Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Breaking Down The ACC-Big Ten Challenge

The Results
Monday's Games
Penn State 69, Virginia 66

Tuesday's Games
North Carolina 89, Michigan State 82
Purdue 69, Wake Forest 58
Northwestern 65, North Carolina State 53
Maryland 80, Indiana 68
Virginia Tech 70, Iowa 64

Wednesday's Games
Wisconsin 73, Duke 69
Ohio State 77, Florida State 64
Illinois 76, Clemson 74
Boston College 62, Michigan 58
Miami (FL) 63, Minnesota 58

The Biggest Win
Wisconsin's win over Duke
Not only did this game give us the first quality court rush of the year, it was ginormous for the reputation of the Big Ten and (most importantly) huge for the Badgers' OOC resume. Wisconsin now has wins over two of the best teams in the ACC (Duke and Maryland) and one over a potential tournament team from the Pac-10 (Arizona) in the last two weeks. With apologies to Syracuse, that might be the best OOC resume in the country. Not bad for a team that most people (ourselves included) didn't have in their preseason brackets.

The Worst Loss
Clemson's loss to Illinois
The Tigers inexplicably blew a 23-point second-half lead at home to the Illini, whose furious comeback was the biggest in school history. The loss definitely takes a little luster off Clemson's big win over Butler last weekend, and makes Sunday's game against South Carolina that much bigger in terms of their OOC resume. On the other side, the win saved Illinois coach Bruce Weber from what would have been a pretty rough post-game news conference. The Illini couldn't afford a third straight defeat, after suffering two bad losses last week to Utah (a game they led by 16 at the half) and Bradley.

What We Learned About The ACC
1. North Carolina is good (and can play a little defense)
Big Ten fans would argue that the Tar Heels should have won at home against Michigan State, but anyone who watched the game had to walk away impressed with the young talent and overall depth that Roy Williams has assembled in Chapel Hill. Ed Davis and Larry Drew II each had career highs with 22 and 18 points, respectively, and the Tar Heels held Michigan State to 2-for-20 shooting from three. Both Drew and Marcus Ginyard were great with the ball, combining for 13 assists and answering the lingering "Do the Heels have any good point guards?" question with a convincing "yes."

2. Miami may actually be legit
Despite winning the Charleston Classic, Miami still hasn't been getting a lot of national love because their path to the title went through Tulane, UNC-Wilmington, and South Carolina. The 'Canes win over Minnesota Wednesday night, though, might go a long way in changing that perception. They are now the only unbeaten ACC team, and if they can win at BC on Sunday (conference play already?) there is a very, very good chance that they go 15-0 to start the season. Their NCAA tourney hopes will still depend on whether then can finish better than .500 in conference, but Miami fans couldn't have hoped for a better start.

3. The ACC is still a really good league
All the talk over the next couple of days will be about the "arrival" of the Big Ten, but the ACC is still a top-three league that is going to get a boatload of bids in March. There are 10 ACC teams that have legitimate NCAA tourney hopes at this point in the season (sorry Virginia and N.C. State) and a lot of the ACC teams on the bubble to start the year (BC, Miami, Florida State) have all picked up big OOC wins in the early-going. Give the Big Ten credit - they won their first Challenge - but don't cry for the ACC. They were just a Clemson collapse away from a 6-5 victory.

What We Learned About The Big Ten
1. Michigan and Minnesota are overrated
Both teams have now lost three in a row following Michigan's bad home loss to BC and Minnesota's loss at Miami. Minnesota's loss capped a day to forget for the Gophers - freshman Royce White pled guilty Wednesday afternoon to charges of disorderly conduct and shoplifting. Against the Hurricanes, Minnesota blew a five point lead at the half and committed three bad turnovers late in the game to help Miami pull away. Michigan, meanwhile, had an awful first half and made just 9 of 34 threes for the game in a four-point loss.

2. Northwestern is alive and well
Like many people, we left Northwestern for dead once leading scorer Kevin Coble was lost for the season, but they picked up a nice road win over N.C. State Wednesday night to add to their respectable OOC resume. The N.C. State win, coupled with a victory over Notre Dame, should go a long way in helping the Wildcats' NCAA chances come March.

3. The Big Ten may be deeper 1 through 5 than the ACC
Yes, it's just three days of games, but it's impossible to not be impressed with the Big Ten, and specifically with what the second-tier Big Ten teams were able to do in the Challenge. Illinois, Wisconsin, and Ohio State all won their games, and Northwestern and Penn State picked up quality road wins as well. Michigan losing at home to BC hurt, but other than that, the Big Ten really had no bad losses in the Challenge.


49ers Fan said...

Wisconsin should be in the talk of the top teams in the conference not about whether they have a good bubble OOC resume. It was a very good night for the Mountain West over the Pac 10 with New Mexico beating Cal and UNLV winning at Arizona. Washington State gave Gonzaga a scare but the Zags prevailed. The PAC 10 needs Washington to step up and beat an improved Texas Tech team. That USC-Texas game has blowout written all over it. I would be surprised if the Big 12 doesn't win at least 8 games in that challenge.

Anonymous said...

can anyone figure out Utah? They beat a good Illinois team and come back and lose to Weber State? What is going on? Tulsa really took it to OK State last night and Utah State got a nice win over BYU.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Portlands stay in the top 25 was very brief as inner city rival State knocks them off. Do you guys think Portland and Gonzaga have done enough in non conference?

Anonymous said...

Wow! Portland had a very short stay in the top 25 with loss to inner city rival state. How do you see their at large chances? The UCLA win means nothing since nearly everyone has beaten the Bruins this year.

Tammy said...

Great job on the blog Chris. Have always enjoyed your work. Duke Vitale has be upset with his Devils losing last night. I have been very impressed with the Badgers so far. Its amazing how ESPN keeps underestimating Bo Ryan. He has always been a great coach down to his division 3 days. Wisconsin will be in very good hands as long as he is in charge. Do you guys think Wisconsin can compete with Purdue for the Big 10 crown? Thank you and keep up the great work Chris!

Bracketology 101 said...

Quick hits...

Can it get any worse for the Pac-10 right now? The MWC best two of its best teams last night, and they're about to get demolished in the Big XII/Pac-10 Harwood Series. The Big XII should easily win eight or more of the 12 games, further ruining the Pac-10's weak OOC profile.

49ers Fan is right about the MWC; it was a great night for them. UNLV looks like it is in the Top 25 to stay and New Mexico, who most people had behind BYU and SDSU in terms of NCAA hopes before the season started, looks like a tourney contender too. There were points last year when four and even five teams in the MWC looked bid-worthy, and this year it's looking like three bids in March is a real possibility.

Portland deserves a lot of credit for its wins over UCLA and Minnesota, but only time will tell how much those wins mean. UCLA looks lost right now, and Minnesota is mired in a three-game losing streak. Portland's at-large chances will hinge on how they do in their two remaining big OOC games (at Washington on Dec. 19 and at Nevada on Dec. 28) and how they do in their two meetings with Gonzaga (who should have no problem getting an at-large/automatic with their schedule, OOC wins, and overall talent). If Portland splits with Gonzaga and finishes no worse than second in conference, they'll be right in the mix for an at-large.

Wisconsin has to be considered a Big Ten contender, along with MSU and Purdue, based on their play thus far. Not only is Bo Ryan one of the most underrated coaches in the country, last night proved that the Kohl Center is one of the most toughest home courts in the country.

Paymon said...

Great work again, Chris.

I must disagree on Wisconsin. They have been impressive to this point and their superior ball security abilities and defense keep them in a lot of games. In the end, they lack the playmakers to contend with the big dogs in Big Ten, and will slip up a few times against teams bearing similar talent levels.

They should get some type of award for beating Duke though - perhaps a Congressional Medal of Honor.

ACC hoops said...

Duke is going to have to play a lot tougher defense if they want to win the national championship. They seemed more intent on flopping to the floor rather than playing strong position defense. Does Mike Krzyzewski teach them to flop rather than stay on their feet and contest or block the shots? It looked like Duke players were trying to get bailed out by the referees instead of playing strong defense.

Anonymous said...

Wake Forest could use a big win over Gonzaga to make up for that loss to William & Mary. But I think the Zags will win a close game at home.

Northern Iowa picked up a nice road win at Iowa State to go with their win over BC. With Bradley beating Illinois and Wichita State beating Iowa the Missouri Valley has had some success against the BCS schools.

Anonymous said...

Craig/Chris, I have to respectfully disagree with you about Portland. The win over UCLA is not impressive cause the Bruins are a bad team this year. Minnesota has not been much better so far. Portland needs to get some quality wins in order to be worthy of an at large bid.

Bracketology 101 said...

Just to clarify/update our comments on Portland - their OOC wins are nice, but after getting destroyed by Idaho yesterday, they have as many bad OOC losses (2) as they do good OOC wins. The WCC is going to be a deep league this season, and if Portland wants to be in line for an at-large, they'll need to do well in their remaining OOC games, beat Gonzaga at least once in conference, and finish no worse than second (and not a distant second) behind the Zags.

Anonymous said...

Portland only has 1 good OOC win over Minnesota. Also watch out for St. Marys. They got a good road win at Utah State.

SRIV 94 said...

Illinois has gotten back on track with nice wins over Clemson and Vanderbilt. The Big Ten continues to shine as one of its weaker teams (Indiana) knocks off Pittsburgh on a neutral court. Could you guys see the Big Ten getting 9 NCAA bids?

49ers fan said...

Utah loves playing the Big 10 teams. The Utes dominated Michigan in every facet the other night. I was surprised at the east the Utes scored baskets. Michigan needs to tighten up its defense.

Anonymous said...

anyone who thinks UCLA is a quality win hasn't seen the Bruins play this year. Portland has more bad losses than good wins.

Bracketology 101 said...

Who's UCLA?

Bryan said...

B101, I would really like your take on something. FSU has had a decent start to the season, but lost their only 2 chances for good marquee OOC wins (Florida/Ohio State). It looks like their best win OOC will end up being Marquette or Alabama, who probably aren't going to be top-50 RPI teams. If they win the remainder of their OOC games, they will end up 12-2, but having some of those wins against Ga. State, Alabama A&M, etc.. aren't exactly going to look great for the NCAA committee at the end of the year. It's starting to remind me of a few years ago when FSU was 9-7 in ACC play, but had such a terrible OOC schedule that they got left out. I think they're going to need at least 10 ACC wins this year, especially since the ACC looks to be a bit down this year (compared to the last few years). Do you guys agree with this at this point of the season, or do you think it's still way to early to tell? Also, many FSU fans are concerned about FSU's performance (or lack therof) on the offensive side of the ball. The execution has been terrible, and they're averaging close to 20 turnovers a game. This has been a trend of FSU basketball for many years now, and, while I think Leonard Hamilton is a decent overall coach and above average recruiter, I am less than enthused with the half court offense, and I am very concerned with the sloppy play with all the talent he has to work with. I do not know if this has been a trademark of Hamilton's over his career with the other teams he has coached, but I feel we should be getting more production and much better rebounding, especially with the height advantage we have over most other teams. Thank you for your opinions!

Anonymous said...

Why isn't Purdue or Texas getting more attention. It seems like the media is too busy talking about Kentuckys famous coach to give credit to other good teams. St Marys is quietly having a very good season. The Gaels could challenge Gonzaga for the WCC title. What is your opinion of St. Marys?

49ers fan said...

B101 guys,
The Mountain West is clearly better than the PAC 10 this year. San Diego State really took it to Arizona the other night. New Mexico has nice wins over Texas A&M and Cal. UNLV's win over Louisville is looking less impressive now since Louisville is losing to everyone these days.

How many teams can the Mountain West get. 5 possibly?

Bracketology 101 said...

Quick hits:

Bryan, did you cut and paste that comment from last year, or the year before? Unfortunately for Noles fans, their offensive ineptitude has been an issue for years. They are perennially the tallest team in the country, which usually helps them upset an ACC powerhouse or two each year, but on the offensive end, they continue to play a first-to-50 style of offense. There is no one else to pin this problem on besides Leonard Hamilton. His defense-first style is effective, but in the high-octane, run-and-gun ACC, you have to be able to score. You can't have just one scorer (a la Toney Douglas the last couple years) and a bunch of 6-9 guys who can't shoot. It doesn't work, especially when you turn the ball over as much as FSU has this year, and in the end, it makes you a bubble team and not an every-year lock for a bid.

This year, as you mentioned, the Noles are in trouble OOC-wise. They likely won't have an OOC Top 50 win (Marquette might sneak in the Top 50, but probably not), and the ACC is down, so 9-7 (with a bad OOC resume) might not get it done. The middle of the pack in the ACC has has some bad losses so far OOC, which doesn't bode well for the overall depth of the league.

Our love for St. Mary's last year was well documented (their inclusion cost us a perfect bracket), and we like them a lot this year too. There's a very, very good chance the WCC team is going to be a two-bid league this year, and either St. Mary's or Portland is going to snag that second bid.

The Mountain West is light years ahead of the Pac-10 this year, and they might end up being the biggest beneficiaries of the Pac-10, bid-wise. New Mexico, UNLV, and BYU look like tourney teams right now, and SDSU looks like it will be able to hand around the bubble all season. Five bids won't happen, but four is possible, and three (right now at least) is a very, very safe bet.

Greg said...

The selection committe better not slight the Mountain West in favor of the Big Ten! A mediocre Utah team was able to beat both Illinois and Michigan. The Mountain West should get some respect in March if the Big Ten does.

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