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Syracuse Basketball: Projecting the 2015 ACC-Big Ten Challenge Matchups

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These are going to be announced sooner than you think -- so who will SU face?

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The college basketball season ended just a couple weeks ago -- with the ACC sort of winning the most important ACC-Big Ten Challenge, when you think about it. But since it's the offseason, and this fall's ACC-Big Ten Challenge matchups are highly likely to be announced in early May (at least based on last year's timing), we might as well get a jump on thinking about who Syracuse will face.

A quick refresher on how this thing works:

  • The top 14 teams from each conference participate, with the lowest finisher in the ACC being dropped -- though the ACC also likes to avoid removing a team in consecutive years.
  • Matchups aren't even in terms of finishers (first place-to-first place), but they try to keep things fairly competitive.
  • Teams alternate home and away each year.
  • "Technically" the winner of the challenge is referred to as the lead conference the following year. So 2015 should be the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. But... screw the Big Ten.

So with that out of the way, time to figure which team Syracuse (and everyone else) will play against. First, the team rankings, with a note on whether they'll be home/away this season:

ACC

B1G

RPI Team H/A RPI Team H/A
5 Duke H 2 Wisconsin A
7 Virginia H 12 Maryland A
11 North Carolina A 22 Michigan State H
16 Notre Dame A 39 Ohio State H
21 Louisville A 43 Iowa H
40 NC State H 53 Purdue A
62 Miami A 58 Indiana A
67 Syracuse H 72 Illinois H
74 Pittsburgh H 81 Michigan A
103 Clemson A 100 Minnesota H
111 Florida State A 106 Penn State A
147 Wake Forest A 124 Northwestern A
151 Georgia Tech H 153 Nebraska H
161 Boston College H 177 Rutgers H
227 Virginia Tech H

Now right off the bat, there's an obviously intriguing matchup at the top between Duke and Wisconsin, since it's a rematch of this year's championship game. But they just played against one another in the ACC-B1G Challenge, plus Duke won both matchups in 2014-15, and Wisconsin loses its top player, Frank Kaminsky, to the draft. Another sidenote, before we get into actual matchup projections: I'm eliminating Georgia Tech from this year's competition instead of Virginia Tech, if only to avoid the redundancy of alternating Boston College and the Hokies as the eliminated team each year. Sorry, Yellow Jackets.

Projected Matchups:

Maryland at Duke

Maryland hates Duke. Duke likes to disregard Maryland. There's a lot to love about this assured primetime featured matchup.

Indiana at Virginia

Wisconsin and Michigan State would both be better matchups, but the Badgers had to go on the road to face the Hoos two years ago, and the Spartans (who eliminated UVa in the last two NCAA Tournaments) have to host a game this year. Bummer. Still, maybe Tom Crean's learned how to coach? (nope)

North Carolina at Ohio State

This only happens so we can avoid a UNC vs. Michigan State matchup in the Challenge for the second time in three years -- sorry it's a bit excessive (especially with the same home team). But these two giant college sports brands still bring plenty to the table and the game will draw interest, for sure.

Notre Dame at Illinois

Without Jerian Grant, perhaps this one is more even than when think. But otherwise, this matchup mostly occurs so we can avoid sending the Irish to Iowa for the second time in three years. Plus, HUGE ND alumni base in Illinois, so it would be a gate draw.

Louisville at Michigan State

Two elite programs with elite coaches, in primetime. This is gold for ESPN, and there's absolutely no way they don't push for this matchup between the Cardinals and Spartans.

Wisconsin at NC State

This could potentially be another matchup of top 25 squads, with a rising Wolfpack team getting a crack at the national runner-ups. Very likely this gets paired with one of UL/MSU or Duke/Maryland for an exciting night of back-to-back big games.

Miami at Iowa

This could be a sleeper matchup, despite the odd fit on paper. Miami is getting better and Iowa could be a top-half Big Ten team. Keep an eye out here.

Purdue at Syracuse

You (and most others) like the other potential matchups -- Michigan and Indiana -- better, but we've played both in the Challenge in the past two years. Without much hype for SU going into 2015-16, the Boilermakers are a decent bet here.

Michigan at Pittsburgh

Avoiding the second straight matchup with Indiana gives the Panthers a better opponent -- at least in terms of fit/evenness of the teams. This should be a bruising game that gives fans a surprising amount of intrigue this far down the line.

Clemson at Minnesota

Two of our favorite fan bases clash in a battle of schools that aren't all that good at basketball. No clear favorite, though, which makes it sort of watchable, right?

Florida State at Rutgers

Bloodbath. Expect to hear some scarlet corners of the internet talk about "how intimidating the RAC is," followed by the Seminoles running through that downtrodden basketball program with ease.

Wake Forest at Nebraska

Want to pick a game to miss? This one's probably it. Entirely a product of home/away roulette, there's not much to talk about here.

Penn State at Boston College

PINSTRIPE BOWL REMATCH! Can the Eagles' basketball team avenge their football loss to the Nittany Lions? Probably not, but that's the narrative we're going with here.

Northwestern at Virginia Tech

Both of these programs should probably be better at basketball. They're not going to get noticeably better at basketball this year, but their collective futility could mean an even matchup.

***

So, Purdue? Yeah, that's probably not what you were hoping for. And ultimately, that may not end up being our opponent at the Carrier Dome this December. But considering how this past season went, it's at least likely at this point. As you can see in the RPI grid too, there are just a lot of schools with the same scheduling constraints huddled into the same place in the standings -- plus, WAY too many teams seem to follow one another on the RPI scale, so it gets more difficult to prevent repeat matchups.

But what do you think? Are you bummed about the Boilermakers? Excited or irked by any of the other matchups? Share any possible ACC-Big Ten Challenge thoughts below.