Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Writer predictions: ACC/Big Ten Challenge
By ESPN.com staff
The ACC/Big Ten Challenge will be the dominant storyline in college basketball over the next two nights, so might as well put our writers on the spot with predictions, right?
Will there be much disagreement? Any upset picks? Let's take a look ...
MINNESOTA AT FLORIDA STATE (7:15 ET, ESPN2)
Eamonn Brennan: Minnesota -- Leonard Hamilton's team always defends like crazy, but the Gophers might just be physical enough in their own right to get out of there with a win.
Andy Katz: Florida State -- The Seminoles seem to have righted themselves after the surprising opening loss to South Alabama and the Gophers will be playing their fourth straight tough game.
Jason King: Florida State -- The Gophers, who squeaked by Stanford in the Bahamas on Saturday, could be road weary.
Myron Medcalf: Florida State -- The Seminoles will grind out a win against a Minnesota team with a history of fizzling on the road in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchups because they'll pressure the Gophers' backcourt and disrupt Tubby Smith's offensive flow.
Dana O'Neil: Minnesota -- Both teams can score, but presumably both won't hit everything, which is why I like Minnesota over Florida State. The Gophers are a better rebounding team.
Robbi Pickeral: Florida State -- It’s going to be fun to watch the backcourt duel, but it’s tough to pick against FSU sharpshooting senior Michael Snaer.
IOWA AT VIRGINIA TECH (7:15 ET, ESPNU)
Brennan: Iowa -- Tech has yet to play anything but cupcake opponents, so it's not unreasonable to expect Iowa to get a win in Blacksburg.
Katz: Iowa -- The Hokies have the better player at the point in Erick Green, but the Hawkeyes have the deeper team.
King: Iowa -- Virginia Tech is undefeated but hasn't been tested ... yet.
Medcalf: Iowa -- Erick Green will be tough to contain, but the Hawkeyes will get the ball inside to Aaron White, Melsahn Basabe and Adam Woodbury on their way to a win.
O'Neil: Iowa -- Iowa has been slightly better tested than the Hokies this early season and that's why I think the Hawkeyes are a little more of a sure thing to beat Virginia Tech.
Pickeral: Virginia Tech -- The undefeated Hokies are off to the team’s best start since 2004; look for Erick Green (24.4 ppg) and Jarell Eddie (18.8) to keep that going.
NC STATE AT MICHIGAN (7:30 ET, ESPN)
Brennan: Michigan -- Only one team has proven the "overrated" haters wrong thus far -- that team is Michigan.
Katz: Michigan -- The Wolverines have a deeper roster and one that already has two quality wins, while the Wolfpack are still searching for one.
King: Michigan -- The Wolverines are a lot better than UNC-Asheville.
Medcalf: NC State -- Michigan is versatile, but North Carolina State is just too hungry to lose a battle that will help it re-enter the national conversation.
O'Neil: Michigan -- Michigan rides the hot hand of Tim Hardaway Jr. to beat NC State in a game that features two of the better backcourts in the country.
Pickeral: Michigan –- Coach Mark Gottfried says his Wolfpack have lost their groove. It’s hard to see Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., or Glenn Robinson III helping NCSU find it, especially in Ann Arbor.
MARYLAND AT NORTHWESTERN (9:15 ET, ESPN2)
Brennan: Maryland -- Maryland's athleticism, particularly that of Dez Wells and 7-foot center Alex Len, should be enough to overpower Bill Carmody's team.
Katz: Northwestern -- The Wildcats proved their grittiness with an overtime win against Illinois State in South Padre Island, while the Terps still need to get that quality win.
King: Maryland -- Alex Len is the best player in America that no one is talking about.
Medcalf: Maryland -- The Wildcats will lose because they won't have an answer for Alex Len.
O'Neil: Northwestern -- Northwestern's disciplined offense is a tall order for a young team, especially one that struggled so much on the road. The Wildcats top Maryland in a future Big Ten game.
Pickeral: Maryland -- Center Alex Len has been impressive, and so has the Terps' rebounding (plus-15.2 per game).
NEBRASKA AT WAKE FOREST (9:15 ET, ESPNU)
Brennan: Wake Forest -- In reality, this is a rather ugly toss-up, but the home edge goes to Wake.
Katz: Wake Forest -- The Huskers are rebuilding while the Demon Deacons should be further along in a similar project and are playing at home.
King: Wake Forest -- The Demon Deacons win, but only because they're at home.
Medcalf: Wake Forest -- C.J. Harris and Travis McKie will light up the Cornhuskers.
O'Neil: Wake Forest -- Akin to picking the prettiest of Cinderella's stepsisters, the edge in this bottom-dweller goes to Wake Forest. At least the Demon Deacons can score on occasion.
Pickeral: Nebraska -- Neither of these teams will finish very high in its respective league, but the Huskers have already beaten Valparaiso.
NORTH CAROLINA AT INDIANA (9:30 ET, ESPN)
Brennan: Indiana -- In Bloomington, in front of a frenzied crowd there to witness Indiana's first big-time game of the season, it's almost impossible to fathom Carolina winning -- or keeping it close.
Katz: Not picking -- I'm on the broadcast so no prediction, but I'll be looking forward to seeing if the Tar Heels can handle a crazed atmosphere.
King: Indiana -- P.J. Hairston's absence will hurt the Tar Heels.
Medcalf: Indiana -- The Hoosiers are too deep for a North Carolina squad that will be without P.J. Hairston.
O'Neil: Indiana -- Both teams like to score; IU just happens to be much better at it and pretty much everything else and will top the Tar Heels in this battle of blue bloods.
Pickeral: Indiana -- The Tar Heels are going to have an awful hard time defending a team that boasts five scorers averaging double figures.
VIRGINIA AT WISCONSIN (7 ET, ESPN2)
Brennan: Wisconsin -- Both teams specialize in pack-line defensive principles, neither team prefers to speed things up, but Wisconsin has the talent and the home-court advantage.
Katz: Wisconsin -- The Badgers and Cavaliers are thin at the point but Wisconsin has more offensive options and a deeper bench as well as a tough home court.
King: Wisconsin -- Even the great Mike Scott wouldn't make a difference for Virginia in the Kohl Center.
Medcalf: Wisconsin -- The matchup between two of the slowest squads in the country will be decided by Jared Berggren's dominance inside.
O'Neil: Wisconsin -- First team to 50? In that case, it's Wisconsin. The Badgers simply have more skill than the Cavaliers.
Pickeral: Wisconsin -- The Cavs have been missing guard Jontel Evans, but even with him, it’s hard to see them generating enough offense on the road in this one.
PURDUE AT CLEMSON (7:15 ET, ESPNU)
Brennan: Clemson -- The young Boilermakers aren't as bad as their early record implies, but they'll still have to take a few lumps on the road.
Katz: Clemson -- The Boilermakers don't have enough variety offensively yet, while Clemson's defense and Milton Jennings' versatility should prevail.
King: Clemson -- The Tigers are catching Purdue in a rebuilding year.
Medcalf: Clemson -- The Boilermakers can't handle Milton Jennings and Devin Booker, who will give Clemson second chances with their rebounding.
O'Neil: Clemson -- The Boilermakers have no answer for Devin Booker and that will be the difference in the game as Clemson wins.
Pickeral: Clemson –- The Tigers rank fifth in the nation in scoring defense (allowing only 49.6 ppg).
MICHIGAN STATE AT MIAMI (7:30, ESPN2)
Brennan: Miami -- Based on Michigan State's performances thus far, this is almost guaranteed to be a super-tight coin-toss at the end.
Katz: Michigan State -- Miami has had injuries and so have the Spartans, but Michigan State is better prepared to win a big game at this point in the season.
King: Michigan State -- The Hurricanes have good players, but can they match MSU's toughness?
Medcalf: Miami -- Durand Scott will fuel the upset against a Michigan State squad that's been on the ropes multiple times this season.
O'Neil: Michigan State -- Sans Gary Harris, this is slightly tougher for the Spartans against a decent Miami backcourt, but Michigan State still has the horses to win.
Pickeral: Michigan State –- Miami’s Durand Scott has returned, but the Spartans tend to make it hard for any team to put the pieces together.
GEORGIA TECH AT ILLINOIS (9 ET, ESPN2)
Brennan: Illinois -- Like Purdue above, Georgia Tech is not nearly as bad as you might think -- Brian Gregory deserves major credit for an early-season burst -- but Illinois' romp through Maui was convincing. Plus: Orange Krush.
Katz: Illinois -- The Maui Invitational win was no fluke, and while the Yellow Jackets are shooting the 3-pointer better, it won't be enough to win in Champaign.
King: Illinois -- The Illini have been one of the nation's biggest surprises thus far.
Medcalf: Illinois -- The Illini, coming off a Maui Invitational tournament victory, have found more balance under John Groce and they'll use it to overcome one of the most efficient defenses in the country.
O'Neil: Illinois -- The Illini are in a good early-season groove with John Groce at the helm and Georgia Tech won't get them out of it.
Pickeral: Illinois -- The Illini will keep building off their Maui Invitational championship.
BOSTON COLLEGE AT PENN STATE (9:15 ET, ESPNU)
Brennan: Penn State -- Let's not sugarcoat this: Both teams are bad. Even without Tim Frazier, Penn State appears to be slightly less so.
Katz: Penn State -- The Nittany Lions lost Tim Frazier for the season but the Eagles have looked awful lately.
King: Boston College -- I'm not sure Penn State can beat anyone without Tim Frazier.
Medcalf: Penn State -- Jermaine Marshall will attack a vulnerable Boston College squad as he leads the Nittany Lions to a home win.
O'Neil: Penn State -- In a game where offense will be tough to find, the team with the best player on the court wins -- and that's D.J. Newbill, who will lead Penn State to the victory.
Pickeral: Penn State -- Even if PSU didn’t have home-court advantage, it gets the nod thanks to BC’s loss to Bryant University.
OHIO STATE AT DUKE (9:30 ET, ESPN)
Brennan: Ohio State -- Obviously, it is never easy to win in Cameron Indoor, and I'm as impressed as anyone with what Duke has done so far, but if Deshaun Thomas maintains his insane offensive pace, the Buckeyes will get their early-season close-up Wednesday night.
Katz: Duke -- The Blue Devils won Maui and then lost at Ohio State last season, but this year the location change from Columbus to Cameron after a tournament title (Atlantis) is the difference.
King: Duke -- After Wednesday, the Blue Devils will own wins over Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State. Not a bad November.
Medcalf: Duke -- The Blue Devils are at home, and they've already defeated better teams (Louisville, Kentucky), so they won't have any trouble with an Ohio State squad that's still searching for more balance.
O'Neil: Ohio State -- Quinn Cook has been sensational for the Blue Devils all season, but he hasn't met a defender like Aaron Craft. Craft helps the Buckeyes end Duke's hot start.
Pickeral: Duke –- First Kentucky, then Louisville. Why not pick off another top-five foe?