Well, another year begins with the mass media (namely, Dick Vitale) trying to force us into believing that the ACC is the most dominate basketball conference ever assembled. Next year, there will be zero argument with the likes of Syracuse and Pittsburgh joining the league, but as of now, and albeit its two weeks into the season, I am not convinced.
For the first decade of this “Challenge” the ACC won every single time, but over the past three years, the Big10 has put together its own winning streak. Tuesday night began with the surprise of the Challenge in my eyes when a Michigan team lost at Virginia. But then again, when your best player has an off night and only scores 5 points, Jordan’s Bulls’ would have even lost. The night saw the Wildcats defeat a down Georgia Tech team on the road pretty convincingly. While an Iowa team unfortunately looks like are in for another long season after losing by 15 at home against Clemson. Illinois and Purdue went on the road with relatively ease at the now Gary Williams-less Terrapins and at the “I didn’t know that the Miami Hurricanes had a basketball team.” The night ended with a young team in Duke, getting absolutely throttled by an even younger Ohio State team. The Buckeyes opened with a 11-0 run, Duke responded making it 13-9. Then the Buckeyes seemingly were up 20 points the rest of the game. I will say it right now, the only team that can beat Ohio State this year is the team that beat them last year, Kentucky. So to recap, the Big10 at the end of Tuesday night had gone 4-2.
Wednesday night saw a lot more of the same story. Bubble teams Penn State and Minnesota both won close games against hapless Boston College and the poster-child for NIT number one seeds, Virginia Tech. Indiana got an impressive win on the road against NC State, and hopefully Tom Crane will bring that program back to national relevancy where it belongs. Nebraska, who I also didn’t know had a basketball team, surprisingly lost a close one to Wake Forest at home. The night ended with the Izzo’s smacking down Florida State at home and the marketed game of the night saw a supposed vastly inferior Wisconsin team only lose by 3 to North Carolina, in Chapel Hill! Bo Ryan’s system either forced North Carolina into a game-long hypnosis, which is possible, this is the team that beat Penn State last year 36-33. Or, Wisconsin really is that underrated every single year. So adding up the tally here, and we have a convincing Big10 winning the Challenge 8-4.
So I think there are a couple things we can take from this early season matchup between two of the better basketball conferences in America. First of all, Ohio State is a legitimate title contender, the combination of Sullinger and Craft, and the streaky shooting of Thomas and Buhford is enough for a championship in its own right. Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Purdue will be at least all 6 seeds entering the tournament. While, other Big10 teams like Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern, Minnesota, Michigan and Penn State all have the opportunity to join the big dance as well. That leaves only Iowa and Nebraska to beat up on in the Big10, but then again, maybe they won’t be as bad as I think they will be. On the other side, sportsnation cannot be very impressed with the ACC. Who can we truly count on to be a sweet 16 team besides the obvious Duke and Carolina? There is not another team in the ACC that is on their level, and even the kings of the ACC struggled against the likes of Ohio State and Wisconsin. So LezBeHonest here for a second, I know its early, but doesn’t this early Challenge foreshadow what we should expect for college basketball this year? The ACC looks like it is having a down year, the Big10 is going to be highly competitive, and the Big East will enjoy its last year of basketball relevancy. Ultimately…I’m thankful for the beginning of college basketball season, and the NBA’s return in three weeks.Feel free to comment on any of my thoughts.