticipation for their product. That's why television networks air 3-hour shows that coincide with the NFL's yearly schedule announcement and message boards sizzle with the prospect of high-profile college football games.
College basketball generates muted buzz with non-conference matches. With a 30-plus game schedule, most fans simply nod when it's released. But heads turn every so slightly with the Big Ten-ACC Challenge announcement.
The leagues will co-release the annual showdown's match-ups and dates in mid-May as they have the last two seasons. This is the second (and probably last) season both leagues contain 12 teams, and there's an agreement to simply flip the locations and shuffle the opponents from last year. With the ACC going to 14 schools as early as 2013, locations then will shuffle to accommodate top match-ups.
The Big Ten dominated the Challenge 8-4 last year, the third consecutive series win for the league. Of course it's more of a momentum shift than a true pendulum swing. The ACC did win the first 10 installments after all.
Iowa has been no help to the Big Ten when it comes to the Challenge. In fact, the Hawkeyes easily have been the worst team in Challenge history, losing 9 of 11 games. Iowa has lost six straight in the series. Equally as strange Wake Forest has provided the ACC with a huge lift, winning 10 of 12 in the Challenge. The Demon Deacons have beaten Iowa twice in the Challenge.
I look for Iowa to play at Miami this fall, which would be the first meeting between the teams. The schools were supposed to play last year, but there was a late schedule revamp which placed the Hurricanes at Purdue and Clemson at Iowa.
Iowa and Miami each had winning records and won one NIT game last year. Both return the core of their roster but lose one key contributor. Other possible Challenge competitors for Miami would include Purdue and Minnesota, but the Hurricanes played both (and lost to both) last year. Other possibilities for Iowa include Clemson (which beat Iowa last year), Wake Forest (which beat Iowa in 2010 and 2007) and Virginia Tech (which beat Iowa in 2009 and 2006).
Because the Challenge are made-for-TV games, at times it's fairly predictable to project at least a few of the match-ups. That's especially true this year with the home/away flip. So here's a stab at possible games this fall, provided that there won't be any Challenge repeats from 2011:
Michigan State at Duke
- The teams met early last season in neutral New York; would be teams' fourth Challenge meeting
North Carolina at Indiana
- The defending ACC champion traveling to the potential preseason No. 1? No way this doesn't happen
Ohio State at Florida State
- Teams won either share of leagues' regular-season or tournament title and return stars from last year's NCAA squads
North Carolina State at Michigan
- The 24-win Wolfpack's top four players (and 24-win Michigan's top three) were underclassmen last year
Virginia at Wisconsin
- Could this be the reason Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan initially restricted Jarrod Uthoff from the Cavaliers (and the ACC)?
Iowa at Miami
- Iowa's last Challenge win came in 2005 against N.C. State; Miami beat Minnesota in 2009 for its only Challenge win
Georgia Tech at Illinois
- Former mid-major coaches in Ohio square off at Champaign
Boston College at Northwestern
- BC was only team in either league to register single-digit victories; Northwestern lost all-time leading scorer John Shurna
Minnesota at Clemson
- Teams were mediocre in league play last year, although the Gophers were sterling in NIT
Purdue at Wake Forest
- Uneven game based on last year's standings, but Purdue loses top two scorers, rebounders
Nebraska at Virginia Tech
- New coaches square off in Blacksburg to add intrigue
Maryland at Penn State
- Maybe Penn State will get a needed attendance bump from a regional rival if this happens
Here are the team records in the 131-game series. Remember the ACC had nine teams until 2005 and Challenge didn't go to 12 games until 2011:
- ACC (76-55) — Duke 11-2; Wake Forest 10-2; Maryland 9-4; Clemson 9-4; Virginia 7-5; North Carolina 7-6; Florida State 6-7; Boston College 5-1; North Carolina State 5-7; Georgia Tech 4-8; Virginia Tech 2-5; Miami 1-4
- Big Ten (55-76) — Ohio State 6-5; Michigan State 6-6; Illinois 6-7; Northwestern 6-7; Wisconsin 6-7; Purdue 5-6; Penn State 5-6; Minnesota 5-8; Michigan 4-7; Indiana 4-7; Iowa 2-9; Nebraska 0-1
-- T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times doesn't gush about much. But the Times' Page 2 sports columnist is enjoying how the Los Angeles Clippers have opened a 2-1 NBA playoff series lead over the Memphis Grizzlies, and the reserve power forward from Iowa who has helped them to that edge.
Simers wrote: (Chris) Paul is the best player on the court and he's wearing a Clippers uniform. The Clippers really are making history.
But the fans are understandably confused. Who is most deserving of their attention when (Blake) Griffin, Paul and Reggie Evans are in the game at the same time?
So far Evans is winning out, and you have to be here. He comes off the bench and the fans start yelling, "Reggie, Reggie," and who cheers for someone in the entertainment capital who can't score?
"If I wasn't in the game I'd be chanting his name, too," Paul says.
Evans argues later he can score, so he's a dreamer as well as a gifted rebounder.
Evans had 11 rebounds in Saturday's 87-86 win. Game 4 is tonight in Los Angeles.
Evans said he slept wrong Friday night and woke up with neck pain Saturday. Then ... you can see this one coming down Main Street ... he was a pain in the Grizzlies' necks.
Jeff Miller of the Orange County Register wrote "Evans, who, in a twist on a familiar home-court theme, plays with such passion that the crowd feeds off him."
-- How many players in Division I basketball transfer? Try one in every 10.
New Illinois coach John Groce is going the Fred Hoiberg route. Start snapping up transfers to fill in gaps as you begin the process of stocking your program with high school players.
Groce has landed guard Rayvonte Rice from Drake and forward Sam McLaurin from Coastal Carolina. Rice had a team-high 16.8 points per game at Drake. He has two years of eligibility left, which begin after he sits out a season.
"We're blessed and fortunate the timing of him transferring coincided with us coming to Champaign," Groce said.
McLaurin is a senior who will be eligible this season under the NCAA rule that allows him to transfer if he has already graduated college and enrolls as a graduate student in a program not offered at the school he is leaving. He will enter Illinois' one-year master's programming in sports management, which he can complete online.
McLaurin averaged 10 points and 7.5 rebounds last season.
-- Buzz Bissinger likes football. He wrote "Friday Night Lights." Not the movie, not the TV series. He wrote the great book about high school football in Odessa, Texas.
But he thinks college football should be banned, and explains why in this essay for the Wall Street Journal. An excerpt:
A radical solution, yes. But necessary in today's times.
Football only provides the thickest layer of distraction in an atmosphere in which colleges and universities these days are all about distraction, nursing an obsession with the social well-being of students as opposed to the obsession that they are there for the vital and single purpose of learning as much as they can to compete in the brutal realities of the global economy.
Banning college football would throw a wrinkle into the career paths of the contributors to On Iowa Daily Briefing. But if it's for the good of American academics, we'll happily shelve our selfish concerns.
-- Oh, but college football success translates into more money for universities. That may not be so, indicates this piece by Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News.
A University of Arkansas doctoral student in sport management and his professor have examined 10-year data from 2000 to 2009 at 29 Football Bowl Subdivision schools. They haven't drawn firm conclusions yet, but say there could be a negative impact on academic giving based on football triumphs.
-- Junior Seau's suicide has confused many people. This terrific column by Chris McCosky of the Detroit News said Seau wasn't being a coward and he wasn't being selfish.
He was sick.
-- Without demonizing Nebraska assistant coach Ron Brown for his anti-homosexuality beliefs, Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald has a fine piece suggesting it would behoove Brown to take a gentler tone.
This is Brown's letter to the Lincoln Journal Star, which was published Sunday:
I wholeheartedly agree with UNL's Non-Discrimination Policy. As a follower of Jesus Christ, and a UNL employee for twenty-two years, I haven't, nor will I violate this policy.
In 1979 I realized Christ's death and resurrection freed me from the many sins I am guilty of. I received Christ's forgiveness then and the Bible became my source of truth for every phase of life. God offers His grace to all of us. WOW!
Not all of my players have agreed with the Bible's views. One example, of many, would be those choosing heterosexual sex outside of marriage. Though the Bible teaches this as sin, I haven't penalized them with playing time or discrimination of any sort. Because I love them, I've invested in them even outside of football and gently asked them to consider God's view on it.
If I coached a gay player, because the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, I would do the same. If he didn't agree, I wouldn't penalize him with playing time or any form of discrimination.
I have and will embrace every player I coach, gay or straight ... but I won't embrace a legal policy that supports a lifestyle that God calls sin.
-- Ron Brown, private citizen of Nebraska
Brown said a media frenzy will deter him from speaking today at a Lincoln City Council public hearing that will be held on a proposal to add gender identity and sexual orientation to the classes of people specifically protected against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.There was a similar hearing in Omaha on March 6, and Brown spoke for three minutes, challenging council members to remember the Bible doesn't condone homosexuality.