A viewer’s guide to the ACC/Big Ten Challenge


The ACC/Big Ten Challenge kicks off their 13th installment this evening, but for the first time in its history, every team from both conferences will be participating.

The Big Ten added their 12th member in Nebraska during the summer, which means that instead of having one of the ACC teams forced to watch from the sideline, we will have a full round-robin. It also means that, for the first time in Challenge history, there is the chance that it could end up in a tie.

That would be bad news for the Big Ten. They’ve won the last two challenges, although they may find it difficult to win a third.

Seeing as you aren’t a full-fledged hoops junkie like yours truly, I figured that I would give you a full-fledged breakdown of which games to tune in for, and which games to avoid.

You are welcome.


No. 1 — Tuesday, 9:30 pm: No. 3 Duke at No. 2 Ohio State: Its easy to write off Duke as overrated. Its easy to say that this team is no different than any other Duke team — a group of soft jumpshooters and overrated big men. And while that very well be true, keep in mind that Duke has performed very well against one of the tougher schedules in the country. Only two teams on their schedule don’t look like tournament teams: Tennessee, who is better than they are actually being given credit for, and Presbyterian, who went into Cincinnati and knocked off the Bearcats.


Ohio State has been impressive as well, as they have proven to be deeper than in the past. The Buckeyes are going 10 or 11 deep right now, and while that rotation will likely get cut down by the time conference play comes around, its a good sign early in the season that Thad Matta feels that comfortable with that many different players. Will Buford has blossomed into one of the best scorers in the country, while Aaron Craft has proven to be an even better defender and playmaker.

The key to this game is going to be whether or not Duke’s big men — the Plumlees, Ryan Kelly — are able to prevent Sullinger from establishing position. While they did a good job defensively on Thomas Robinson — he had just 16 points on 6-15 shooting — they allowed him to get 15 boards. Sullinger is a bit of a different post player in that he’s much better at establishing position that Robinson is. Keep Sully off the glass and limit his post touches, and Duke has a good chance at winning this.

No. 2 — Wednesday 9:30 pm: No. 9 Wisconsin at No. 5 North Carolina
UNC is coming into the game off of their first loss of the season. The Tar Heels went into Orleans Arena out in Vegas and lost to UNLV. The Rebels played well, but UNC not only shot themselves in the foot on a number of different occasions, they also had their weaknesses exposed for the entire country to see.

The Tar Heels struggle defensively — particularly their point guard, Kendell Marshall — allow too many open looks from the perimeter as the result of penetration. That’s precisely what Wisconsin does. When they are playing their best, the ball is in Jordan Taylor’s hands and he is making decisions. They also put him in a lot of pick-and-roll situations. Wisconsin has quite a few shooters in their lineup — headlined by leading scorer Ben Brust and big man Jared Berggren — which means that Marshall’s ability to keep Taylor out of the paint (until Roy Williams makes the inevitable decision to put Dexter Strickland on Taylor) will be the difference in this game.


The other problem for the Heels is that Wisconsin loves to control the tempo. The Badgers play at a slowed down pace and execute very well offensively. By taking the air out of the ball, they force UNC to play in the half court. We all saw on Saturday night just how much the Heels struggle when they aren’t able to get out and run the floor. If the Badgers can execute offensively and score, negating the fast break, Wisconsin has a chance to win.


No. 3 — Wednesday 7:30 pm: Florida State at Michigan State
This is going to be a tough matchup for Michigan State. They are struggling to execute offensively, meaning that their strength right now is the ability to over power opponents in the paint. Florida State is the best defensive team in the country and has the biggest front line in the country. That’s tough. The good news? Florida State struggles to score even more than the Spartans.

No. 4 — Tuesday 9 pm: Virginia at No. 14 Michigan
The Cavs were predicted by many to be a sleeper in the ACC, but they made that prediction look a bit silly when they lost to TCU earlier this year. Mike Scott is back to his double-double ways, but unless UVA solves some of their three-point shooting and play-making issues, they are going to have some issues against the zone that Michigan plays.

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

No. 5 — Wednesday 7:15 pm: N.C. State at Indiana
This looks like it may be the best Indiana team that we’ve seen since Kelvin Sampson, but with their only real competition of the year coming against a young and rebuilding Butler team, its difficult to know exactly what the Hoosiers are dealing with. NC State is rebuilding as well, but this team has some talent. CJ Leslie and Lorenzo Brown both have shown flashes of the star potential that had people picking the Wolfpack as high as fourth in the ACC heading into last season.

No. 6 — Wednesday 9:15 pm: Virginia Tech at Minnesota
This game held much more intrigue on Sunday afternoon, prior to Trevor Mbakwe tearing the acl in his right knee. But the Gophers still have some talent on that team, with a young back court to play alongside Rodney Williams and Ralph Sampson. Virginia Tech, however, looks like they are a much better team than expected coming into the season. Jarell Eddie, Dorenzo Hudson and Erick Green provide a solid perimeter punch while Victor Davila has become a tough, physical presence in the paint over the course of his career.

No. 7 — Tuesday, 9 pm: Miami at Purdue
Purdue has had a solid start to the season but there are still question marks on their roster. Miami, on the other hand, was thought to be a contender in the ACC before Reggie Johnson hurt his knee. Without their big fella, the Hurricanes lost to Ole Miss in overtime over the weekend. The Boilermakers struggled against the back court of Iona, what are they going to do against Miami’s Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant?

No. 8 — Tuesady 7:30 pm: Illinois at Maryland
How good are the Illini? Are they the team that’s 7-0, or the one that nearly blew an 18 point halftime lead against Richmond before barely hanging on to knock off Illinois State. The good news, thus far, is that Meyers Leonard and DJ Richardson both have been playing like stars. Maryland, on the other hand, is playing without Pe’Shon Howard and Alex Len, and while Terrell Stoglin has looked like an all-american at times, he’s still inconsistent.


No. 9 — Tuesday, 7:15 pm: Georgia Tech at Northwestern
Can Northwestern finally make the push into the NCAA Tournament? It was last season’s impressive victory over the Yellow Jackets that got people talking about the Wildcat’s chances.

No. 10 — Wednesday, 9:15 pm: Wake Forest at Nebraska
Wake Forest and Nebraska look like they are headed for better-than-expected seasons. The Demon Deacons have a legitimate star in Travis McKie and have been playing much better since the defections. Nebraska, however, plays tough defense and finally has a big-time scorer in Bo Spencer.

You know what? Go ahead. Get some sleep. I won’t even be mad:

No. 11 — Tuesday 9:15 pm: Clemson at Iowa
Clemson lost to Coastal Carolina and College of Charleston. Iowa lost to Campbell by 16.

No. 12 — Wednesday, 7:15 pm: Boston College at Penn State

Related story:

Big Ten’s bound to make it three in a row

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.