Big Ten/ACC Challenge

Associated Press

Ten takeaways from the Big Ten/ACC Challenge

3 Comments

Wednesday night the Big Ten/ACC Challenge reached its conclusion, with the Big Ten taking home the trophy by a final margin of eight wins to six. This is the seventh consecutive year in which Jim Delany’s conference has either won or tied the event, meaning that the ACC hasn’t won the Challenge since 2008. But there were other things to take away from the three days of action, so below are ten takeaways from this year’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

1. Marcus Paige makes North Carolina a national title favorite.

This pretty much goes without saying, and Paige proved as much by scoring 20 points and dishing out five assists in the ninth-ranked Tar Heels’ 89-81 win over No. 2 Maryland Tuesday night. His presence relieves some of the offensive pressure that was on the shoulders of Joel Berry II, who added 14 points and five assists with just two turnovers against the Terrapins.

And although Justin Jackson had a quiet night, scoring nine points on 3-for-7 shooting and having as many turnovers as assists (three), Paige’s return will help him as well. Clearly there’s enough talent for North Carolina to be really good, but now they’ve got their “difference maker” back and that’s big for Roy Williams’ team.

RELATED: A failed alley-oop shows that Marcus Paige is back

2. To say that Purdue is the Big Ten’s best defensive team may be shortchanging them.

By no means is the Pittsburgh team the 11th-ranked Boilermakers beat 72-59 Tuesday night an offensive juggernaut. But what Purdue was able to do defensively without the Big Ten’s best defender in Rapheal Davis is certainly worth mentioning. Purdue limited the Panthers to 4-for-19 shooting from three and 0.95 points per possession, with the home team struggling to find much in the way of quality looks without blocking a single shot.

Purdue currently leads the nation in effective field goal percentage defense (36.1 percent) and they’re in the top ten in both two-point (35.8) and three-point (24.4) percentage defense. An argument can be made that this is the best defensive team in the country, and that is a big reason why the Boilermakers are a Big Ten contender.

3. It’s time to accept the fact that Indiana can’t defend.

On the other end of the defensive spectrum is Indiana, which tried both man and zone looks to little avail in a 20-point loss at No. 7 Duke. Of course, it has to be mentioned that the Blue Devils are very good offensively and will give many teams fits. That being said the lack of commitment from Indiana on the defensive end is alarming, with guys seemingly playing with the mindset of “if my guy scores we’ll get it back on the other end.”

But do they even have the personnel needed to stop people? Their guards and wings aren’t good defenders, and freshman big man Thomas Bryant is still figuring out how to defend ball screens. They are who they are sadly.

RELATED: Indiana’s historically bad defense

4. Brandon Ingram will be just fine for Duke. 

Leading into Duke’s game against Indiana there were some concerns voiced about the progress made by freshman wing Brandon Ingram. He’s slender in build and not the most physical player, but the fact that he didn’t hit the ground running left some disappointed. He’ll be fine, as evidenced by his 24-points showing against the Hoosiers. Ingram hit shots from the perimeter and got to the basket as well, and he also contributed six rebounds and two assists. He’ll continue to develop, and with perimeter options such as Grayson Allen, Matt Jones and Derryck Thornton Jr. alongside Ingram he won’t lack for help either.

RELATED: What do we make of Brandon Ingram’s performance at Indiana? 

5. Jake Layman’s adjustment to the three will determine Maryland’s national title hopes. 

Last season Maryland’s front court composition allowed them to use Layman at the four, using his skill set to take advantage of matchups with slower defenders who were true power forwards. Now that the Terrapins have a host of interior options in the post, including Robert Carter Jr. and Diamond Stone, Layman’s playing the three with mixed results.

After averaging 12.5 points per game as a junior, Layman’s at 10.6 ppg and shooting just 28.6 percent from three (45.3 overall FG%) and he scored just four points against North Carolina. Maryland can still be a very good team given their depth and the presence of one of the nation’s best point guards in Melo Trimble. But if they’re to win the program’s second national title, Layman’s play will have a lot to do with it.

RELATED: Maryland finally proves that they’re a contender

6. Darius Thompson’s role becomes even more important for Virginia.

With London Perrantes (appendectomy) sidelined for the time being, Thompson is an even more important player for Tony Bennett. And in the Cavaliers’ 64-58 win at Ohio State the Tennessee transfer came through, scoring 12 points and dishing out six assists with just two turnovers in 36 minutes of action. The scoring output is Thompson’s second straight double-digit effort, but more importantly over the last two games he’s got an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.0 during that stretch.

Of course Malcolm Brogdon will have the ball in his hands more with Perrantes being out. But for this team to not skip a beat while they await the return of their floor general, Thompson will need to step forward as well.

7. Louisville makes a positive impression in their first true test.

While Louisville head coach Rick Pitino opined that the currently investigated scandal was why it took so long for the 24th-ranked Cardinals to get into the national polls, their schedule had a lot more to do with it. Wednesday’s game at No. 3 Michigan State gave Louisville the opportunity to showcase themselves in front of a national audience against a quality opponent, and while they fell four points short in the end the Cardinals acquitted themselves well.

ALSO: Don’t overlook Bryn Forbes’ contributions for No. 3 Michigan State

Damion Lee and Trey Lewis combined to score 44 points, and the Cardinals’ length and athleticism gave the Spartans fits on both ends of the floor for most of the night. Others will need to step forward, and they’ll have time to with a forgiving schedule leading into their showdown with No. 1 Kentucky December 26.

8. Syracuse will need to find ways to score when their three-pointers aren’t falling. 

The Orange don’t lack for shooters, but what they do lack are players who can get their offense going when the three-pointers aren’t falling. That was the case against Wisconsin Wednesday night, as the 14th-ranked Orange went cold from deep and lost 66-58 in overtime. Syracuse shot 7-for-24 from three against the Badgers, and they also shot less than 41 percent inside of the arc. Michael Gbinije shot 7-for-16 from the field by Trevor Cooney was just 3-for-10, and supplementary scorers Tyler Lydon and Malachi Richardson struggled as well (1-for-10 3PT).

The Orange have scored more than 40 percent of their points via the three this year, but what happens when those shots aren’t falling? The Orange will need to improve inside of the arc and with the turnover count if they’re to factor into the ACC race.

9. Once again Michigan’s hopes for the season rest on their health.

Here we go again. The Wolverines pick up a quality road win, beating NC State Tuesday night, and once again the talk is about injuries. Spike Albrecht, who had both hips operated on this offseason, is to the point where he’s rehabbing instead of practicing, and starting point guard Derrick Walton Jr. injured his left ankle against the Wolfpack. But John Beilein’s team still managed to win because of the play of Caris LeVert (18 points, nine rebounds, seven assists), and Duncan Robinson stepped forward to provide 17 points off the bench.

Michigan is an NCAA tournament team, but their room for growth as a Big Ten contender depends upon whether or not they can avoid the injury bug that bit them a season ago.

10. Miami’s win at Nebraska speaks to the team’s improved maturity. 

The Hurricanes’ game at Nebraska provided an interesting study in Jim Larrañaga’s team after their last-second loss to Northeastern Friday. How would they respond, especially when considering how tough of an environment Pinnacle Bank Arena can be for opposing teams? They responded quite well, taking the hit of Glynn Watson forcing overtime and beating the Huskers 77-72.

Angel Rodriguez led five Hurricanes in double figures with 15 points, and while Miami’s three-point shooting wasn’t there (6-for-21) they were able to get to the foul line on a regular basis (23-for-28). Does last year’s team respond in a similar fashion? Who’s to say, but this group’s ability to go on the road and pick up a tough win speaks to their maturity.

Tough slate, porous defense not doing Boston College any favors

Leave a comment

During the preseason there were more than a few people who believed that Steve Donahue’s Boston College Eagles had the pieces needed to be one of the more improved teams in college basketball. With al five starters back from last season’s 16-17 squad, led by guard Olivier Hanlan and forward Ryan Anderson, there was both talent and experience on the roster. And with a challenging non-conference schedule to navigate before starting ACC play, there would be ample opportunities to pick up quality wins.

But in order to take advantage of those opportunities the Eagles needed to improve defensively. Last season Boston College ranked 11th in the ACC in adjusted defensive efficiency, and in conference play they ranked 11th in defensive efficiency and 12th in effective field goal percentage (rankings per kenpom.com). Clean those areas up, even without the services of injured center Dennis Clifford, and Boston College could very well make a run at an NCAA tournament berth. Fail to do so, however, and the Eagles could enter conference play without much (if any) room for error.

Sure enough it’s the latter scenario that has unfolded, and on Wednesday Boston College dropped to 3-5 after losing at Purdue by the final score of 88-67. Purdue certainly deserves credit for their performance, as Matt Painter’s team executed very well on the offensive end of the floor. The Boilermakers shot 52.2% from the field and 7-for-14 from beyond the arc, with Terone Johnson and younger brother Ronnie leading the way with 18 and 15 points respectively.

As for the Boston College view on this, Wednesday’s defensive effort was the sixth out of eight games in which the opposition averaged more than 1.1 points per possession. BC entered Wednesday ranked last in the ACC in points allowed per possession (1.16), and Purdue finished the game scoring 1.26 points per possession. That didn’t get the job done in West Lafayette, and it certainly won’t help the Eagles in their quest to climb up the ACC pecking order with the conference being stronger than last season’s edition.

Next up for Boston College is a trip west to take on USC Sunday night, which will serve as a homecoming of sorts for the Californians on the roster, and they also have non-conference games against VCU (December 28) and Harvard (January 1) remaining. Offensively Boston College has the talent needed to put points on the board, but it won’t matter if they don’t make significant strides on the other end.

North Carolina shows up ready to compete, knocks off No. 1 Michigan State

2 Comments

At this point in the season it seems safe to say that North Carolina has just one consistent perimeter shooter in sophomore point guard Marcus Paige. Entering Wednesday’s game at No. 1 Michigan State, Paige was responsible for 18 of the Tar Heels’ 21 made three-pointers. And with Paige also being their best overall perimeter scorer, it’s clear that he will be the focus of opponents’ defensive game plans.

While Paige is needed to score North Carolina will be at its best when there’s a collective effort on the offensive end, and that was the case in their 79-65 upset victory in East Lansing. Paige shot just 4-for-13 from the field but he was one of five North Carolina players to finish in double figures, with forward Kennedy Meeks leading the way with a career-high 15 points. Just as important was their collective effort on the glass, as North Carolina showed greater resolve (and toughness) than they did in Sunday’s loss at UAB.

Against the Blazers North Carolina was out-rebounded 52-37 with UAB grabbing 44.7% of its missed shots, and a similar effort against Michigan State would have resulted in Roy Williams’ team getting run out of the Breslin Center. But that didn’t happen, as North Carolina grabbed 16 offensive rebounds (rebounding 39% of their missed shots). After being called out by Williams following Sunday’s defeat for not competing on the glass, that wasn’t a problem against Michigan State.

And Wednesday’s performance reveals what North Carolina will need to do in order to enjoy a successful 2013-14 campaign.

At this point in the season there should be a good idea of who North Carolina is. This is a young team that, as a result, will have bouts with inconsistency and the lack of multiple consistent perimeter shooters will be an issue as well. But they can make up for those areas by doing the little things well. Attacking the glass on both ends, hustling for loose balls and using their athleticism to limit the number of quality shots their opponents take (Michigan State shot 36.5% from the field) are the things North Carolina will have to do on a consistent basis.

The Tar Heels have put together some mind-boggling results this season, with wins over two teams ranked in the Top 5 at the time (Louisville, Michigan State) and losses to two teams (Belmont and UAB) they were expected to beat. While a lack of experience can be used as a reason for physical mistakes, that shouldn’t impact how hard a team competes.

North Carolina showed up ready to go on Wednesday night, jumping out to an 18-6 lead, and the end result was their second big win of the season.

Big Ten/ACC Challenge Viewer’s Guide

Leave a comment

The Big Ten/ACC Challenge kicks off tonight. Since we know that you need help putting together your schedule, here’s a breakdown of which games you need to watch. You’re welcome.

All times EST:

Only miss these games to see the birth of your FIRST child:

1. Tue 9:15 p.m.: No. 22 Michigan at No. 10 Duke: Neither the Wolverines nor the Blue Devils have lived up to their preseason hype early on this season, which is part of the reason that this is now a top 25 matchup instead of a battle between top ten teams. The Wolverines are banged up, as Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas and Mitch McGary have all dealt with injuries early on this season. The key to this matchup? McGary. Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood can’t guard him, but he can’t guard them. Who breaks first?

CBT Pick: Duke

2. Tue. 7:15 p.m.: Indiana at No. 4 Syracuse: Another rematch, this time from last year’s Sweet 16, when Tom Crean’s high-octane offense couldn’t figure out their way through the Syracuse zone. This year, Indiana’s built around their ability to defend, as they don’t have the perimeter shooting they did a season ago but they do have the length and athleticism to match the Orange. The Orange force a lot of turnovers, and the Hoosiers have had issues with turnovers this season. Yogi Ferrell vs. Tyler Ennis will be a lot of fun.

CBT Pick: Syracuse

3. Wed. 7:00 p.m.: No. 8 Wisconsin at Virginia: It won’t be high-scoring, but these are two very good, very well-coached teams that play similar styles. Virginia has a little more size and athleticism than the Badgers, but Wisconsin can spread the floor and shoot it better than the ‘Hoos. Sam Dekker vs. Joe Harris will be a lot of fun as well.

CBT Pick: Wisconsin

You can miss these for a hot date, but they have to be at least a nine and NOT already your significant other:

4. Tue. 9:15 p.m.: Notre Dame at No. 23 Iowa: I’d say this is the most interesting matchup of the event in that we’re still really trying to get a gauge for both teams. The Irish have a loaded back court but they already have a loss to Indiana State on their resume. The Hawkeyes, on the other hand, lost a nail-biter to Villanova in the Battle 4 Atlantis and are a dangerously deep and versatile team. Who wins out?

CBT Pick: Iowa

5. Wed. 9:00 p.m.: North Carolina at No. 1 Michigan State: Michigan State has lived up to the hype they had entering the season, as they’re undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country. They look every bit a national title contender. North Carolina, on the other hand, has struggled with consistency and simply is not the same team without P.J. Hairston.

CBT Pick: Michigan State

6. Wed. 7:00 p.m.: Maryland at No. 5 Ohio State: The Buckeyes are overwhelming on the defensive end of the floor, and while I think Maryland is flying a bit under the radar right now, I’m not sure that the Terps are going to be able to handle that pressure without Seth Allen.

CBT Pick: Ohio State

You can play bridge with your Grandmother, just make sure you have the game on in the back ground:

7. Tue. 7:30 p.m.: Penn State at Pitt: Pitt is going to end up being a contender in the ACC this season. Mark my words. The Nittany Lions are a much-improved team this year, enough that they’ll be competitive in the Big Ten, but I can’t see them picking up this win in Pittsburgh.

CBT Pick: Pitt

8. Tue. 9:30 p.m.: Florida State at Minnesota: The Gophers had a rough trip to Maui while the Seminoles are coming off of impressive performances in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and at Florida.

CBT Pick: Florida State

9. Wed. 9:00 p.m.: Boston College at Purdue: I can’t quite figure out either of these teams, but Olivier Hanlon against the Johnson brothers and Ryan Anderson vs. A.J. Hammons will be fun

CBT Pick: Boston College

You know what? Go ahead. Take a nap. Or play FIFA. Or do whatever. I won’t even be mad:

10. Tue. 7:15 p.m.: Illinois at Georgia Tech

CBT Pick: Illinois

11. Wed. 7:30 p.m.: Northwestern at NC State

CBT Pick: NC State

12. Wed. 9:30 p.m.: Miami at Nebraska

CBT Pick: Nebraska