The annual ACC/Big 10 challenge opens tomorrow night with six games and continues Wednesday night with six more contests. Despite the fact that five Big-10 teams are ranked in the top 25, either conference could win the necessary seven games to take the challenge.
The Big 10 has four teams (Ohio State Buckeyes, Illinois Fighting Illini, Michigan Wolverines and Iowa Hawkeyes) who are among the national top 25 in scoring defense, all giving up fewer than 62 points per game. The ACC has three schools (Clemson Tigers, Virginia Cavaliers and Pittsburgh Panthers) with that same defensive efficiency. Offensive is where the Big 10 may have an advantage.
Three Big-10 teams are among the national leaders in scoring. Iowa, the Indiana Hoosiers and the Michigan State Spartans are all in the top 25 in the nation, averaging over 85 points per game. The ACC only has the Duke Blue Devils in that statistical class. There’s only one more ACC school, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, that even ranks in the top 50 in scoring average nationwide.
In most other major statistical categories, the number of ACC and Big-10 teams represented are about equal. What may make the difference in this tournament is the execution of a few key players.
The Purdue Boilermakers center A.J. Hammons is fourth in the nation in blocks and his presence will be vital if Purdue is to defeat the Boston College Eagles tomorrow night. Penn State Nittany Lions guard Tim Frazier is fifth in the country in assists per game. His performance will be vital if they are to get another win for the Big 10 against Pitt. Finally, Iowa guard Mike Gesell is third in Division I in assist-to-turnover ratio. If the Hawkeyes can take care of the ball, they have a good chance to beat Notre Dame.
Going simply by the rankings, it looks like the Big 10 should win this challenge. However, the statistics show these two conferences to be more evenly matched. Whichever conference gets the greater number of stellar individual performances will take home the title for the 2013-14 season.