Tuesday, November 30, 2010

ACC-Big Ten Challenge Predictions (Based On Virtually No Legiitmate Facts)

I had the chance to watch the phenomenal Minnesota-Virginia game last night and was very pleased to have taken the time to watch the game. My lasting impression from the evening is that the Gophers can still play with pretty much anyone, and that the Cavaliers will steal a game or two that they shouldn’t win this year. So essentially, I’m not backing off of my pre-game analysis from yesterday (aside from the outcome)–Minnesota is very good now, and Virginia is on the verge of being pretty good.

In lieu of writing up factoids from last night’s game (and it kills me to throw away my meticulously compiled game notes), I need to make my Big Ten-ACC Challenge predictions today. As typically is the case, it’s early enough in the season that I’ve seen almost none of the teams. Thus, I’m reverting to my usual way of predicting things based on arbitrary characteristics. Because I’ve been to many of the Big Ten and ACC campuses (visiting college campuses is something of a hobby of mine), I’m choosing my winners this year based on which school I believes has the better campus. As you’ll see in my re-pick of the Virginia-Minnesota game, had I used this method yesterday, I would have gotten the game correct. In any event, here are my picks, with the winners in bold:

Virginia vs. Minnesota: This one’s sort of a tough call. I can’t say that I’ve spent tons of time on the Minnesota campus, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen of it, and I love the Twin Cities. Williams Arena is also one of the greatest spots I’ve ever watched a basketball game. As for Virginia, while I foresee a visit to Charlottesville in the near future, I’ve not been to the UVA campus since I was 9 years old, getting dragged along with the family as my older brother checked out colleges. From what I recall, Virginia was very nice, and had my mother had her way, that’s where my brother would have gone to school. My memory of the UVA campus is obviously hazy, given that my trip there occurred when I was a child and took place 23 years ago. However, if the place was nice enough that my mother wanted to send her eldest son there, I have to give the edge to the Cavaliers.

Illinois vs. North Carolina: This one’s the easiest pick of the challenge for me. It is widely known among my friends that Illinois is my least favorite of the Big Ten campuses. It’s in a remote area, has awful night life, and I generally get a terrible vibe from the people in Champaign. In contrast, North Carolina is my favorite campus in the entire country. Full of gorgeous red brick and abutting the excitement of Franklin Street, I find it impossible not to love UNC-Chapel Hill. During my college days, I once asked a friend of mine attending Duke how he enjoyed a class that he took at Chapel Hill and he replied “Honestly, if I’d known more about Chapel Hill coming out of high school, I’d have gone there instead.” That’s a telling statement coming from a Blue Devil. I’d have cut off one of my pinkie toes to go to school at North Carolina, so Illinois is no match for the Tar Heels in this one.

Ohio State vs. Florida State: Here’s one of the two matchups where I’ve been to neither place. Frankly, both places seem like they’d be a lot of fun to visit, and both schools have rabid sports fan bases. Based on the little that I know about both places and their seeming similarities, I can’t make an informed judgement. So I’ll have to revert to relying on actual basketball attributes and pick Ohio State and their talented freshman duo of Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas. I’ve not seen Sullinger yet, but I had the opportunity to see Thomas as a high school junior (at the best event that I never took the time to write about) and I’m really looking forward to seeing both on the floor for the Buckeyes.

Michigan vs. Clemson: I haven’t been to Clemson, but suspect that I would like it there. My cousin who attended Clemson has a love of her Tigers that rivals mine for the Badgers, so that’s a good sign already. As to Michigan, I’m the rare Wisconsin grad who actually sort of enjoys Ann Arbor. Yes, Crisler Arena’s a bit of a dump, but the campus itself is not, and I found the downtown area to be a lot cooler than I was led to believe. I wanted to attend Michigan when I was coming out of high school, and while I’m happy for financial reasons that I did not get in, I’m certain that I would have had a great time there had I ever gotten off of the wait list. So Michigan narrowly gets the win.

Northwestern vs. Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech is on the list of campuses that I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting. That’s okay, though, because I’ve been to Northwestern’s campus a handful of times and it would be an understatement to say that I’m not a big fan of Evanston. Its extremely close proximity to Chicago is nice, but as to things going on in Evanston itself are severely limited. Perhaps its some bias on my part, as I was never a serious enough student to be able to live in a place with virtually no distractions, but Northwestern just isn’t my kind of place.

Iowa vs. Wake Forest: This one’s a tough call, as I’ve been to both, and really liked both. My trip to Wake Forest was brief and came prior to attending a basketball game there. It was basically a tour from a car window, but I was impressed. Due to Wake Forest’s high profile in the ACC, you sometimes forget that it’s a smaller school, and the pleasant campus reflects that fact. In contrast, Iowa is a big state school and definitely looks the part. Aside from my alma mater, UW-Madison, I’d have to say that Iowa is my favorite Big Ten campus to pay a visit to. The people are pleasant, the campus is set away from everything without being in the middle of nowhere, and in my younger days, I recall the night life being excellent. So while I like both, my love of Iowa wins out on this one (and this pick is painful, because while Iowa has a great campus, their basketball team is currently brutally bad).

Michigan State vs. Duke: Despite having very likeable key acquaintances with Michigan State ties, it’s one of the Big Ten campuses that I’ve never been to. As to Duke, between good friends that have studied and worked there, I’ve seen the campus more than any other school located outside of Wisconsin. And it should come as no surprise that it’s one of my favorites. So while I’ve never been to East Lansing, it’s hard for me to believe that it could compete with the Gothic architecture of Duke.

Purdue vs. Virginia Tech: Most people that I talk to hate Purdue’s campus. I can’t say that I hate it, but I can’t say I’m a huge fan of it, either. I’m really indifferent when it comes to Purdue–it’s kind of cool in some ways, but is never going to be a place that get me excited. In contrast, I was blown away when I visited Virginia Tech a few years back. Knowing the Hokies mostly from their football exploits, I had forgotten that Virginia Tech is actually a legitimate school. Thus, when I showed up expecting a bunch of inbred Virginia mountain people and happened upon one of the five most gorgeous campuses that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing, I was pretty much amazed. I’d go back to Blacksburg in a heartbeat and I’d be neither upset nor pleased if someone dropped me off in West Lafayette, so I’m taking the Hokies over the Boilermakers.

Wisconsin vs. N.C. State: As a man with two degrees from Wisconsin, I’m a bit biased in this one. And interestingly, though I’ve attended an N.C. State home game, I’ve never been to the campus (the RBC Center isn’t exactly part of the N.C. State campus). So I can’t really comment. Fortunately, one of my closest friends followed up his graduation from Wisconsin by attending N.C. State for grad school. And while I’ve not talked to him explicitly about which campus he prefers and don’t want to put words in his mouth, I’m fairly confident that his preference has always been Madison over Raliegh. So I’m picking the Badgers.

Indiana vs. Boston College: Despite a visit to Boston this past summer, BC was not among the schools that I had the chance the chance to visit. Boston’s fairly cool, though, so Boston College has that going in its favor. In terms of Indiana, it has been some time since I’ve been through Bloomington. I do know that it was my second choice school, after UW-Madison, for college. So something about the campus must have moved me when I visited there as a high school senior. I just wish I could recall what it was. Either way, the fact that I was moved to nearly spend four years of my life in Bloomington outweighs the fact that Boston is sort of cool, so I’m picking the Hoosiers in this one.

Maryland vs. Penn State: The second matchup where I’ve been to neither campus, which is sort of weird, since my family has a number of Maryland ties. In any event, my vision of Maryland is that of a traditional college town. Penn State has many of the same attributes, buy my understanding is that it’s out in the middle of nowhere, and that very few students actually get into Penn State as freshmen, with most transferring in at some point after attending other state schools for a year or two. Because Maryland sounds like the place that I’d be more likely to enjoy, I’m picking the Terps. But don’t hold me to this one, as my knowledge of both places is severely limited.

So, in terms of campus excellence, the ACC has the edge 6-5 over the Big Ten. Let's just hope that doesn't hold up during this week's games, as it would be nice for the Big Ten to bring home another win this year and actually make this look like some sort of challenge...


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