Last week we learned that the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team would take on Rutgers in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Orange hosted Iowa last year, so SU will travel to Rutgers in this installment of the challenge.
As two of the top basketball conferences year in and year out, the ACC and Big Ten offer some solid matchups for hoops fans early in the (shortened) season. With the challenge set to tip off on Dec. 8th and Dec. 9th we’ve gone ahead and ranked the best matchups of the event.
1) Michigan State at Virginia
Was there any doubt we’d get Hauser vs. Hauser here? After sitting out one year each, Sam Hauser (Virginia) and Joey Hauser (Michigan State) will square off against each other in this matchup.
Virginia is the favorite in the ACC and while Michigan State loses Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman, the Spartans are still a top 20 team with Rocket Watts, Aaron Henry and Joshua Langford back. This will be an excellent matchup in C-Ville that just might determine which top-seeded team will get upset first in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
2) Illinois at Duke
Illinois has a chance to be the best team in the Big Ten, but this isn’t your slightly older sibling’s Duke team. The Illini lose Alan Griffin to Syracuse, however it returns essentially the same squad from a season ago. Ayo Dosunmu has a chance to be a star in college basketball this season. He returns to pair with Kofi Cockburn (which is not pronounced how it looks, but whatever).
Duke might not have the NBA talent it typically does on its roster, but Matthew Hurt and Wendell Moore both return as sophomores and the Blue Devils added grad transfer Patrick Tapé in the offseason. This game will be a good test for freshmen Jalen Johnson, Jeremy Roach, DJ Steward and Jaemyn Brakefield.
3) North Carolina at Iowa
North Carolina is coming off its worst season since 2001-02, but the college basketball cognoscenti seem to think there’s reason for optimism in Chapel Hill this season.
UNC’s bevy of bigs in Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot and freshman Day’ron Sharpe will make for a fun inside battle with Naismtih Player of the Year favorite Luka Garza. Will Iowa be able to defend anything UNC throws at them? Will Andrew Platek get minutes?
4) Louisville at Wisconsin
Louisville will be a top team in the ACC again this season with David Johnson looking like a breakout star. Wisconsin was one of the hottest teams in the country before last season ended, winning eight straight games.
The O/U has been set at 2.5 charges taken in this game by Brad Davison.
5) Indiana at Florida State
Florida State figures to be one of the top four teams in the ACC (again). Freshman Scottie Barnes is going to get buckets while MJ Walker looks to step up with Trent Forrest and Devin Vassell gone.
Trayce Jackson-Davis will have to handle FSU’s size and athleticism inside for Indiana as IU doesn’t otherwise have the shooting to escape Tallahassee with a win.
6) Syracuse at Rutgers
In ordinary times this game might rank lower on the list, but Rutgers returns much of its core from an NCAA Tournament bound team a season ago. Syracuse is looking to get on the right side of the bubble.
In this matchup of former Big East schools, the victor will have an important résumé-enhancing non-conference win. That could prove to be imperative in a condensed out of league schedule this season.
I can’t believe we’re talking this way about a Syracuse vs. Rutgers game.
7) Purdue at Miami
Miami’s front-court depth took a hit when it announced that Sam Waardenburg will miss the season with a foot injury. That cold spell trouble against Trevion Williams and Aaron Wheeler.
Still, there’s enough here at guard on each side for an interesting matchup as Sasha Stefanovic and Eric Hunter of Purdue go up against Chris Lykes, Kam McGusty, Isaiah Wong and Harland Beverly of Miami.
8) Ohio State at Notre Dame
Both of these teams suffer roster attrition as Notre Dame loses John Mooney and TJ Gibbs while Ohio State loses Kaleb Wesson and Luther Muhammed. As such, Ohio State and Notre Dame are both looking for returning members to take on larger roles.
Notre Dame’s Prentiss Hubb will be one of the ACC’s most exciting players this year while Derek Fisher’s nephew Duane Washington Jr. looks to step up for Ohio State. Can Notre Dame get stops in this game?
9) NC State at Michigan
This is where the challenge starts to lose steam.
Two middle of the pack teams here are looking to build upon their previous seasons. NC State and Michigan both have key losses from a season ago.
10) Maryland at Clemson
Eric Ayala looks to lead the charge after Maryland lost Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith while Clemson has legitimate hopes to.. be better than it was last season.
11) Wake Forest vs. Nobody
Wake will play as many teams in the event as the Big Ten has won National Championships since 2000. Even though the Demon Deacs won’t be participating in ACC/Big Ten Challenge, this is still a better matchup than the ones listed below.
11 for real) Georgia Tech at Nebraska
Would’ve been great to see Pitt matched up with Nebraska so Trey McGowens could compete against his old team. Alas, looks like a Georgia Tech team on the rise will have to beat the snot out Nebraska on the road instead.
12) Boston College at Minnesota
Marcus Carr will probably drop 30 on Jim Christian’s defense. That’s about the only interesting thing here.
13) Penn State at Virginia Tech
Tough blow to Penn State losing Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins. Even tougher blow to have Jim Ferry take over for Pat Chambers.
But what’s even worse is having to travel to Blacksburg and play in Cassel Coliseum.
14) Pitt at Northwestern
The hopeful Coach K replacement classic. Hope dies last.