My Official BigTen/ACC Challenge Predictions
Last night was one of those nights when there were about 18 things that needed to happen in my life, and there was no way to get to all of them. One of the reasons that my updates have been sparse of late is that I’ve been in the process of painting the room that houses my home office, and I’ve been a bit displaced. After my third coat of "Lusty Red" tonight, things still aren’t looking right, and I’m considering trying to track down this "Sherwin Williams" character to give him a severe beating. Add to that fact that due to my status as a resident of Wisconsin, I am required by law to watch the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football, and it was a difficult night to take in any basketball. But I did my best, catching a few minutes of the Michigan-N.C. State game on ESPN2, and listening to the final 15 minutes of the Marquette-Valpo game on the radio as I tried to get my office walls to look right. Not much to say about either one, other than to say that of things that I wish I could have seen this season, Dominic James scoring Marquette’s final 18 points of the game to help the Golden Eagles eek out a tough victory in his home state of Indiana is on the top of the list. And it’s probably going to stay there for the rest of the season. That guy’s amazing.
All that being said, on to my annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge predictions. Just like the last two years, I have seen nearly none of the teams play a complete game yet, and I’m keeping with my tradition of predicting the first game after it has already been played. But these obstacles have never stopped me before:
Michigan over N.C. State: Let’s see, do I pick Michigan, a highly talented team that seems to consistently underachieve, or N.C. State, a team who hired a coach with no collegiate coaching experience after their solid coach bolted at the end of last season following years of overly harsh criticism. Even though they lost, I’m still taking Michigan, because I’ve got slightly more respect for them right now, and I’m easily seduced by their athletic upside. (Hey, I’m wrong, but at least you know I’m not going to lie to you about who I would have picked.)
Maryland over Illinois: I missed Maryland’s frightening assault on St. John’s, but the Terps looked surprisingly excellent to me against Michigan State. Then again, I expected Illinois to be better than Michigan State coming into this year, so it stand to reason that if Michigan State could push Maryland to its limits and lose by two, a superior Illinois team could push further and win the game. But real life doesn’t work in such a logical manner. And because Maryland’s wonderful, pressure-filled first half against Michigan State is still looping through my brain, I’m giving them the win.
Wisconsin over Florida State: I keep hearing about how Florida State’s recent recruiting classes have been as highly ranked as their usual football recruiting classes. I have yet to see similar success to the football team, though (yes, I know that this is an awkward statement to make with this year’s Seminole gridiron woes, but let’s look deeper into history than this past fall). More than anything, though, I have to pick Wisconsin over Florida State because my friend Greg is a huge FSU fan (more for football, really, but if basketball’s going to be good, he’ll jump on board) and hates Wisconsin. If the ‘Noles win this one, Greg will become insufferable, and I simply refuse to believe that my life could be that painful.
Georgia Tech over Penn State: I swear, I really do like Ed DeChellis, and think he’s done a decent enough job given his circumstance. But let’s get real–Penn State is Penn State and Georgia Tech is Georgia Tech. I’ll take the team that’s had success without the aid of anyone named "Crispin"
Duke over Indiana: Duke was probably slightly over-ranked to begin the year, and were appropriately cut down to size by Marquette. No one’s over-ranking Indiana this year, partially because it would be tough to find something that’s over-hyped to base an over-ranking on. Duke’s over-ranking was in recognition of its talent and its coach, though, and while they might not be a top-10 team just yet, they’re still better than what Indiana has.
Miami over Northwestern: This is a tough one, since I have never known much about either team. Miami’s basketball team is overshadowed by its football team. Northwestern’s basketball team is overshadowed by its journalism department. Northwestern sounds like it has gotten a nice start on its season, while Miami appears to have struggled a bit. At the end of the day, though, Tim Doyle is Northwestern’s key player, and while I appreciate his effort, I can’t pick a Doyle-led team to win anything.
Boston College over Michigan State: It’s tough for me to pick against Michigan State, since they’ve come out stronger than expected this year, and I’ve always had a healthy respect for Tom Izzo. But I’m taking Boston College here. Why? Well, Michigan State is one of those really good programs that everyone knows about. Boston College is one of those programs that’s been pretty good for the last few years, but still typically has a roster of guys that I can’t name. So, really I’m just picking Boston College to make up for my years of neglect during the Craig Smith era. So what if I’m jumping on a year too late?
Purdue over Virginia: Here’s the deal–I really like Purdue. Sure, there’s some questions about the backcourt, but two things really draw me to this team. One, I really think coach Matt Painter knows what he’s doing. A lesser man wouldn’t have been able to keep things cobbled together last year as he lost virtually all of his best players during the season. Two, I think everyone is forgetting how ridiculously good Carl Landry was before his ACL injury. I keep seeing people that didn’t pick him for first team all-conference, and I’m still wondering if we won’t be talking about him as Big Ten player of the year before all is said and done. Add to my love of Purdue that I know next to nothing about Virginia (though their upset of Arizona scares me) and I have to go with the Boilermakers.
North Carolina over Ohio State: I’ve seen North Carolina play, and I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen. Ohio State and its gaggle of freshmen still remains sort of mysterious to the nation, though, as I don’t believe they’ve been on national TV yet. And I’m sort of skeptical about how good the Buckeyes are going to be. To me, picking Ohio State to win this one would be the equivalent to being on Let’s Make a Deal and trading in a sparkling new refrigerator and range (UNC) for what’s in the box (OSU). And I never take what’s in the box, so North Carolina’s my pick.
Virginia Tech over Iowa: It’s not February yet, so Iowa’s not supposed to be dropping games yet, but they still seem to be doing so. I’m not going to lie, aside from the fact that Adam Haluska’s a fun player to watch, and won many, many high school track titles, I know very little of either of these teams. But Virginia Tech always seems to be a tougher out than expected, so I’ll take the Hokies.
Clemson over Minnesota: Clemson’s 7-0. Minnesota finished 8th out of eight teams in the Old Spice Classic. Need I go on?
So I’m calling another ACC rout. That’s okay, though–we Big Ten fans are used to it by now. At least they’re fun games to watch. Back with notes on Wisconsin vs. FSU (and whatever other snippets of games that I see) tomorrow. Enjoy the big two nights of games.