College Basketball Nation: ACC/Big Ten Challenge

In lieu of four or five small blog posts -- and before we move on to Night 2 of the marathon -- here are a few random thoughts left over from my delirious viewing of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Night 1:
  • I still think NC State is overrated, but at least it looks better: You could see it throughout the broadcast last night, from the mic'd up pregame speech to the late-game timeouts: Mark Gottfried was constantly reminding his team to "stay together," reassuring them that they were "still OK," and so on and so forth. Without fully enrolling in Basketball Body Language 201, this appears to be just what the doctor ordered. After a lifeless 20-point loss to Oklahoma State and a near-disaster 82-80 win against UNC-Asheville, NC State went to play a crazy-hot all-doubts-now-eschewed Michigan team and didn't ever really go away. They have a lot of things to fix, and they were never the sixth-best team in the country (ahh, preseason rankings, never change) but they looked much more forceful last night. Maybe a few games like these will be good medicine for the challenges ahead.
  • Minnesota might just be that good: Sure, sure, this Florida State defense is not your typical Florida State defense. After years of being the best defense in the country, the post-Bernard Scott Seminoles are merely OK on that end of the floor. Even so, Minnesota went from an impressive run in the Bahamas, to a stopover in Tallahassee, and emerged with a 7-1 record and a host of very tired-seeming tweets. Impressive stuff.
  • Iowa has to play some defense, but give Va. Tech credit, too: This is not a revelation. It's pretty obvious, actually. But it is true all the same: You simply can't give up 1.28 points per trip and expect to win, no matter how fast you play. Iowa allowed Virginia Tech to go buck-wild last night, and the Hawkeyes, who had a merely good offensive night themselves, couldn't keep up. But don't just blame the porous Hawks. Virginia Tech is actually playing some really good offense so far this season -- its raw PPP average is 116.8 -- and considering how bad we assumed the rebuilding, transfer-riddled Hokies were going to be, new coach James Johnson (now 6-0) deserves a huge share of credit.
  • Wake Forest is the basketball equivalent of my past two days: Here I was, somewhat expecting Wake Forest to be not-totally-terrible this season. How silly of me. Tim Miles is a good coach, and he has Nebraska doing some nice things, but I'm sorry -- you can't lose to Nebraska by 16 points at home. You just can't. Jeff Bzdelik's tenure has suffered some brutal moments (including arguably the worst season in Wake history), but it doesn't seem to be getting much better, at least not thus far this season. When you consider that Bzdelik's best record at Colorado was 15-16, and the man he replaced went to the NCAA tournament two years in a row before he was fired, AD Ron Wellman's decision (based on a personal relationship with Bzdelik) always looked questionable. The more this keeps up, the more it looks fireable.
  • And hey, how about those Terps? By far the most common question we got in the Challenge chat Tuesday night was some formulation of "Is Team X this good or Team Y that bad?" (In the case of Indiana-UNC, I'm going to go with "both.") This gets a teensy bit annoying, though never as annoying as being asked whether a certain team can go to a certain round of the NCAA tournament. (Easy answer: Maybe!) In any case, it felt worthy of the Maryland-Northwestern game, before which Northwestern appeared to be a sneaky favorite. The Wildcats had been playing quietly solid basketball, transfer forward Jared Swopshire had been a major addition, and maybe, just maybe, this team was better than everyone thought. Maryland put that notion to rest rather solidly in the second half, thanks to the dynamic play of Dez Wells and center Alex Len's tireless interior dominance. Northwestern was badly outrebounded in this game. It remains to be seen whether that is going to be (as it has in past seasons) a consistent ceiling to their success ... or whether Len, Wells, James Padgett and company are going to be too much for a lot of teams this season. Either way, really impressive win.

Saddle Up: ACC/Big Ten, part deux

November, 28, 2012
11/28/12
11:55
AM ET
Saddle Up is our semi-daily preview of the night's best basketball action. To see the ACC/Big Ten Challenge predictions from our six writers -- Who do they like tonight? How did they do in Day 1? -- click here. And visit last night's Home Court Live for a recap of Tuesday night's Challenge.

No. 13 Michigan State at Miami, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN: Usually, teams with obvious Final Four potential coast through most of the early portions of their season, saving their most cardiac-arrest-inducing performances for exempt tournaments and conference play. Home games against Boise State and Louisiana-Lafayette are supposed to be easy. They're tune-ups, cupcakes, guarantees. For this Michigan State team, which beat Boise 74-70 and barely scraped by Lafayette Sunday 63-60, nothing much has come easy yet this season.

That will be the case again Wednesday night. Sure, Miami lost to Florida Gulf Coast by 12, but, (a) that was on the road, and (b) Florida Gulf Coast is really not that bad. (For comparison's sake, FGCU is No. 137 in Pomeroy's efficiency rankings; UL-Lafayette is No. 228.) Miami has a bruising veteran frontcourt (Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson), which is exactly the kind of thing you need to play against Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne, and guard Durand Scott will present plenty of issues for the Spartans' guards on the perimeter. Chances this game is close are far greater than the chances Michigan State just rolls in Coral Gables and does whatever it wants.

Virginia at Wisconsin, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Do you like fast-paced basketball? Then this game will not be for you.

Keep in mind, that is not a criticism. Some like to have a go at Wisconsin for their low-low tempo, but I am not one of these people. Indeed, I have no problem watching one team take the air out of the ball, particularly if that team is as well-drilled, intelligent and efficient as Bo Ryan's teams typically are.

That said, there is simply no denying this game is going to be as slow as Division I college basketball gets. Last season, per KenPom, the Badgers finished No. 345 in pace. This season, Tony Bennett's Mike Scott-less Virginia team ranks No. 345. When forward Jared Berggren told me at Big Ten media day that Wisconsin could speed up if it wanted to, that must have been what he meant.

So what you'll get when you tune in to the Challenge's first game Wednesday night won't be fast-paced basketball. It will be slow, methodical and defensive, with both teams playing some form of the pack line principles Bennett's father, Dick, pioneered two decades ago at Wisconsin-Green Bay. The difference is that Wisconsin is a much more efficient offensive team than Virginia these days -- that was true when Mike Scott played in Charlottesville last season, and it remains true this season -- and the Cavaliers have to play in a building where Bo Ryan-coached teams almost never lose. It will be low scoring, it will be tight and boy, it will be slow -- but it is hard to picture Virginia coming out of Madison with a win.

Purdue at Clemson, 7:15 p.m. ET, ESPNU: In 2008, a young, freshman-oriented Matt Painter-coached team lost at Clemson in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. That team went on to win 25 games, and -- with freshmen Robbie Hummel, E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson -- form the foundation for a rebirth of success in West Lafayette.

That era is (finally) over now, and some have drawn comparisons between that class and this fall's Indiana-oriented recruiting reboot. Those comparisons may be valid, but the Boilermakers aren't there yet. Were Purdue granted a different matchup (cough, Wake Forest, cough, Boston College) or not forced to go play Clemson on the road, you might like its chances as a sleeper/upset pick. But if Purdue is not as bad as you think (and it isn't), Clemson -- led by seniors Devin Booker and Milton Jennings, and getting great stuff from freshman Adonis Filer -- embodies that quality much more fully.
(Editor's Note: Shortly after this article was posted, Clemson announced that Jennings -- Clemson's leading scorer and second-leading rebounder -- is suspended for tonight's game due to a violation of team rules)

Georgia Tech at No. 22 Illinois, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2: For whatever reason, last season Illinois just flat quit on Bruce Weber. Maybe that was Weber's fault. He just stopped connecting. Or maybe it was his players' fault. Maybe it's both. But after a 7-0 start, there is no denying the simple fact that this group of Illinois players -- guards Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson and Tracy Abrams, forwards Tyler Griffey and Myke Henry and Joseph Bertrand and Nnanna Egwu -- is not nearly as talented as last season's team but is already also playing about 5,000 times more coherent, cohesive basketball than that team ever did.

At Big Ten media day this season, Paul -- a notoriously inefficient, often wild scorer in his three years before this one -- told me about the kinds of things his new coach was teaching him: patience, selflessness, the importance of bringing teammates along for the ride. John Groce said the biggest side for Paul was "mental -- who did you help today?" That sort of total reset appears to have been exactly what Paul needed. He's taking fewer bad shots. Illinois looks better for it. And Georgia Tech, as well as Brian Gregory has been coaching them so far this season, appears to have much more than it bargained for awaiting it in Champaign, Ill., tonight.

Boston College at Penn State, 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPNU: One of the underrated glories of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge is that games like this -- which, let's be honest, most nonpartisan viewers would need some sort of compensation to consider watching -- can determine the whole thing. I think that's unlikely this season (the Big Ten should win its fourth straight Challenge, and easily) but do keep an eye on the final tally. You never know.

Meantime, Penn State is recovering from the loss of Tim Frazier, who might have been the single most important player to any one team in the country. Now transfer D.J. Newbill has to step up, or the Nittany Lions' season gets far uglier than anticipated.

No. 4 Ohio State at No. 2 Duke, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU: Our reporter in ACC country, Robbi Pickeral, has you covered with a full-featured preview of this game, so I won't spend much time on the narrative. Instead, let's focus on the key matchups: Aaron Craft versus Duke's guards, and Deshaun Thomas versus Duke's bigs.

Don't get me wrong: How Ohio State matches up with Mason Plumlee will be a major key, too. With the exception of 6-foot-11 forward Amir Williams, the Buckeyes don't have a great individual option for Plumlee.

But Duke's guards have thus far been just as great -- if not greater -- key to the Blue Devils' impressive early success. Craft happens to be the single-best perimeter defender in the country. But he can't guard Quinn Cook, Seth Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon all at the same time ... can he? How will Thad Matta employ him? Will he stop the point of attack? Take on whatever player has the hottest hand?

As for Thomas, well, check the technique. Through four games your boy is averaging 24.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, with shooting averages of 54.0/48.0/94.1. Lines don't get much better than that. Once regarded as a possession-hogging chucker, Thomas is now capable of a month that good (albeit against some mostly subpar competition), and that's Duke's single biggest concern is figuring him out on the defensive end. Ryan Kelly is probably the best matchup; despite his scrawny, slightly goofy look, Kelly is an excellent player and an underrated defender to boot. In any case, he's probably Duke's best chance, because Thomas is such a matchup nightmare -- too quick and perimeter-oriented for bigs like Plumlee, Josh Hairston or Amile Jefferson; too big for guards and small forwards -- that very few players (if any) can actually play him straight up.

You have to like Duke here. The Blue Devils are already battle-tested (no team has better wins thus far this season), they know their roles, they're smart and they finally get to play a big game at home. But Ohio State has Craft and Thomas and its always-excellent defense. If ever a team was going to win in Cameron, perhaps this is it.

Writer predictions: ACC/Big Ten Challenge

November, 27, 2012
11/27/12
12:35
PM ET
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 ...

TUESDAY

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.

WEDNESDAY

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?

 

Week in Review: The Big Ten prevails

December, 3, 2010
12/03/10
6:25
PM ET
As we get set for a hoops-filled weekend, here's a linky look back on the week that was at the College Basketball Nation blog:

Expert predictions: ACC/Big Ten Challenge

November, 29, 2010
11/29/10
7:24
PM ET
The ACC/Big Ten Challenge will be the dominant storyline in college basketball over the next few nights, so might as well put our writers and contributors on the spot with predictions, right?

For what it’s worth, the group consensus for each game adds up to a 6-5 Big Ten victory over the ACC. But it’s actually even closer than that. In the highly anticipated Iowa-Wake Forest matchup, our panel took the Hawkeyes by a 5-4 margin. If one of those five had picked the Deacons, we’d be projecting an ACC overall victory.

Sounds to us like an event worth tuning in to …

MONDAY

VIRGINIA AT MINNESOTA (ESPN2, 7 ET)

Jay Bilas: Minnesota -- Tubby Smith has depth and guard play, and Tony Bennett doesn't.
Eamonn Brennan: Minnesota – The Gophers are a complete and balanced team, even if Al Nolen and Rodney Williams miss the game due to injury; Tony Bennett's rebounding Virginia squad is, well, not.
Fran Fraschilla:
Minnesota -- The Gophers are one of the country's early-season surprises and they are at home in the friendly confines of Williams Arena. This will be ugly.
Doug Gottlieb:
Minnesota -- Despite not having Al Nolen, Minnesota is still loaded. Maverick Ahanmisi was a late signee who is a year older than most freshmen, and that maturity will come in handy.
Andy Katz:
Minnesota – The Gophers are depleted with injuries, but likely get Devoe Joseph back and are too strong, too tall and too deep for rebuilding Virginia.
Diamond Leung:
Minnesota -- Minnesota might be banged up, but Blake Hoffarber and Trevor Mbakwe should be able to dominate.
Joe Lunardi:
Minnesota -- The shorthanded Gophers are still too much for the Cavs at this point.
Dana O’Neil:
Minnesota -- Even without Al Nolen and Rodney Williams, the red-hot Gophers are too talented for the still struggling Cavaliers.
Jay Williams:
Minnesota -- Even though they won't have starters Al Nolen and Rodney Williams due to injuries, I expect Blake Hoffarber, Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson III to dominate.

TUESDAY

GEORGIA TECH AT NORTHWESTERN (ESPN2, 7 ET)

Bilas: Northwestern -- The Wildcats will spread the Jackets out and keep them on a string between open 3s and backdoor cuts.
Brennan: Northwestern -- Facing its first real "test" of the season, Northwestern's matchup zone and tricky Princeton offense will give Georgia Tech fits.
Fraschilla:
Northwestern -- Sadly, even a win over the Yellow Jackets won't mean much in March. Too much John Shurna in this one.
Gottlieb:
Northwestern -- Tech played well this weekend, but the travel and Juice Thompson will be too much.
Katz:
Northwestern -- If we’re going to take the Wildcats seriously, they have to win a game like this at home against the inferior Yellow Jackets.
Leung:
Northwestern -- The Wildcats should stay undefeated playing on their home court and with John Shurna playing well.
Lunardi: Northwestern -- A solid win over Creighton sets the Wildcats up nicely for another victory.
O’Neil: Northwestern -- John Shurna has been terrific all season for a Wildcat team dreaming of -- gasp! -- an NCAA bid.
Williams: Northwestern -- This is the year Northwestern makes the NCAA tournament because of Shurna and Thompson.

IOWA AT WAKE FOREST (ESPNU, 7 ET)

Bilas: Iowa -- Wake Forest will have a hard time beating anyone this season.
Brennan: Iowa -- Because as bad as Iowa is, Wake Forest is -- somehow -- worse.
Fraschilla: Wake Forest -- Someone has to win, right?
Gottlieb: Iowa -- Hawkeyes are coming off a win. Fran McCaffery will dial up something.
Katz: Wake Forest -- I can’t see the Demon Deacons losing four home games before Dec. 1.
Leung: Iowa -- Between the two, Iowa has shown a few more signs of life.
Lunardi: Wake Forest -- Neither team has played a true road game, so you have to go with Wake at home.
O’Neil: Wake Forest -- Because as bad as the Demon Deacons have looked early, the Hawkeyes have looked worse.
Williams: Iowa -- After watching Wake lose to Stetson, VCU and Winthrop, I give the edge to Iowa on the road.

OHIO STATE AT FLORIDA STATE (ESPN, 7:30 ET)

Bilas: Ohio State -- Florida State can really guard, but scoring efficiently is a problem the Seminoles have and the Buckeyes don't.
Brennan: Ohio State – FSU’s defense will keep this one close, but the interior offensive rebounding of Jared Sullinger and Dallas Lauderdale will be too much for the Noles to manage.
Fraschilla: Ohio State – The Leon County Civic Center is not the home court the Seminoles deserve.
Gottlieb: FSU's Chris Singleton has put up insane numbers with two triple-doubles, but OSU has the athletes to guard him and his compadres.
Katz: Ohio State -- The Buckeyes won at Florida and have a better inside game than Florida State, although FSU’s Chris Singleton will likely put up the best numbers.
Leung: Ohio State -- Despite the all-around talents of FSU's Chris Singleton, Ohio State has too many weapons, including Jared Sullinger in the middle.
Lunardi: Ohio State -- Buckeyes complete the Sunshine State sweep in Tallahassee.
O’Neil: Ohio State -- Tough follow for the Seminoles after an emotional, disappointing loss to the Gators. Plus, Jared Sullinger is the why to all questions about the Buckeyes.
Williams: Florida State -- Yes, I call the upset here. Xavier Gibson and Bernard James will give Mr. Sullinger a lot to deal with down low.

MICHIGAN AT CLEMSON (ESPN2, 9 ET)

Bilas: Clemson -- The Tigers are at home, and Michigan hasn't won away from home.
Brennan: Clemson -- Michigan might not be as bad as we thought, but it is not good enough to beat a capable Clemson team, whose only loss was a one-point neutral-court defeat to ODU.
Fraschilla: Clemson -- Early returns about new coach Brad Brownell are positive.
Gottlieb: Michigan -- Searching for an upset here, the 1-3-1 proves tough to tame. The Wolverines appear a bit better than expected, though they will suffer in conference.
Katz: Clemson -- The Tigers, regardless of coach, are too tough at home against similar-level teams.
Leung: Clemson -- Tigers coach Brad Brownell is fitting right in and has enough weapons to win this one.
Lunardi: Clemson -- The Wolverines are a long way from being able to win at Littlejohn.
O’Neil: Clemson -- The Wolverines have done little to prove they're over what ailed them last season.
Williams: Clemson -- After losses to both Syracuse and UTEP, I don't see the Wolverines bouncing back at Littlejohn Coliseum.

NORTH CAROLINA AT ILLINOIS (ESPN, 9:30 ET)

Bilas: Illinois -- North Carolina doesn't push the ball and get easy baskets, and Illinois is at home.
Brennan: Illinois -- The Illini have home-court advantage, but they also have the benefit of a veteran team that can match up with the athletic -- and as yet thoroughly disappointing -- Tar Heels.
Fraschilla: Illinois -- Are the Heels losing their mystique?
Gottlieb: Illinois -- Better guards, at home, and though Illinois does not have great strength inside, neither does UNC. Illini by more than 10.
Katz: Illinois -- The Tar Heels are still searching for a leader and the Illini need this game too much to prove their relevance.
Leung: Illinois -- It appears that catching the Tar Heels early is the way to go, and an Illini team with size can play with anyone.
Lunardi: Illinois -- What once looked like a toss-up should be a comfortable win for the Illini.
O’Neil: Illinois -- The Illini play with grit and determination, traits sorely lacking so far this season for the Tar Heels.
Williams: Illinois -- UNC does not have the poise or experience to win this one on the road.

WEDNESDAY

NC STATE AT WISCONSIN (ESPN2, 7:15 ET)

Bilas: Wisconsin -- The game is at the Kohl Center, isn't it? Next question.
Brennan: Wisconsin -- Besides the immense advantage provided by the Kohl Center, the Badgers are, for all their early-season warts, one of the better rebounding teams in the nation. The Wolfpack without senior forward Tracy Smith are one of the worst.
Fraschilla: Wisconsin -- Anywhere but the Kohl Center, I'd give the Wolfpack an even chance to win.
Gottlieb: Wisconsin -- NC State has better talent, but Wisconsin will use Jordan Taylor off ball screens and Jon Leuer is a great fit for what Wisconsin does and Bo Ryan is great at what he does. Frankly, the Wolfpack might become bored with the tedious pace of the Badgers.
Katz: Wisconsin -- The Wolfpack are without Tracy Smith and to beat the Badgers at the Kohl Center you have to be full strength.
Leung: Wisconsin -- Jon Leuer is just too much to handle, and the Badgers are playing at home.
Lunardi: Wisconsin -- The Badgers figure to be extra cranky after losing the Old Spice title game.
O’Neil: Wisconsin -- I’m guessing practice hasn't been fun for the Badgers since their uncharacteristic slide against Notre Dame. Someone will feel the brunt of that frustration.
Williams: Wisconsin -- The Badgers have compiled a 138-11 (.926) home record under coach Bo Ryan heading into the season. Enough said.

INDIANA AT BOSTON COLLEGE (ESPNU, 7:15 ET)

Bilas: Boston College – The Eagles are at home and Reggie Jackson can really score.
Brennan: Boston College -- Boston College has one awful loss (to Yale) and one solid win (over Texas A&M), so let’s give it a slight advantage over an Indiana team that has yet to leave Assembly Hall -- or play a non-cupcake opponent.
Fraschilla: Boston College -- Reggie Jackson hits it out of the park in the Eagles’ win.
Gottlieb: Boston College -- Reggie Jackson is the best player on the floor. The Eagles use the lessons learned in giving away leads in Orlando to help them beat IU.
Katz: Indiana -- The Eagles own more talent but lack focus in finishing games, something the Hoosiers seem to have now.
Leung: Boston College -- The easy part of Indiana's schedule is over.
Lunardi: Boston College -- BC is coming off a very good showing at the Old Spice and should win at home.
O’Neil: Indiana -- The recruiting good news for the Hoosiers spurs a much-needed good win on the court.
Williams: Boston College -- When Reggie Jackson is allowed to probe with the dribble and is on his game, BC is a tough team.

PURDUE AT VIRGINIA TECH (ESPN, 7:30 ET)

Bilas: Virginia Tech -- Purdue is not only missing Robbie Hummel, but really missing Chris Kramer.
Brennan: Purdue -- Both teams have played solid defense and both have had their struggles offensively, but JaJuan Johnson should provide too many matchup problems for a shallow Va. Tech front line.
Fraschilla: Virginia Tech -- Hokies are desperate for a quality nonconference win.
Gottlieb: Virginia Tech -- Virginia Tech struggles with pressure defense (see Purdue). Purdue struggles to score against legit defenses without Robbie Hummel. Hokies in a great game.
Katz: Virginia Tech -- The Boilermakers are still a formidable bunch, but winning in Blacksburg is hardly an easy task, especially when the Hokies are a top-three ACC team.
Leung: Virginia Tech -- The Boilers are showing they're not the same team without Robbie Hummel, and they'll have their hands full containing Malcolm Delaney.
Lunardi: Virginia Tech -- The Hokies want to stockpile every nonconference scalp they can get.
O’Neil: Virginia Tech -- Neither team has exactly been lighting it up offensively, but the Hokies have Malcolm Delaney, who can score, and the home court.
Williams: Virginia Tech -- Purdue simply doesn't have the same scoring punch like the Hokies' Malcolm Delaney, Dorenzo Hudson and Jeff Allen.

MARYLAND AT PENN STATE (ESPN2, 9:15 ET)

Bilas: Maryland -- Although a road game, the Terps have more talent.
Brennan: Maryland -- Maryland forward Jordan Williams is a budding star, and unless Talor Battle can sprout about 10 inches by Wednesday night, the Nittany Lions won’t be able to stop him.
Fraschilla: Maryland -- The Terps should grind out a road win in State College.
Gottlieb: Maryland -- The Terps are better inside with Jordan Williams and though Talor Battle can win a game on his own, Maryland's size and pressure in the backcourt should hurt his percentages.
Katz: Maryland -- Penn State is having a hard time being relevant while the Terps continue to play tougher, no matter the venue.
Leung: Maryland -- The Terrapins' only losses are single-digit ones to Pitt and Illinois, so Penn State should be no problem.
Lunardi: Maryland -- Penn State isn't the most athletic bunch and was already exposed by Ole Miss.
O’Neil: Maryland -- The Nittany Lions would need to borrow one of JoePa's linebackers to have a player to contend with Jordan Williams.
Williams: Maryland -- The Nittany Lions will have no answer inside for the Terps’ Jordan Williams.

MICHIGAN STATE AT DUKE (ESPN, 9:30 ET)

Bilas: Duke -- Michigan State is turning it over too much right now, and Duke's defensive pressure should capitalize.
Brennan: Duke -- After Duke’s dominant win over Kansas State and Michigan State’s sluggish start in Maui, the Blue Devils look miles ahead of the field. This early in the season, the Spartans won’t be able to close the gap in Cameron.
Fraschilla: Duke -- Tough place for ANYONE to win.
Gottlieb: Duke -- Derrick Nix is back and he should help with the depth of Michigan State inside, but MSU struggled with the quickness of Washington and UConn. Duke's pressure and athleticism are similar.
Katz: Duke -- The Spartans aren’t in March form yet, while the Blue Devils look like they’ve already made plans for Houston.
Leung: Duke -- In case you missed the CBE Classic, the Blue Devils are just better than everyone else right now.
Lunardi: Duke -- Won't make the same mistake of picking against Duke this week.
O’Neil: Michigan State -- I'll admit I'm not 100 percent in on this pick, especially with Duke playing at home. But after a few humbling visits to the other part of Tobacco Road in recent years, a disappointing loss to UConn and a tongue-lashing after a lackluster effort against Tennessee Tech, I think the Spartans are due for a show-me win.
Williams: Duke -- Duke is hands-down the best team in the country and the energy within Cameron will be too much for Michigan State to handle.


The ACC/Big Ten Challenge will be the dominant storyline in college basketball over the next few nights, so might as well put our writers and contributors on the spot with predictions, right?

For what it’s worth, the group consensus for each game adds up to a 6-5 Big Ten victory over the ACC. But it’s actually even closer than that. In the highly anticipated Iowa-Wake Forest matchup, our panel took the Hawkeyes by a 5-4 margin. If one of those five had picked the Deacons, we’d be projected an ACC overall victory.

Sounds to us like an event worth tuning into …

<strong>Monday</strong>

<strong>Virginia at Minnesota (ESPN2, 7 ET)</strong>
Jay Bilas: Minnesota -- Tubby has depth and guard play, and Tony Bennett doesn't.
Eamonn Brennan: Minnesota – The Gophers are a complete and balanced team, even if <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36271">Al Nolen</a> and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=45983">Rodney Williams</a> miss the game due to injury; Tony Bennett's rebounding Virginia squad is, well, not.
Fran Fraschilla: Minnesota -- The Gophers are one of the country's early-season surprises and they are at home in the friendly confines of Williams Arena. This will be ugly.
Doug Gottlieb: Minnesota -- Despite not having Al Nolen, Minnesota is still loaded. <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=51535">Maverick Ahanmisi</a> was a late signee who is a year older than most freshman, and that maturity will come in handy.
Andy Katz: Minnesota – The Gophers are depleted with injuries, but likely get <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=41567">Devoe Joseph</a> back and are too strong, too tall, too deep for rebuilding Virginia.
Diamond Leung: Minnesota -- Minnesota might be banged up, but <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36270">Blake Hoffarber</a> and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36628">Trevor Mbakwe</a> should be able to dominate.
Joe Lunardi: Minnesota -- The shorthanded Gophers are still too much for the Cavs at this point.
Dana O’Neil: Minnesota -- Even without Al Nolen and Rodney Williams, the red-hot Gophers are too talented for the still struggling Cavaliers.
Jay Williams: Minnesota -- Even though they won't have starters Al Nolen & Rodney Williams due to injuries, I expect Blake Hoffarber, Trevor Mbakwe and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=41568">Ralph Sampson III</a> to dominate.

<strong>Tuesday</strong>

<strong>Georgia Tech at Northwestern (ESPN2, 7 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Northwestern -- The Wildcats will spread the Jackets out and keep them on a string between open 3s and backdoor cuts.
Brennan: Northwestern -- Facing its first real "test" of the season, Northwestern's matchup zone and tricky Princeton offense will give Georgia Tech fits.
Fraschilla: Northwestern -- Sadly, even a win over the Yellow Jackets won't mean much in March. Too much Shurna in this one.
Gottlieb: Northwestern -- Tech played well this weekend, but the travel and Juice Thompson will be too much.
Katz: Northwestern -- If we’re going to take the Wildcats seriously they have to win a game like this at home against the inferior Yellow Jackets.
Leung: Northwestern -- The Wildcats should stay undefeated playing on their homecourt and with <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=41742">John Shurna</a> playing well.
Lunardi: Northwestern -- A solid win over Creighton sets the Wildcats up nicely for another victory.
O’Neil: Northwestern -- John Shurna has been terrific all season for a Wildcat team dreaming of -- gasp! -- an NCAA bid.
Williams: Northwestern -- This is the year Northwestern makes the NCAA tournament because of Shurna and Thompson.

<strong>Iowa at Wake Forest (ESPNU, 7 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Iowa -- Wake Forest will have a hard time beating anyone this season.
Brennan: Iowa -- Because as bad as Iowa is, Wake Forest is -- somehow -- worse.
Fraschilla: Wake Forest -- Someone has to win, right?
Gottlieb: Iowa -- Hawkeyes are coming off a win. Fran McCaffery will dial up something.
Katz: Wake Forest -- I can’t see the Demon Deacons losing four home games before Dec. 1.
Leung: Iowa -- Between the two, Iowa has shown a few more signs of life.
Lunardi: Wake Forest -- Neither team has played a true road game, so you have to go with Wake at home.
O’Neil: Wake Forest -- Because as bad as the Demon Deacons have looked early, the Hawkeyes have looked worse.
Williams: Iowa -- After watching Wake lose to Stetson, VCU and Winthrop, I give the edge to Iowa on the road.

<strong>Ohio State at Florida State (ESPN, 7:30 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Ohio State -- Florida State can really guard, but scoring efficiently is a problem the Seminoles have and the Buckeyes don't.
Brennan: Ohio State – FSU’s defense will keep this one close, but the interior offensive rebounding of <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=51405">Jared Sullinger</a> and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36134">Dallas Lauderdale</a> will be too much for the Noles to manage.
Fraschilla: Ohio State – The Leon County Civic Center is not the homecourt the Seminoles deserve.
Gottlieb: FSU's <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=40974">Chris Singleton</a> has put up insane numbers with two triple-doubles, but OSU has the athletes to guard him and his compadres.
Katz: Ohio State -- The Buckeyes won at Florida and have a better inside game than Florida State, although FSU’s Chris Singleton will likely put up the best numbers.
Leung: Ohio State -- Despite the all-around talents of FSU's Chris Singleton, Ohio State has too many weapons, including Jared Sullinger in the middle.
Lunardi: Ohio State -- Buckeyes complete the Sunshine State sweep in Tallahassee.
O’Neil: Ohio State -- Tough follow for the Seminoles after an emotional, disappointing loss to the Gators. Plus, Jared Sullinger is the why to all questions about the Buckeyes.
Williams: Florida State -- Yes, I call the upset here. <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=40971">Xavier Gibson</a> and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=51353">Bernard James</a> will give Mr. Sullinger a lot to deal with down low.

<strong>Michigan at Clemson (ESPN2, 9 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Clemson -- The Tigers are at home, and Michigan hasn't won away from home.
Brennan: Clemson -- Michigan might not be as bad as we thought, but it is not good enough to beat a capable Clemson team, whose only loss was a one-point neutral-court defeat to ODU.
Fraschilla: Clemson -- Early returns about new coach Brad Brownell are positive.
Gottlieb: Michigan -- Searching for an upset here, the 1-3-1 proves tough to tame. The Wolverines appear a bit better than expected, though they will suffer in conference.
Katz: Clemson -- The Tigers, regardless of coach, are too tough at home against similar-level teams.
Leung: Clemson -- Tigers coach Brad Brownell is fitting right in and has enough weapons to win this one.
Lunardi: Clemson -- The Wolverines are a long way from being able to win at Littlejohn.
O’Neil: Clemson -- The Wolverines have done little to prove they're over what ailed them last season.
Williams: Clemson -- After losses to both Syracuse and UTEP, I don't see the Wolverines bouncing back at Littlejohn Coliseum.

<strong>North Carolina at Illinois (ESPN, 9:30 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Illinois -- North Carolina doesn't push the ball and get easy baskets, and Illinois is at home.
Brennan: Illinois -- The Illini have homecourt advantage, but they also have the benefit of a veteran team that can match up with the athletic -- and as yet thoroughly disappointing -- Tar Heels.
Fraschilla: Illinois -- Are the Heels losing their mystique?
Gottlieb: Illinois -- Better guards, at home, and though Illinois does not have great strength inside, neither does UNC. Illini by more than 10.
Katz: Illinois -- The Tar Heels are still searching for a leader and the Illini need this game too much to prove their relevance.
Leung: Illinois -- It appears that catching the Tar Heels early is the way to go, and an Illini team with size can play with anyone.
Lunardi: Illinois -- What once looked like a toss-up should be a comfortable win for the Illini.
O’Neil: Illinois -- The Illini play with grit and determination, traits sorely lacking so far this season for the Tar Heels.
Williams: Illinois -- UNC does not have the poise or experience to win this one on the road.

<strong>Wednesday</strong>

<strong>NC State at Wisconsin (ESPN2, 7:15 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Wisconsin -- The game is at the Kohl Center, isn't it? Next question.
Brennan: Wisconsin -- Besides the immense advantage provided by the Kohl Center, the Badgers are, for all their early-season warts, one of the better rebounding teams in the nation. The Wolfpack without senior forward <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36377">Tracy Smith</a> are one of the worst.
Fraschilla: Wisconsin -- Anywhere but the Kohl Center, I'd give the Wolfpack an even chance to win.
Gottlieb: Wisconsin -- NC State has better talent, but Wisconsin will use <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=41152">Jordan Taylor</a> off ball screens and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36138">Jon Leuer</a> is a great fit got what Wisconsin does and Bo Ryan is great at what he does. Frankly, the Wolfpack might become bored with the tedious pace of the Badgers.
Katz: Wisconsin -- The Wolfpack are without Tracy Smith and to beat the Badgers at the Kohl Center you have to be full strength.
Leung: Wisconsin -- Jon Leuer is just too much to handle, and the Badgers are playing at home.
Lunardi: Wisconsin -- The Badgers figure to be extra cranky after losing the Old Spice title game.
O’Neil: Wisconsin -- I’m guessing practice hasn't been fun for the Badgers since their uncharacteristic slide against Notre Dame. Someone will feel the brunt of that frustration.
Williams: Wisconsin -- The Badgers have compiled a 138-11(.926) home record under head coach Bo Ryan heading into the season. Enough said.

<strong>Indiana at Boston College (ESPNU, 7:15 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Boston College – The Eagles are at home and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=41460">Reggie Jackson</a> can really score.
Brennan: Boston College -- Boston College has one awful loss (to Yale) and one solid win (over Texas A&M), so let’s give it a slight advantage over an Indiana team that has yet to leave Assembly Hall -- or play a non-cupcake opponent.
Fraschilla: Boston College -- Reggie Jackson hits it out of the park in the Eagles’ win.
Gottlieb: Boston College -- Reggie Jackson is the best player on the floor. The Eagles use the lessons learned in giving away leads in Orlando to help them beat IU.
Katz: Indiana -- The Eagles own more talent but lack focus in finishing games, something the Hoosiers seem to have now.
Leung: Boston College -- The easy part of Indiana's schedule is over.
Lunardi: Boston College -- BC is coming off a very good showing at the Old Spice and should win at home.
O’Neil: Indiana -- The recruiting good news for the Hoosiers spurs a much-needed good win on the court.
Williams: Boston College -- When Reggie Jackson is allowed to probe with the dribble and is on his game, BC is a tough team.

<strong>Purdue at Virginia Tech (ESPN, 7:30 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Virginia Tech -- Purdue is not only missing Hummel, but really missing Chris Kramer.
Brennan: Purdue -- Both teams have played solid defense and both have had their struggles offensively, but <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36150">JaJuan Johnson</a> should provide too many matchup problems for a shallow Va. Tech front line.
Fraschilla: Virginia Tech -- Hokies are desperate for a quality nonconference win.
Gottlieb: Virginia Tech -- Virginia Tech struggles with pressure defense (see Purdue). Purdue struggles to score against legit defenses without <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36149">Robbie Hummel</a>. Hokies in a great game.
Katz: Virginia Tech -- The Boilermakers are still a formidable bunch, but winning in Blacksburg is hardly an easy task, especially when the Hokies are a top-three ACC team.
Leung: Virginia Tech -- The Boilers are showing they're not the same team without Robbie Hummel, and they'll have their hands full containing <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36544">Malcolm Delaney</a>.
Lunardi: Virginia Tech -- The Hokies want to stockpile every nonconference scalp they can get.
O’Neil: Virginia Tech -- Neither team has exactly been lighting it up offensively, but the Hokies have Malcolm Delaney, who can score, and the homecourt.
Williams: Virginia Tech -- Purdue simply doesn't have the same scoring punch like the Hokies' Malcolm Delaney, <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=40725">Dorenzo Hudson</a> and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=31599">Jeff Allen</a>.

<strong>Maryland at Penn State (ESPN2, 9:15 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Maryland -- Although a road game, the Terps have more talent.
Brennan: Maryland -- Maryland forward <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=45916">Jordan Williams</a> is a budding star, and unless <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36465">Talor Battle</a> can sprout about 10 inches by Wednesday night, the Nittany Lions won’t be able to stop him.
Fraschilla: Maryland -- The Terps should grind out a road win in State College.
Gottlieb: Maryland -- The Terps are better inside with Jordan Williams and though Talor Battle can win a game on his own, Maryland's size and pressure in the backcourt should hurt his percentages.
Katz: Maryland -- Penn State is having a hard time being relevant while the Terps continue to play tougher, no matter the venue.
Leung: Maryland -- The Terrapins' only losses are single-digit ones to Pitt and Illinois, so Penn State should be no problem.
Lunardi: Maryland -- Penn State isn't the most athletic bunch and was already exposed by Ole Miss.
O’Neil: Maryland -- The Nittany Lions would need to borrow one of JoePa's linebackers to have a player to contend with Jordan Williams.
Williams: Maryland -- The Nittany Lions will have no answer inside for the Terps’ Jordan Williams.

<strong>Michigan State at Duke (ESPN, 9:30 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Duke -- Michigan State is turning it over too much right now, and Duke's defensive pressure should capitalize.
Brennan: Duke -- After Duke’s dominant win over Kansas State and Michigan State’s sluggish start in Maui, the Blue Devils look miles ahead of the field. This early in the season, the Spartans won’t be able to close the gap in Cameron.
Fraschilla: Duke -- Tough place for ANYONE to win.
Gottlieb: <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=46227">Derrick Nix</a> is back and he should help with the depth of Michigan State inside, but MSU struggled with the quickness of Washington and UConn. Duke's pressure and athleticism is similar.
Katz: Duke -- The Spartans aren’t in March form yet, while the Blue Devils look like they’ve already made plans for Houston.
Leung: Duke -- In case you missed the CBE Classic, the Blue Devils are just better than everyone else right now.
Lunardi: Duke -- Won't make the same mistake of picking against Duke this week.
O’Neil: Michigan State -- I'll admit I'm not 100 percent in on this pick, especially with Duke playing at home. But after a few humbling visits to the other part of Tobacco Road in recent years, a disappointing loss to UConn and a tongue-lashing after a lackluster effort against Tennessee Tech, I think the Spartans are due for a show-me win.
Williams: Duke -- Duke is hands-down the best team in the country and the energy within Cameron will be too much for Michigan State to handle.

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