We’re in the dog days of the college basketball offseason, where the announcement of non-conference matchups might be the biggest news some fan bases receive for months.
Well, two major conferences threw fans on the East Coast and in the Midwest a bone on Thursday, when the matchups for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge were announced.
Fourteen teams from each conference will square off over the course of three days in early December.
The matchups are listed below.
|Monday, December 2||Miami (FL) at Illinois|
|Monday, December 2||Clemson at Minnesota|
|Tuesday, December 3||Florida State at Indiana|
|Tuesday, December 3||Iowa at Syracuse|
|Tuesday, December 3||Michigan at Louisville|
|Tuesday, December 3||Duke at Michigan State|
|Tuesday, December 3||Northwestern at Boston College|
|Tuesday, December 3||Rutgers at Pittsburgh|
|Wednesday, December 4||Notre Dame at Maryland|
|Wednesday, December 4||Nebraska at Georgia Tech|
|Wednesday, December 4||Ohio State at North Carolina|
|Wednesday, December 4||Wake Forest at Penn State|
|Wednesday, December 4||Virginia at Purdue|
|Wednesday, December 4||Wisconsin at NC State|
Here are some immediate reactions to the matchups.
Potential top-five matchup in East Lansing
Michigan State is ranked No. 1 in Stadium Basketball Insider Jeff Goodman’s preseason Top 25 rankings.
Duke isn’t far behind.
These schools played in March for the chance to go to the Final Four, and now they’ll meet in one of the biggest non-conference games of the year, less than nine months later.
They’re two of the four teams with the best odds to win the 2020 national title, according to Odds Shark.
The Spartans return All-American point guard Cassius Winston, rising junior forward Xavier Tillman, shooting guard Joshua Langford and wings Aaron Henry and Gabe Brown from a team that swept the Big Ten regular season and conference tournament titles, and made the Final Four.
Sure, the Blue Devils lost National Player of the Year Zion Williamson, fellow First Team All-American R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Marques Bolden, but point guard Tre Jones is back, and Duke enrolls a top-five recruiting class that’s headlined by five-star recruits Vernon Carey and Matthew Hurt.
Michigan State will look a lot like it did last season. Duke likely won’t.
But both teams should be near the top of the polls for most of next season and this game in early December will certainly play a role in the order they are ranked next winter.
Preseason top-20 teams meet in Chapel Hill
Ohio State was the beneficiary of one of the biggest stay-or-go decisions during the NBA Draft decision process when sophomore big man Kaleb Wesson announced he was returning to school, while North Carolina received one of the biggest commitments from a high school prospect this spring when top-five recruit Cole Anthony committed to the Tar Heels.
The Buckeyes didn’t have an overwhelming talent level last season, when they spent seven consecutive weeks ranked inside the top 20, but Wesson’s team-best 14.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game are what made them go.
The Tar Heels lost their top five players, including three projected first-round picks, from last season’s team that earned a No. 1 seed, but the spring commitments of guards Cole Anthony and Anthony Harris (No. 68 nationally), along with incoming transfers Christian Keeling (Charleston Southern) and Justin Pierce (William & Mary), give North Carolina immediate-impact guards and wings to replace the production they lost.
Rematch of one of the best games of 2018-19
Many of the central figures from last season’s
Elite Eight matchup game of the year between No. 1 seed Virginia and No. 3 seed Purdue have moved on because of their NBA potential (Purdue’s Carsen Edwards and Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome) or graduation (Purdue’s Ryan Cline and Grady Eifert, and Virginia’s Jack Salt).
It was a game in which Edwards cemented himself as a March Madness legend with 42 points and 10 3-pointers.
But Virginia won 80-75 in overtime, thanks to a ridiculous sequence involving a rebound tap-out, run-down, cross-court pass and buzzer-beating jumper from Kihei Clark and Mamadi Diakite, both of whom will be back in Charlottesville next season.
So get ready for a lot of B-roll from that game on the broadcast in December.
But this one has more value than reminding us of the greatness that is March Madness.
What does Virginia have in store as an encore after losing its top three scorers, who combined for 44.2 of the team’s 71.4 points per game last season, early to the NBA Draft?
In the last six seasons, the Cavaliers have won at least 30 games four times and earned a No. 1 seed four times. They’re operating at as high of a level as any program in college basketball.
On the other bench will be the hosting Boilermakers, who bid farewell to Edwards, whose 37.5 shot percentage ranked sixth nationally last season (meaning he attempted nearly four out of every 10 shots Purdue took when he was on the floor).
Eifert, who led the country with a 144.7 offensive rating, and Cline, whose 10-of-13 3-point shooting against Tennessee was arguably one of the 15 greatest shooting performances in NCAA Tournament history, were incredibly valuable role players, too.
Where does Purdue’s scoring come from with a new-look core that’s based around big-bodied point guard Nojel Eastern, rising sophomores Trevion Williams, Aaron Wheeler and Eric Hunter, and fiery 7-3 center Matt Haarms?
Virginia is ranked No. 15 in Stadium Basketball Insider Jeff Goodman’s preseason Top 25 rankings, while Purdue didn’t make the cut. In the last four years, the Boilermakers were ranked No. 24, 20, 15 and 23 in the preseason AP Top 25 Poll, respectively, but they finished in the top 15 each year.
Next season’s Purdue team could be the latest example of one that finishes the season more well-regarded than it started.
New-look rosters meet in Indiana
This year will be the first time since the fall of 2014 that Indiana has played an opponent in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge who’s not named Duke or North Carolina. The Hoosiers have been treated like a marquee brand in college basketball by the decision-makers who arrange the Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchups, even though they haven’t had the NCAA Tournament success to match the national titles that the Blue Devils and Tar Heels have won since the start of the 2015 season.
Whether the national college basketball populace realizes it or not, Florida State is in one of the best stretches in its program’s history, having gone 78-29 in the last three seasons with three tournament appearances (two as a top-four seed) and six wins in the tournament during that span.
So this should be a hot ticket in Bloomington.
Indiana was among the First Four Out last season, marking the third year in a row in which the Hoosiers have missed the NCAA Tournament, so the opportunity to host another marquee non-conference game can’t be overlooked for the cream and crimson.
This will be a good barometer for both programs as Indiana looks to replace its top two scorers from last season, Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford, while Florida State lost its leading scorer Mfiondu Kabengele to the NBA, along with Terance Mann, Christ Koumadje, David Nichols, PJ Savoy and Phil Cofer to graduation.
Guards Trent Forrest and M.J. Walker will return to Tallahassee, but this high-profile, early-season game should give us an indication of what the Seminoles’ rotation and bench will look like, considering Florida State Head Coach Leonard Hamilton uses his backups as much as almost any coach in the country.