Monday, November 26, 2007

Previewing the ACC/Big-10 Challenge

First off, great work (in a manner of speaking) by Wake Forest taking the game at Iowa. It was an absolutely atrocious game. The teams combined for 3-30 from beyond the arc, and turned the ball over more than 1 out of every 4 possessions. The winning offensive efficiency was 79.60 - I have a hunch this will be the lowest ORating from a winning ACC team all season. Nonetheless, the end result is ACC 1, Big 10 0. Picking off this game on the road gives the ACC a healthy leg up in the challenge. Here's my take on the ten games coming up in the next two days.


Georgia Tech @ Indiana: On paper, this is one of the biggest mismatches in the challenge. The Jackets have been struggling in the early season, and Indiana (minus a hiccough at Xavier this weekend) has looked darn impressive. Eric Gordon seems to be the real thing, and DJ White is playing much more motivated basketball this year. Look for both to take advantage of Tech weaknesses (post and point play) and lead IU to the win. ACC 1, Big 10 1. (I could be wrong if: Morrow just goes off. He could pop for 30-40 if he's hot, because there's no one else on Georgia Tech to take shots).

Northwestern @ Virginia: another big mismatch. Northwestern has been awful in the early going, and Virginia (minus a hiccough against Seton Hall this weekend) has looked darn impressive (better than most people thought). Adrian Joseph has played particularly inspired ball this season, shooting almost 50% from 3 and pulling in almost 9 boards a game (heck, he's even been to the line 9 times!). This has all the potential of a "pick your final margin" kind of game. ACC 2, Big 10 1. (I could be wrong if: Virginia struggles, as it is prone to, against a system offense/defense, and loses a low scoring 48-47 kind of game).

Minnesota @ Florida State: Minnesota has looked a lot better under Tubby Smith, and FSU, while rocky, looked very good in taking care of the defending champs. Isaiah Swann and Jason Rich have led the perimeter charge for the 'Noles. I'm giving the edge to the home team in this one, but probably by a small margin. ACC 3, Big 10 1. (I could be wrong if: FSU doesn't box out - their defensive rebounding has not been stellar so far, and giving up lots of second chance points could come back to haunt them in a close game).

Purdue @ Clemson: Purdue is better than people think, particularly after losing someone as freakishly effective as Carl Landry. Ordinarily, I'd say this is just the kind of team that could pull off a road upset here. But I really like Clemson this season, I think they're ticked off about the way last season ended (no NCAAs), and I think they're just a solid all-around team. Hammonds and Stitt have been good handling the ball, Rivers and Mays are doing the work on offense, and Trevor Booker is still an undersized stud in the post. Clemson will run, press, turn the Boilers over, and score enough to win a tight game. ACC 4, Big 10 1. (I could be wrong if: my gut feeling about Purdue being just the kind of team to grab a road upset proves to be right).

Wisconsin @ Duke: Wisconsin currently sits at #1 in the Pomeroy ratings (sign #1 that it's still very early in the season) on the back of the best defensive performance in the country thus far this year. Good defense by the Badgers is no surprise, but how they've done it is - turning the opponent over. Wisconsin normally sits back and plays position D, but this year they've been actively taking the ball away from the other team. In 2007, they had just an 8.8 steal% - this year it's up to 13.6. Now, this all could be a product of poor early season opponents (Savannah St., IUPFW, Florida A&M), or it could be a slight change in philosophy, but their ability to sustain this defensive effort will likely be critical in this game. Duke has been extremely efficient on the offensive end so far this year, in large part due to an improved ability to hold on to the ball. If the Devils win the turnover battle, they'll likely win the game. ACC 5, Big 10 1. (I could be wrong if: Wisconsin hammers Duke on the offensive glass, Butch and Stiemmsma suddenly develop a post offense, and Duke turns the ball over too much).


NC State @ Michigan State: MSU is looking to lay claim to being the best team in the Big 10. They fought tough against UCLA in the CBE Finals, and their core of Neitzel, Walton, Morgan, Suton, and Gray is very good. NC State was an "it" team coming into this season after last year's ACC run and the arrival of JJ Hickson. However, the early season returns have been mixed - they won a very tough game against Villanova, but dropped a home contest to New Orleans. They don't quite seem ready enough yet to take on a talented, experienced team on the road at the Breslin Center. ACC 5, Big 10 2. (I could be wrong if: Hickson pulls another 12-12, Costner finally gets back on track, and the size of Grant and Fells bothers Neitzel).

Boston College @ Michigan: This is essentially a pick 'em game. Both teams, well, stink. BC is still finding its legs after losing Dudley and Marshall, and Michigan is still adjusting to the changes made be John Beilein. I would ordinarily pick the home team here, but the Crisler isn't exactly a rocking home venue, and Michigan has been just that bad so far this season. I'll take BC in a mild upset. ACC 6, Big 10 2. (I could be wrong if: let's face, this is going to be a close game between two bad teams that either one could win. I wouldn't put money on either one).

Illinois @ Maryland: Maryland has struggled in a lot of ways this season - they turn the ball over way too much, they can't hit a perimeter shot to save their lives, and they get hammered on the offensive glass. That third one will be very problematic against the Illini. If there's one thing Illinois does well, it's get on the offensive glass. The Illini also tend to play good defense. This is just not a good matchup for Maryland, and even the home court advantage won't do enough. Illinois takes this on the road. ACC 6, Big 10 3. (I could be wrong if: the Terps are even average in the three areas of struggle I mentioned above, and Illinois proves too young to play well on the road).

UNC @ Ohio State: UNC has beaten the poor teams on its schedule by a whole lot, and looked like a #1 team in the process. Against the only tough competition it's faced (Davidson and BYU), it's been a different story, and UNC has needed some clutch late game play to pull it out. OSU falls somewhere in between. The team is very young, and got absolutely waxed by Texas A&M, not to mention the whoops against Findley in the exhibition season. UNC should win this game going away. ACC 7, Big 10 3. (I could be wrong if: Lawson doesn't play, Frasor and Thomas are TO machines, and Jamar Butler goes off).

Virginia Tech @ Penn State: This is a lot like the BC-Michigan game. Both teams are bad, and this is not exactly a marquee closing game for the challenge. Another pick 'em, but this time I'll take the home team. ACC 7, Big 10 4. (I could be wrong if: see note from BC-Michigan).


Unknown said...

Nice preview, Paul. Now it's time for Duke to git-r-done!

Anonymous said...

I am new to your blog, but I have to say I am impressed. You great statistal analysis and your previews seem to be spot on. Just wanted to give you some props....

Paul Rugani said...

1) Welcome back Doug! Duke definitely took care of business last night.

2) Thanks! Appreciate the props, and hope you'll continue to visit.

Unknown said...

not only is the analysis on spot, check out paul's accuracy in those acc/big-10 challenge predictions :)