ACC will face big challenge in series

Duke draws Ohio State in the signature game in next season's ACC-Big Ten Challenge. North Carolina will host Wisconsin, while Indiana will visit N.C. State.

staff writerMay 18, 2011 

  • Tuesday, Nov. 29

    Miami at Purdue

    Northwestern at Georgia Tech

    Illinois at Maryland

    Michigan at Virginia

    Clemson at Iowa

    Duke at Ohio State

    Wednesday, Nov. 30

    Indiana at N.C. State

    Penn State at Boston College

    Florida State at Michigan State

    Virginia Tech at Minnesota

    Wake Forest at Nebraska

    Wisconsin at UNC

    Note: Game times and ESPN channels have not been announced.

The ACC will win the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge for the 11th time.

Or the newly expanded Big Ten will make it three straight, after losing the first 10 years.

Or there'll be a tie. According to an ESPN release, a tie goes to the previous winner, meaning the ACC has to win seven games to win the Challenge.

For the first time, the made-for-ESPN basketball series has been scheduled for an even number of games. (The Big Ten actually has 12 teams with the addition of Nebraska.)

North Carolina, which will be a favorite to win the ACC and national titles, hosts Wisconsin on Wednesday, Nov. 30.

Duke, which has won more games in the Challenge than any team, travels to Ohio State on Nov. 29, and N.C. State, with first-year coach Mark Gottfried, hosts Indiana on Nov. 30.

The highs, and lows, of this year's Challenge:

Paging, Erin Andrews

ESPN will give Duke's trip to Big Ten favorite Ohio State the full big-game treatment, complete with sideline diva Erin Andrews and a primetime slot. The Blue Devils, who have an 11-1 record in the Challenge, have added a third Plumlee (little brother Marshall) to attempt to slow Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger, who eschewed a spot in the NBA lottery for his sophomore season. OSU fans who miss 3-point specialist Jon Diebler will appreciate Duke freshman Austin Rivers.

Battle of the "B's"

UNC scoring machine Harrison Barnes and floppy-haired Wisconsin forward Mike Bruesewitz will trade 3-pointers in the first Challenge matchup between the Tar Heels and Badgers. The Tar Heels, who open the season with Big Ten foe Michigan State, have won six of their past eight in the Challenge.

Help, Brad Brownell; you're our only hope

Beyond Carolina, there aren't too many games the ACC can chalk up as a probable win. With so many ACC teams in transition with new coaches or are just bad or both, the ACC needs Brownell's Clemson Tigers to go on the road and beat a miserable Iowa team. (Please, Iowa fans, spare us the protest, you lost to Wake Forest last year.)

Hey, Michigan, the Big Ten doesn't like you

For the second straight year, the Wolverines have to go on the road in the Challenge, and it's not a glamour assignment (at Virginia). The Wolverines, who pushed Duke to the limit in the second round of the NCAA tournament last year, figure to be one of the better Big Ten teams next season. The Big Ten's not showing much love here for coach John Beilein with the location or opponent. (FSU or Clemson - two NCAA tournament teams in 2010-11, would have made more sense.)

Our red is cooler than your red

Indiana coach Tom Crean takes his red-and-white Hoosiers to Raleigh for Mark Gottfried's first Challenge experience. The Wolfpack got pasted by Wisconsin last year, by 39 points, and hasn't won a Challenge game since '06. Gottfried called this Indiana team, which has won eight Big Ten games in three years, Crean's "best." Crean certainly hopes so after a 12-20 record in 2010-11. Not that N.C. State's on fire, coming off a 15-16 season.

We are ... Boston College!

The Eagles are the only unbeaten team in the Challenge, but their mark (5-0) is in jeopardy. Not because Penn State's any good but because every game on the schedule for second-year coach Steve Donahue will be a "challenge." Sophomores Gabe Moton and Danny Rubin are the only returning scholarship players on BC's roster.

Paging, Jason Bateman

Jason Bateman and the fictional ESPN "The Ocho" crew would have been hard-pressed to generate any excitement for Wake Forest's trip to Big Ten newcomer Nebraska. The Cornhuskers were a respectable 19-13 NIT team last season and figure to be again. Wake was historically bad (1-15 in ACC play), and only the misery of BC and Georgia Tech offers any glimmer of hope that next season will be better for the Deacons.

jp.giglio@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8938

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