The Big Ten jetted to 1-0 lead with Wisconsin taking down Virginia Tech 74-72 yesterday and based on the previous results of this event, they better relish it while they can. Tonight five more games will be played, with Duke at Purdue being the showcase contest. If and it is a really big if, the Big Ten wants a realistic chance to finally win The Challenge, they have to hold serve as home favorites tonight, being favored in three of the five games on their home court. All lines courtesy of Bookmaker.com.
Ohio State at Miami-FL (-8) ESPN 7:00E
The Hurricanes are in the group of teams right behind North Carolina and Duke, trying to make noise this season in the ACC. Miami is 4-1 (2-1 ATS), with only loss coming to second-ranked Connecticut 76-63. Guard Jack McClinton is the team’s leading scorer and catalyst from a team that welcomed back four starters and is 11-1 ATS in non-conference action.
Ohio State (3-0, 2-1 ATS) held Samford to 22 points, not for the half, but for the game. They will be tested more severely today, against what might be the best perimeter shooting team in the ACC. The Buckeyes have had to rebuild for the second straight season and have wing David Lighty and F Evan Turner to fall back on. Ohio State has another very good freshman class; however this will be their first road adventure, though in the past this has not been a problem with 14-5 ATS mark after playing two consecutive games as a home favorite.
Ohio State is 2-5 in this challenge and Miami 0-2, but the edge has to go veteran Canes at home with 10-2 ATS record after playing a home game.
Iowa at Boston College (-8) ESPNU 7:00E
Boston College (4-2, 4-1 ATS) fell behind Purdue by 19-points in New York and rallied to within seven before losing. They came from behind to beat UAB in the NIT third place game 83-77 as three-point underdogs. G Tyrese Rice is what makes these Eagles fly and B.C. is 14-4 ATS after three consecutive non-conference games.
Second year coach Frank Lickliter has thrown three freshman into the fray, seeing this as his future and thus far they have responded well with 6-1 (3-1 ATS) record, including 65-63 upset of Kansas State, despite shooting 36.4 percent. Sophomore point guard Jeff Peterson has been an early stabilizer and the Hawkeyes have shot the ball well early at 49.8 percent. Iowa doesn’t appear to be in a favorable situation, but could cover the number if they play physical with Rice like St. Louis did in holding him to six points.
Iowa, like most Big Ten teams has losing record in this event at 2-5 and Boston College is 0-2 in their previous tries.
Clemson at Illinois (-2) ESPN2 7:30E
Coach Bruce Weber’s Fighting Illini take a 6-0 (3-1) record into ACC/Big Ten Challenge battle with fellow unbeaten Clemson (7-0, 2-3 ATS). Illinois has been a surprise, vanquishing Vanderbilt on the road and beating Kent State and Tulsa in San Padre Tournament. Contributions are coming from all top seven players, but the big improvement has come from PG Chester Frazier, who has astonishing 42-to-9 assist-to-turnover ratio. Illinois had one of the best home court edges for years but is only 4-12 ATS since the beginning of last season.
Clemson is a sparking 7-2 in this conference challenge and has returned seven of top 10 players from NCAA Tournament team. K.C. Rivers makes this team flow and Raymond Sykes has brought the energy to the Tigers, with Trevor Booker being a force inside. Clemson is 6-15 ATS after playing a road game over the last three seasons.
This is one of the swing games the ACC has invariably won in this Challenge and how Illinois handles the Clemson pressure defense will directly relate to the outcome.
Duke at Purdue (-2) ESPN 9:00E
Duke (7-0, 4-3 ATS) has a perfect 9-0 record in this battle between well-known conferences and they face an engaging test. The Blue Devils are still perimeter oriented, with any number of players capable of beating opponent off the dribble taking the ball to the rim. Duke is at its best when the leading scorer is to be determined in a game, whether it is Kyle Singler, Lance Thomas or Gerald Henderson. The Dukies are 14-7 after a blowout win by 20 points or more.
Purdue (5-1, 3-2 ATS) is a mere 2-5 in The Challenge, with both wins coming at home. The Boilermakers are coming off disappointing loss to Oklahoma in the NIT final, losing in overtime 87-82, in a game they led almost from start to finish. E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummel are the stars of Purdue; nevertheless this is a solid basketball team that plays very good defense and has answers on the offensive end. The Boilers have won 13 in a row at Mackey Arena (10-3 ATS) and are 9-1 ATS as a home favorite of six points or less or pick over the last three seasons.
Duke has to be considered dangerous in this position, yet Purdue is angry off a loss and rabid crowd could make it challenging on the Blue Devils.
Virginia at Minnesota (-7) ESPN2 9:30E
The first full night off ACC/Big Ten action concludes at The Barn in Minnesota. The Golden Gophers (6-0, 2-2 ATS) are a youthful bunch, having lost top three scorers from a year ago. Coach Tubby Smith made up a schedule of home games versus beatable opponents, with this being one of the more engaging encounters. Minnesota has had their share of early season injuries in the frontcourt, leaving PG Al Nolen to soldier the load. Coach Smith hopes good shooting fortune continues, being 10-0 ATS after a game where they made 60 percent of their shots or better.
Virginia (3-2, 1-1 ATS) has been sluggish to start a new campaign, due to lack of defense. Teams are shooting 47.4 percent against the Cavaliers, as coach Dave Leitao continues to tinker with his lineup, using five different combinations in five games. Hard to determine what Virginia will do off it worst performance in loss to Liberty and best effort in narrow defeat to Syracuse 73-70 as 16-point underdogs. After years of being a laughable road team (34-57 ATS as road underdogs), Virginia is 11-6 against the spread the last few seasons.
With two inexperienced squads, count this as another swing game.