A lot of forgettable college basketball games are played in November and December. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge forces 24 Big Ten and ACC teams to play someone from one of the nation’s two best basketball leagues. That’s good.
Here is my ranking of the 12 performances in the Challenge by the Big Ten teams. Who they played and where they played join how they played as the factors.
1. Wisconsin, W 48-38 at Virginia. Crummy game to watch, but the 9-0 Badgers went on the road and controlled Virginia (7-2).
The Badgers shot just 28.9 percent from the field, but that was superior to Virginia’s 23.4 percent. Wisconsin was the only one of six Big Ten road teams to prevail.
2. Minnesota, W 71-61 vs. Florida State. The Seminoles (5-3) had lost only to Michigan by two points in overtime in Puerto Rico and at Florida by one point.
The Gophers (5-3) earned a nice win. They shot 34 percent from the field and still came out on top, but it helps a lot when you only make six turnovers. This is a team with good guards that will be tough for everyone in Williams Arena.
3. Ohio State, W 76-60 vs. Maryland. Quietly, the Buckeyes are 7-0. They have a nine-man rotation that is very good, and seasoned. OSU shot 52.1 percent in this game. It made 22 of its 41 three-point shots in the last two games.
Here’s a video of OSU forward Slam Thompson, er, Sam Thompson from this game:
4. Iowa, W 98-93 vs. Notre Dame. The 8-1 Hawkeyes shot 56.9 percent from the field and made 25 of 29 free throws. They had to, because Notre Dame (5-2) kept scoring and scoring, too.
If there were an All-Challenge team, I’d put Aaron White (20 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds) on it.
5. Purdue, W 88-67 vs. Boston College. This was Purdue’s best game of the season. The 7-2 Boilermakers shot 52. 2 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3-point land.
Boston College is 3-5, so this can’t be ranked higher, but this was a thorough performance by the Boilers.
6. Nebraska, W 60-49 vs. Miami. Nebraska is like Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota. They may not be great teams, but you will probably have to play well at their places to beat them.
Miami (5-4) shot a mere 32 percent and had a paltry 13 points in the first half. This was a good win for the 6-2 Huskers.
7. Penn State, L 78-69 at Pittsburgh. Pitt is 8-0. Penn State (6-3) led 30-28 at halftime.
The Nittany Lions led with as little as 5:15 left. Not a bad effort. Tim Frazier had 27 points for the Lions. That was his fourth game of 25 or more points. Not bad for a guy who tore his Achilles last year.
8. Michigan, L 74-64 at Duke. The operative words are “at Duke.” That means it’s hard and you can’t dock Michigan heavily.
The Wolverines (5-3) are a young team that doesn’t have everything put together yet. It’s a long season.
9. Illinois, L 67-64 at Georgia Tech. The Yellowjackets (6-3) needed a 19-4 run at the end of the game to get this win.
The Illini lost for the first time in eight games. They scored just one basket in the final nine minutes. ”I thought our execution was absolutely pathetic,” Illinois Coach John Groce said. “It was awful.”
10. Indiana, L 69-52 at Syracuse. The only reason the Hoosiers (6-2) are ranked this high is because they played on the road, and against a better opponent than Northwestern did. Syracuse is 8-0.
Indiana isn’t nearly as bad as this score, but Syracuse has won 46 straight nonconference games in the Carrier Dome.
11. Northwestern, L 69-58 at North Carolina State. The 4-5 Wildcats, who appear headed for last place in the Big Ten, shot 25 percent from the field.
12. Michigan State, L 79-65 vs. North Carolina. The Spartans were the only Big Ten team to lose at home. North Carolina isn’t chopped liver, but the nation’s No. 1 team got outplayed on its home court and cost its conference a win in the Challenge standings.
By the way, Marcus Paige of Linn-Mar High had 13 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds for the Tar Heels. He is averaging 19.7 points and 4.0 assists. Not bad for a sophomore.
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