College Basketball Nation: ACC
The 15th annual Big Ten-ACC Challenge ended with no resolution to conference supremacy. For the second straight season the clash ended in a 6-6 tie, leaving the ACC with a 10-3-2 advantage.
We know which teams really won the night though: North Carolina, for sure, with its upset over No. 1 Michigan State. No. 8 Wisconsin, which like the Tar Heels won on the road, beating Virginia. And No. 5 Ohio State, which is on a steady ascent up the polls.
On the surface the Buckeyes' win doesn't look that big, as they had unranked Maryland at home. But the way they controlled the game from start to finish and gave the Terrapins a harsh introduction to the league they'll join next year.
Defensively, Ohio State dissected everything the Terps wanted to do. Maryland shot just 39 percent from the field and gave up 25 points off 14 turnovers. That included the final sequence of the first half, when Aaron Craft dove to the floor for a steal and passed ahead to Sam Thompson for a buzzer-beating basket.
Columbus discovered the alley-oop Wednesday night as Thompson slammed down lobs on four different occasions.
And those shooting woes that threatened to drag down OSU seem to be a thing of the past too. The Buckeyes shot 52 percent from the field, powered by LaQuinton Ross' 7-of-13 performance. Ross finished with a game-high 20 points.
Ohio State honored former coach Gary Williams prior to the game. Williams coached the Buckeyes from 1986-89 before leaving Columbus for College Park, where he would win the 2002 national title at Maryland. Williams then had to sit through the Terps being handled by the Buckeyes.
Chris Collins also returned to familiar territory, as the Northwestern coach returned to ACC country for the first time since taking the Wildcats job in the offseason. Collins, who played for Duke and also spent 13 years as an assistant coach under Mike Krzyzewski, knows Northwestern's opponent Wednesday, NC State, well. But his intimate knowledge didn’t help the Wildcats muster a win.
Collins’ welcome-back package included a technical foul and 22 points from T.J. Warren, as the Wolfpack cruised to a 69-48 win.
Purdue matched NC State for the biggest margin of victory in the challenge with its 88-67 victory over Boston College. The Boilermakers, led by a season-high 18 points from Terone Johnson, have quietly won five straight in the challenge.
Nebraska salvaged the night for the Big Ten by beating Miami 60-49 in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers held the Canes to a frigid 24 percent shooting performance in the first half en route to a season-low 13 points at the break.
Michigan State didn’t hit new lows against the Tar Heels, it simply didn’t hit back at all.
Most expected Northwestern, Boston College and Miami to have a hard time winning on the road. No one expected the Spartans to lack the fight generally accepted as the norm from Tom Izzo’s team. Even though they bounced back from a 12-point deficit in the first half to tie the game at intermission, they never seemed to bring the fight to the Tar Heels.
MSU’s punchless night could be summed up in one second-half exchange. Branden Dawson seemingly had a clear path to the rim and was poised to give Sparty its first lead of the game, breaking a 38-38 tie. But J.P. Tokoto rotated in time to block the shot and start a fast break that ended with Marcus Paige completing a three-point play.
Carolina never trailed afterward and Michigan State literally hobbled through the rest of the game.
Senior forward Adreian Payne kept cramping up, at one point during the middle of a play, he literally stood on one leg while grabbing his other foot behind him to stretch. Gary Harris, who sat out Michigan State's win over Mount St. Mary’s with an ankle injury, seemed to lack some of his explosiveness. Keith Appling suffered an apparent hip injury late in the first half and shot 5-of-15 from the field.
Virginia joined Michigan State as a big loser from Wednesday night. The Cavs have made quite the acquaintance with the NCAA bubble and missed possibly their last chance for a statement win before conference play begins.
Both of the Cavaliers' losses have come at home to ranked teams, and the common thread is that they haven’t mustered much offense either time.
UVA, which lost to VCU 59-56 on a last-second shot, scored its lowest point total in 20 years against Wisconsin. The Cavs managed only 18 points in the second half, and their total of 38 was the lowest output since losing to UConn 77-36 in 1993.
So while the challenge ended in a tie, the winners and losers Wednesday were clearly defined.
OK, so maybe that says a lot about my relationship with the Internet. (What?! It's like a preemptive double-check! Don't judge me.) But it also says something about Coach K's name -- that something being that the nickname "Coach K" exists for very good reason.
For further evidence, I present this rather hilarious ESPN footage, in which our TV folks invited a host of ACC players to an impromptu spelling bee. Could they get the iconic coach's name right? No. No, they could not.
Joe Harris, you lose points for stopping at K. Nick Faust, you gain 4,000 points for an apparently good-faith attempt that brought you to K-R-E-Y-S-C-H-E-W-I-Z-Z-L-E, which looks like a mix of "Kreayshawn" and how Snoop Dogg Lion would spell it.
In any case, Coach K's lesson is helpful. The tricky part is the Z-Y-Z. Once you get that down, well, he's right: You should be able to do it. After 964 wins, the man deserves that much.
North Carolina forward Brice Johnson attributed some of the Tar Heels' lack of energy in Sunday’s loss at UAB to the fact that they “didn’t get past” their win over Louisville. That actually might bode well for the Tar Heels Wednesday night heading into the Breslin Center to face No. 1 Michigan State.
If nothing else, coach Roy Williams has had the Heels’ full attention heading into this game. Williams lived up to his vow to be tougher on his team, as Johnson described their practices after the loss as more competitive -- with a lot more running. But along the way of breaking them down, Williams has also tried to build them up.
Williams mentioned coaches who have doubted their team’s ability to win on the road. He’s not one of them.
“I never put much stock in where the game is played, and I think over the long term, 25-plus years, I think that has helped our club,” Williams said.
“I thought to myself I would not want my head coach feeling that way if I am a player," he added. "You’ve got to get your team believing, so hopefully that’s what we get to.”
Believing that they can win and actually pulling it off are two different tasks. Michigan State leading scorer Gary Harris, who averages 17.7 points per game, has said he will play despite a sore ankle that kept him out of the Spartans' last win over Mount St. Mary’s.
The Spartans, traditionally a strong rebounding team, have a plus-five rebound advantage this season. The Heels were just outrebounded 52-37 by UAB.
It’s been tough to believe in these Tar Heels simply because the question most are asking entering this game is which team will show up?
Will it be the Carolina squad that ran away from Oakland and Louisville in wins or the team that looked lethargic in losses to Belmont and UAB. To hear Johnson tell it, the Heels have literally played to the level of their competition.
“Everybody was a lot more energetic (against Louisville), talking a lot more on the defensive end, we were rebounding a lot better,” Johnson said. “We didn’t seem like we had any energy out there (against UAB.)”
Like the Louisville matchup, it will actually help Carolina that the Spartans play at a faster pace. UNC's troubles offensively have come in the halfcourt. If MSU allows the Heels to get in transition, UNC has proved not only that it can play that way, but it can win that way, too.
The Big Ten should thank Iowa. Minnesota, too. And home court advantage. Actually, play it safe, Big Ten: Point your gratitude at all of the above.
On the first night of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge -- the 15th meeting between these two conferences, and the first in the ACC's new 15-team configuration -- the best the B1G could do was hold serve.
Really, even the expected wins were hard-fought. Fran McCaffery's 23rd-ranked Hawkeyes were splendid on the break in their 98-93 Carver-Hawkeye Arena win over new ACC member Notre Dame. Five players scored in double figures, and forward Aaron White led the way with 20 points and seven rebounds, as Iowa outpaced Notre Dame to the tune of 1.40 points per possession. The win was not a surprise, but the conditions of it were: Iowa, a top-20 defense a season ago and one of the best per-possession units in the country to date, yielded nearly 1.3 points per trip to the Irish, including a 29-point, nine-rebound game from forward Garrick Sherman.
Not that the Big Ten was looking for style points by then. Minnesota, also playing at home, managed to hold off a Florida State team that dropped VCU and took Michigan to overtime in Puerto Rico (and lost by one point to Florida this week), a solid result for a team disappointed by a just-OK showing in Maui last week. Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins combined for 37 points, six assists and eight rebounds. They, more than anyone else, were the key difference, the catalysts that allowed the Gophers to a) score well above a point per trip and b) close the game out in the final minutes.
So, yeah. Solid win for Minnesota. Good stuff. Positive vibes. The rest was all ACC.
There were two types of Atlantic Coast Conference wins Tuesday night. The first kind came in Duke's workmanlike win over Michigan at Cameron Indoor Stadium, or in Pittsburgh's almost indifferent victory over Penn State. These were not spectacular victories; they came with plenty of nits to be picked. But they were wins all the same.
The second type was more devastating, if for different reasons. Syracuse essentially manhandled Indiana in the Carrier Dome Tuesday, holding the Hoosiers to just 23 second-half points in a 69-52 win. IU kept the game close for the first 20, and even led, 27-26, with 3:30 left in the first half. But the lead was short-lived, and once C.J. Fair and company got into a rhythm in the second half, Indiana's poor perimeter shooting -- by far the biggest difference between this young team and the one that earned a No. 1 seed before falling to Syracuse in the Sweet 16 last season -- left IU coach Tom Crean searching for answers on both ends of the floor. (He even tried a 1-3-1 zone for a while. It didn't help.)
It is kind of silly to get too worked up over the actual tally of this competition. (Big Ten fans would argue this is especially true now that the ACC can leave three of its weaker programs -- Wake Forest, Clemson and Virginia Tech -- on the sidelines.) The real intrigue here is, or at least should be, focused on the teams themselves, on all of the little details therein.
But there's no way of getting around: The Big Ten-ACC Challenge is a macro competition, too. Right now, after one night, the Big Ten trails 4-2, and its Wednesday schedule offers little in the way of obvious advantages. No. 1 Michigan State gets North Carolina at home, sure, and Ohio State's insanely tough defense should make quick work of Maryland in Value City Arena. But other than that? Wisconsin is hardly a guarantee to knock off stylistic comrades Virginia in Charlottesville. Northwestern won't be a favorite at NC State. Purdue-Boston College and Miami-Nebraska are, well, your guess is as good as mine. Which means for the first time in three years, the ACC should -- repeat: should -- take back the Challenge it so ruthlessly dominated for the competition's first decade.
At the very least, something funky has to happen. Iowa and Minnesota were the Big Ten's lone bright spots Tuesday night, and the road back on Wednesday looks difficult indeed.
DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke’s defensive principles and concepts finally morphed from the abstract to the tangible against Michigan ON Tuesday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
It might not be the watershed game that changes the entire season, but the No. 10 Blue Devils saw what it was like to win a game by stopping a team rather than simply outscoring them. Their 79-69 win over the No. 22 Wolverines in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge had everything Duke teams generally take for granted, minus its trademark slapping of the floor.
“For a young team I think you have to see it first,” forward Rodney Hood said. “Coach is saying you’ve got to do this or you’ve got to do that, you don’t see it. This is a big confidence boost for our defense knowing that we can shut out a great team. Well not shut out, but we can play really good defense on a great team.”
Michigan extended the game late by fouling and making baskets, scoring 19 points in the final two minutes. The Wolverines shot 56 percent in the second half, which would fool anyone who didn’t watch the game into thinking they were effective.
“Even without stats, we’re playing better defensively,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We played an outstanding defensive game tonight -- not a good one -- an outstanding defensive game tonight.”
Stauskas might have still been a bit hobbled after returning from an ankle injury that kept him out of Friday’s win over Coppin State. But Duke’s Tyler Thornton and Matt Jones never lost him in transition or left him to help out in the post.
“Me and Ty made an effort not to let him catch the ball,” Jones said. I’m going out on a limb and saying it would have been hard for anybody to score the way we were focused tonight.”
Jones played a season-high 18 minutes, presumably taking minutes that Rasheed Sulaimon would have had. Sulaimon did not play, leaving Krzyzewski to say after the game that he “needed to play better than guys who played tonight.”
Duke’s glaring weakness on paper -- its interior defense -- had arguably its best effort of the season. The Blue Devils outrebounded Michigan 32-31. That might not seem like a major feat, but this is the same team that got handled on the boards by Kansas to the tune of 39-24.
“We knew we were going to be a little undersized, but we have guys who will battle,” said Duke forward Amile Jefferson, who tied Jabari Parker with a team-high six rebounds. “I think we’ve really gotten back to that each game. We’ve gotten better -- I think it showed, especially in the first half, our ability to rebound and defend.”
The Blue Devils entered the game allowing opponents to shoot 45 percent from the floor. They haven’t allowed that high of a percentage since giving up 46.7 percent in 1991-92. And like that national championship team, this team has little problem scoring. It's currently averaging 86.1 points per game, which nearly mirrors the 88.0-point average from ’92.
Hood said becoming a championship caliber team will likely be defined by how well -- or ineffective -- it is at stopping teams.
“We can score the ball, that’s not an issue,” Hood said. “We have to have that defensive mindset, and that’s what’s going to get it for us this year.”
Losses to Kansas and Arizona -- and even watching Vermont shoot 64 percent in a narrow Duke win -- proved the Blue Devils’ mortality. But the way they beat Michigan boosted confidence that they can become a better defensive team.
“We’re not a great basketball team,” Krzyzewski said. “We have great kids and they’re trying hard. We’ve got a really tough schedule; we’re just trying to get better.”
They took a major step toward that Tuesday. The Wolverines averaged better than nine 3-pointers a game, but Duke held them to a season-low three.
“We took them out of their offense, we took away their best player and we took away their 3-point shots for the most part,” Hood said. “We talked, we gang rebounded, we scrapped for loose balls. That’s what we have to do to be a great team.”
- ESPN Insider John Gasaway checks in with his semi-annual preview/historical review of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge — or, as he rather awesomely calls it, the "Iowa Caucus" of hoops: "There have been 14 Challenges, and in just two of those did the two leagues face each other with an equal number of teams. As of this season, of course, we have again returned to an unbalanced collision, with the 15-team ACC facing a 12-team Big Ten. Confronted with this round hole, the square-peg ACC has decided to let Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest sit this one out. Speaking categorically, the ability to leave three of your weakest teams at home is quite naturally an advantage, one that will surface for the ACC sooner rather than later."
- Can No. 22 Michigan stop No. 10 Duke's offense? Is Duke's defense getting better — good enough to stop Wolverines' forward Mitch McGary? Will this be the most entertaining game of the Challenge? I'll answer yes to the last question. UMHoops' Dylan Burkhardt wonders aloud about the others: "Duke wants to play small and fast and is very comfortable in a shoot out. For Michigan to win this game, it needs win the battle in the paint: dominate the defensive glass, attack the offensive glass and defend the rim. Mitch McGary needs to dominate the paint for Michigan to win this game. He’s the one player on the the Wolverine roster that Duke doesn’t have an answer for. High ball screens, offensive rebounds, post-ups, McGary needs to be involved early and often."
- Indiana coach Tom Crean told the media his team "can't think rematch," but must "focus on the things we learned from the game," Inside the Hall writes. Call me crazy … but I'm betting Indiana's players are thinking rematch.
- You may not know it, but Fran McCaffery has a history with Notre Dame, his No. 23-ranked Hawkeyes' Big Ten-ACC opponent Tuesday night. Unfortunately, it's a totally positive history. Angry Fran is far more entertaining than Wistful Fran.
- With Tim Frazier back and playing well, Penn State's status as a Big Ten pushover is less valid this year than most. And yet, its matchup against Pittsburgh (on ESPNU, no less) feels like a function as much of the irresistibility of regional rivalry as a large lack of respect for the Panthers. Note to the world: The 7-0 Panthers rank No. 3 in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted efficiency rankings at present. Their schedule has been bad, yes, but they have not. More on this to come. In the meantime Cardiac Hill has as good a preview (and history) of the Pitt-Penn State "rivalry" as you'll find.