Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Big Ten finally up to the Challenge?

After two nights, it appears at first glance that the Big Ten has a decent chance to win the ACC-Big Ten Challenge for the first time ever.

But despite the 3-3 score so far in the 10th year of the made-for-ESPN basketball event, the Big Ten has little margin for error with the final five games of the challenge to be played Wednesday night.

No. 1 North Carolina is so good that even Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Tuesday night that the Tar Heels’ outstanding veterans put them on a higher level from the rest of the teams in the nation.

Whether Tyler Hansbrough plays or not, North Carolina will be an overwhelming favorite against Michigan State in Detroit with Spartans forward Goran Suton ailing.

Wake Forest also is unlikely to lose at home to an Indiana team decimated by defections following NCAA rules violations by former coach Kelvin Sampson.

If those two games are in the ACC win column, the Big Ten would need to win the other three tonight to eke out a 6-5 overall win in the Challenge. Two of those games are on ACC home floors – Michigan at Maryland and Penn State at Georgia Tech.

The other has Florida State at Northwestern, which traditionally is one of the Big Ten’s weakest teams. If you’re the ACC, you have to like your odds going into tonight.

Duke displays rebounding might

No. 4-ranked Duke’s 49-29 rebounding advantage in a 76-60 defeat of ninth-ranked Purdue was a surprise Tuesday night.

“They really get on top of you and grab the ball; they’re tough,” said Purdue sophomore Robbie Hummel.

No doubt Kzyzewski would consider that a compliment after his undersized team has relied more on grace than power in recent years.

Tigers have played lots of tight games

- Clemson will enter ACC play with plenty of experience in close games.

The Tigers edged Illinois 76-74 Tuesday to improve to 8-0. They also own wins by one point over Charlotte and four points over Temple.

Free throw shooting, a huge problem in past seasons for Clemson, hadn’t been much of an issue for the Tigers this season until Tuesday. They shot just 6-for-13 from the foul line at Illinois.

Even though Clemson’s tradition wouldn’t seem to indicate that the school would be one of the ACC’s top performers against the Big Ten, the Tigers have won five in a row in the Challenge.

– Ken Tysiac