The premier inter-conference challenges gets underway tonight with the 19th annual ACC/B10 Challenge kicking off with its first two games. I will release the preview and predictions for tonight’s games today, another preview tomorrow and another one on Wednesday.
The challenge was first played in 1999, and although the ACC owns a 11-5-2 overall record, it has only won the challenge outright once since 2008, that being last year when they won 9 games to 5. Predictably, Duke has the best record among the ACC teams, having gone 16-2 in the challenge. Somewhat unpredictably, Clemson has gone 10-7 and Wake Forest has gone 11-5. NC State and Florida State have lost the most games at 11 apiece.
As mentioned above, the first two games kick off tonight with former ACC member Maryland visiting central New York to play Syracuse, and Wisconsin is heading to John Paul Jones arena to take on Virginia.
Here are my takes.
Maryland at Syracuse (-3) 7pm
First of all, apparently the Carrier Dome is worth 6 points because I would put this game at 3 the other way, especially with Tyus Battle being a bit of a question mark. There were reports that he was able to participate at practice in a limited capacity this weekend, and according to Jon Rothstein, he will be a game time decision. If he does not play, this game gets exponentially harder for The Orange as they will have to lean on Howard, Brissett and Dolezaj to carry the load. Geno Thorpe did play 21 minutes against Toledo but was not very effective. Matthew Moyer has been disappointing so far this season, but did have 11 points and 7 rebounds in their last game.
Maryland is a team I have seen a little bit already, and a team I was really high on before the season, mentioning them as being potentially the biggest surprise of the power 5 this year. They have already beaten both Butler and New Mexico by double digits, but lost to a St. Bonaventure team in the Emerald Coast Classic that didn’t have the services of Jaylen Adams. The Terps sophomore class is not quite pumping on all cylinders yet as Justin Jackson has struggled a bit early on, but point guard Anthony Cowan is blowing up in a big way, averaging 15 points 5 rebounds and 4 assists per game. Another player to keep your eye on, and he will be hard to miss, is 6-10 freshman behemoth Bruno Fernando. That picture you just saw in your minds eye of what he might look like, that’s exactly what he looks like. He is going to break the backboard and then beat you to death with the rim. In his last 4 games he has blocked 12 shots, he also has a, wait for it… 25% defensive rebound percentage. That’s just fucking stupid. Who is the best rebounder in the country? Marvin Bagley right? Well, he is so, his defensive rebounding percentage is 24%.
Anyways, with Battle possibly out, and in the very best case, still not 100%, I have to take Maryland to win this game. I do like the match-up of freshman centers, because I think by the time it’s all said and done Paschal Chukwu is going to be a very good player for Cuse, but I think Bruno Fernando (I just like saying his name) is going to get the better of him at this point in their careers. Cowan is a stud, and if either Huerter or Jackson get hot against that zone it could be a long night for Boeheim’s bunch. One thing to note, I think Marek Dolezaj could start getting some real attention after this game. People have not paid a ton of attention to Syracuse yet, but this kid has style, swagger and some serious stat sheet stuffing talent. Yeah, say that fast. I could barely type it without my brain seizing up.
Prediction: Maryland 74 Syracuse 67
Wisconsin at Virginia (-8.5) 9pm
This is not good timing by Wisconsin, they have lost 3 of 4 games coming into the Challenge, and none of those three teams they lost to are as good as UVA. Ethan Happ is probably the best post player in the country, he is top 5 anyways, but after that you are asking a lot of inexperienced players to head into JPJ arena in prime time and beat a Virginia team that has already beaten VCU and URI. Happ will almost certainly see a pretty steady dose of Isaiah Wilkins, who is one the best defenders in the entire country.
Virginia sharpshooter Kyle Guy is also playing like a 5 star burger boy who wants to lead his team to the final four. A guy to keep your eye on is De’Andre Hunter, the sophomore wing for the Cavaliers seemingly had a coming out party three games ago against Monmouth, but has played just 23 minutes and scored a total of 4 points in the Cavaliers last two games combined.
I am huge on Virginia (look at last Friday’s Power Rankings), and I think Wisconsin got a bum deal with this draw, but it gives them yet another opportunity for a very nice OOC win for that resume’. I just don’t think Davison and Trice are going to be able to do enough against that pack line defense to keep the Badgers in the game. I think Happ can get 20-10 and Wisconsin will still lose by ten points.
Prediction: Virginia 74 Wisconsin 62