Ranking the ACC-Big Ten Challenge matchups

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Earlier on Monday afternoon, the matchups for the 14th ACC-Big Ten Challenge were announced, and while we ended up with a couple of gems, we also got handed a couple of duds. Here is a rundown of the most watchable and the least watchable games, in quick preview form:

  1. No. 13 North Carolina at No. 1 Indiana (Nov. 27th): This is a pretty easy pick as the best game of the event. Two of the nation’s premier programs squaring off in November. If this game had happened one year earlier, we would have been given a chance to see Tyler Zeller take on little brother Cody Zeller. Indiana is likely to be the No. 1 team in the country come November, but UNC returns quite a bit of talent and brings in another great recruiting class. Seeing the younger Zeller go up against James Michael McAdoo will be a treat. This will likely be our first chance to gauge whether the Heels are going to be in a bit of a rebuilding season or if they can compete for the ACC title.
  2. No. 6 NC State at No. 5 Michigan (Nov. 27th): NC State will be the favorite in the ACC heading into the season, thanks in large part to the decision of CJ Leslie to return to school for his junior year. Michigan may not be the favorite in the Big Ten, but they will be a legitimate contender for the Final Four thanks to Trey Burke’s decision to return to school. Both teams will also be bolstered by talented recruiting classes. Hard to believe that the second best matchup in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge is between NC State and Michigan. Is it the late 1980’s?
  3. No. 8 Ohio State at No. 15 Duke (Nov. 28th): This is a rematch of last year’s contest, which Ohio State won by 22 points. Next year will be different, however. Jared Sullinger, William Buford and Austin Rivers are all gone, and this season the game will be played at Cameron Indoor Stadium. What this game should end up being is a good gauge to see just how relevant both teams will be.
  4. No. 25 Minnesota at Florida State (Nov. 27th): Minnesota not only gets Trevor Mbakwe back for a sixth-year in 2012-2013, but they also return the majority of a young and talented roster. The Gophers will be a sleeper in the Big Ten. The same can probably be said about the Seminoles, who will once again have a big front line, a tough defense and a couple of talented back court players in Ian Miller and Michael Snaer. This will be a nice test for Minnesota, who will be playing a road game against a team that would fit in perfectly in the Big Ten.
  5. No. 9 Michigan State at Miami (Nov. 28th): After barely, missing the 2012 NCAA tournament, Miami will return Durand Scott, Shane Larkin, Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji, which should be enough to get them into this year’s dance. It will also make them a tough road test for Michigan State, who will be looking for a way to replace all-everything forward Draymond Green. Getting Branden Dawson healthy would be a good way to start.
  6. Purdue at Clemson (Nov. 28th): Clemson loses their top two scorers and returns no one of significance in the paint, unless Milton Jennings somehow learns to become a relevant interior presence. Purdue loses Robbie Hummel, but Matt Painter has a solid core of youngsters on his roster. The Boilermakers won’t have much size, either, but if they can somehow figure out a way to defend better than they did last season, they could once again earn a trip to the Big Dance.
  7. Virginia at No. 22 Wisconsin (Nov. 28th): Virginia loses Mike Scott to graduation. Wisconsin loses Jordan Taylor to graduation. Both teams plays a plodding, half-court style and struggle to score in the 60’s. Yay! There will be some interesting storylines, however: Tony Bennett, who coaches Virginia, is the son of Wisconsin coaching legend Dick Bennett.
  8. Maryland at Northwestern (No. 27th): This is when the games start getting a bit ugly. Maryland may have a bright future under Mark Turgeon, but with Terrell Stoglin leaving school, the Terps still have a long way to go before they are back to the good old days of being an ACC contender. And Northwestern? Well, their history speaks for itself, and losing John Shurna to graduation certainly won’t help matters at all.
  9. Georgia Tech at Illinois (Nov. 28th): Georgia Tech is in full-on rebuilding mode under second-year head coach Brian Gregory. Illinois is rebuilding as well, but at least new head coach John Groce as some talent on his roster — DJ Richardson, Brandon Paul, a couple of quality recruiting classes back-to-back.
  10. Iowa at Virginia Tech (Nov. 27th): Back in April, this game had some potential. Losing Matt Gatens will hurt, but Fran McCaffery has a solid core of talented youngsters on his roster. And on the strength of a couple of talented recruits and point guard Erick Green, Seth Greenberg looked like he was starting to get the Hokie program rebuilt. But Greenberg was fired, Montrezl Harrel decommitted and Dorian Finney-Smith transferred. So much for that.
  11. Nebraska at Wake Forest (Nov. 27th): Wake Forest has been a train wreck under Jeff Bzdelik, and while Tim Miles may eventually get things turned around at Nebraska, it will take some time for that program to become relevant. When these two played last year, the final was 55-53. Thrilling.
  12. Boston College at Penn State (Nov. 28th): I’d rather watch a marathon of “Say Yes to the Dress”.