Tuesday, December 02, 2008

ACC/Big 10 Challenge

Wisconsin beat Virginia Tech last night on a Trevon Hughes runner at the buzzer (well, close to) to frustrate a frantic Hokie comeback effort. This game played exactly to each school's style (the two teams are stylistically very similar) with one notable exception. It was sloooow - 54 possessions total. There were absolutely no turnovers - 6 for Wisconsin and 7 for Virginia Tech. But what was unusual was that the two teams were crazy good on offense. A 74-72 score may not look like a shootout, but in a 54 possession game, that's exceptional offensive performance - both teams had O Ratings in the 130s. Much of this was fueled by simply unconscious outside shooting, as the teams combined to hit 23 of 34 three point attempts.

So the Big 10 sneaks out to the early lead. Here are the 5 matchups tonight:

Ohio State at Miami - as profiled here, the Buckeye defense has been very impressive against lesser opponents. Can they hold down Miami's more potent offense (and even if they do, can they actually score enough to keep up)? My guess is no, and no.

Iowa at Boston College - Iowa has played precisely nobody on its way to a 6-1 record. Honestly, I can't even name a single person on the Hawkeye team. I feel out of touch. BC should control here, particularly if the Ty Rice from Friday's game (and really, from the second half of Friday's game) shows up.

Clemson at Illinois - Illinois has been under-the-radar very good this year, picking up a road win at Vanderbilt, which is very, very tough to do. Clemson has looked so-so so far, and hasn't really been challenged with a good opponent in a hostile environment. At least the all-orange Assembly Hall crowd will be in a friendly color, if not a friendly mood. Clemson is the better team, but I think Illinois walks away with the win.

Duke at Purdue - the marquee Tuesday game (and, in light of MSU's suckitude so far, probably the marquee challenge game, period). Like Virginia Tech-Wisconsin, these are two similarly-styled teams - small inside with versatile power forwards and talented guards that rely on defense to generate offense. Biggest non-conference game in West Lafayette in a long, long time - possibly since the Big Dog was roaming the halls. It will be interesting to see how the Devils react to the first hostile road environment of the season. Purdue is vulnerable inside, so if Thomas, Zoubek, and Plumlee can continue their collective effectiveness, that just might give Duke the extra push they need. I like the Devils in a close one.

Virginia at Minnesota - I have no idea if Minnesota is as good as their current 6-0 record, but I can tell you that Virginia absolutely deserves their 3-2. The Cavs played Syracuse very tough this weekend, though, and as Sylvan Landesberg and Sammy Zeglinski continue to get more and more comfortable at the college level, this team could surprise. At the very least, Leitao has two players who can collectively drop 50 on any given night. Their emergence, however, has led to an almost complete disappearance by senior Mamadi Diane, who will need to step his game up and provide some consistency for the nights when the young guns have their inevitable struggles.

Also, ACC Player and Team stats are up (not including the VT-Wisc game). More on what they are and what they mean later.

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