It's that week of the year again when Big Ten men's basketball teams give it their all and inevitably come up short in the annual battle of conferences with the ACC.
This little conference tournament of sorts began in 1999 and has seen the Big Ten lose every year. This wasn't lost on Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp.
If repeated Thanksgiving Day exposure to Lions' football has indeed sickened the nation to the point where the NFL must alter its holiday schedule, then shouldn't the powers that rule college basketball spare unsuspecting eyes another disastrous ACC-Big Ten Challenge?
It was a great concept nine years ago.
It's a joke now.
The Big Ten is 0-9 in the Challenge.
ESPN created the "tournament" as a means for creating national interest in what's become the sports' scheduling calendar's wasteland -- the nonconference college basketball season. It combined the Carolina obsession in college hoops with large Midwestern television markets such as Chicago, Detroit, Columbus, Ohio, Cleveland and Indianapolis.
The "challenge" is contracted to run through 2011. Does the Big Ten have what it takes this year? Let's look at the match-ups (and I have to admit I've watched a lot of Big Ten basketball and not so much ACC basketball).
Wisconsin at Virginia Tech: The Badgers have struggled to start the season against some of the cream puffs on their schedule, but the Hokies have lost at home to Seton Hall and Xavier. I'll give Wisconsin and Bo Ryan a slight edge in Blacksburg.
Duke at Purdue: Watching Purdue blow the game against Oklahoma last week creates some questions for me about the Boilers. I think Duke wins this game handily even on the road.
Clemson at Illinois: The Clemson Tigers have perhaps played a weaker schedule than the Gophers. Illinois on the other hand has beaten Vanderbilt and won tight games against Kent State and Tulsa. Give the edge to Bruce Weber's team at home.
Ohio State at Miami (Florida): If I were to pick a team in the ACC to sneak up and take the conference from North Carolina or Duke this year it'd be Miami. They hung with a very good Connecticut team and are a legit top-20 team nationally. Ohio State meanwhile doesn't seem to have found it's groove yet. I pick Miami.
Virginia at Minnesota: UVA has lost two straight--against Liberty?? and Syracuse--but the Cavs are better than that. Minnesota young big men will have to come to play, but I think this is one of the better possible matchups for the Gophers. Pick Minnesota.
Iowa at Boston College: The Hawkeyes should enter their game with the Eagles with some confidence after bouncing back from a loss to West Virginia by beating Kansas State. BC gets the nod for being at home.
Indiana at Wake Forest: This might be the worst Hoosiers team of my lifetime. Wake is a top-25 team. This is almost a given in the ACC's column.
Michigan at Maryland: The Terrapins just dispatched Tom Izzo's Spartans handily. Meanwhile Michigan is hard to put tabs on. First they upset UCLA and then they require a buzzer beater to get by Savannah State? I'm picking Maryland at home.
Florida State at Northwestern: The Seminoles simply are far too athletic for the Wildcats. This is another almost sure win for the ACC.
Penn State at Georgia Tech: Penn State is one of the teams in the Big Ten more people should talk about. Talor Battle and Jamelle Cornley are a very good inside-outside combo. The Nittany Lions win on the road.
North Carolina at Michigan State: The game that's supposed to be the marquee game this year won't be close. I just got done watching MIchigan State sleepwalk their way through a game against Wichita State. They are playing sloppy basketball. Raymar Moran isn't touching the ball enough. I don't think this will be close. UNC wins.
Final: ACC 7-4, which would be an improvement on last year's 8-3 mark.
- Good news and bad news for Tim Brewster commit Hayo Carpenter. The good: He caught 10 balls for 236 yards and two touchdowns in a playoff game. The bad: He was recently suspended for "conduct unbecoming of a Cougar."
- Would a Big Ten football conference championship game be a joke? I don't think so and I think it's needed.
- It looks like Brewster's Gophers will be facing Kansas in the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., on Dec. 31 on the NFL Network. Mid-level bowl games don't excite me personally, but had anyone told me we'd be playing Kansas in a bowl on Dec. 31 when the season started I'd had laughed at you.
- I'm writing this as I watch Indiana host Cornell in men's basketball. Indiana's Verdell Jones--who Minnesota nearly signed--was just leveled on a screen near midcourt. Jones went down and didn't get back up and while he was moving, was taken with a stretcher off of the court. In watching IU this year, Jones has looked very good for a young point guard. Here's hoping he has a quick recovery. IU needs him, being depleted as it is.