ACC/Big Ten Challenge Expands to 14 Matchups this December
May 1, 2014
The 16th annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge Presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods, played over three days from December 1-3, will be highlighted by an expanded format of 14 games - two more than previous Challenges - and the debut of Maryland and Rutgers as members of the Big Ten, and Louisville with the ACC.
ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU will combine to televise all 14 games of the three-day event matching top college basketball programs playing for conference supremacy and the Commissioners Cup. All 14 games will also be available via WatchESPN.
Three of the games will feature a showdown between teams ranked in an ESPN.com early preseason top 25 poll: No. 2 Duke at No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 25 Iowa at No. 6 North Carolina and No. 21 Syracuse at No. 24 Michigan. Additional teams in the Challenge that made the poll include No. 7 Virginia, No. 8 Louisville and No. 18 Michigan State.
All 14 Big Ten teams and 14 of the 15 ACC teams will participate in the 2014 Challenge.
The ACC and Big Ten have split the past two events, winning six Challenge games each in 2012 and 2013. In the event of a tie, the Commissioner's Cup remains with the conference that won the previous year, which was the Big Ten in 2011. The ACC won the first 10 Challenges (1999-2008) while the Big Ten won the next three (2009-2011).
2014 ACC/Big Ten Challenge schedule (times and networks will be announced in August):
Monday, Dec. 1
Tuesday, Dec. 2
Wednesday, Dec. 3
Tourney Teams: 13 teams from the two conferences played in the 2014 NCAA Championship: Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, NC State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Virginia from the ACC, and Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin from the Big Ten.
o Michigan and Syracuse last met in a 2013 National Semifinal game from Atlanta with the Wolverines defeating the Orange 61-56.
o Michigan State and Notre Dame will meet for the first time in 35 years when the Spartans defeated the Irish 80-68 in the Regional Finals on its way to the 1979 National Championship.
o In addition to first-time Challenge games, several of the teams are infrequent opponents: Iowa won two of its three matchups against North Carolina, despite losing the last meeting in 2004; Illinois and Miami (Fla.) have split their two previous meetings, with the Hurricanes winning the last contest in 2012; Florida State holds a 1-0 record over Nebraska with a victory in 2005; and Clemson will look to go 2-0 against Rutgers after a win in 1999.
o Seconds Please: Pittsburgh and Syracuse - two of the three ACC members that played in the Challenge for the first time last season - will look for a second consecutive win in the event (Pittsburgh defeated Penn State and Syracuse beat Indiana). Notre Dame, which also made a Challenge debut last season, lost to Iowa.
o A First at 16: Maryland will appear in its first Challenge as a member of the Big Ten after playing in the previous 15 events with the ACC, compiling a 10-5 record. Maryland will host Virginia in the Challenge, marking a rematch of the Terrapins' 75-69 overtime victory in their final regular-season game as an ACC member.
o Rubber Match: Duke and Wisconsin will square off in the Challenge for the third time with each winning one game, both as the home team (Duke in 2007 and Wisconsin in 2009).
o Three's a Charm: Northwestern and NC State will look for a three-peat over their 2014 Challenge opponents with the Wildcats defeating Georgia Tech in 2010 and 2011 and Wolfpack beating Purdue in 1999 and 2004.
o Looking for 14: Duke has won more Challenge games than any other team, taking 13 of its 15 matchups with its only two losses coming to Wisconsin and Ohio State.
o Second Time Around: Minnesota and Wake Forest and Virginia Tech and Penn State will play each other in the Challenge for the second time. Wake Forest (in 2001) and Penn State (in 2007), the home teams in the first meeting as well, won the games.
Dan Dakich & Seth Greenberg Talk ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Scheduling and More
Greenberg on perception of the Challenge as a coach: "As a coach, I looked at it as the Ryder Cup. We wanted to win and we were worried about what that game would mean for our resume. It was one of the few times during the course of the season where I was really locked in on where we were in the standings for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. We had to find a way to win and represent the conference."
Dakich on Challenge creating top matchups for fans of opposing teams: "This is a little like, back in the day, when you were a kid and they only had Saturday baseball on and you were waiting to see a team that maybe you read about in a magazine.
Greenberg on scheduling: "Scheduling, in your top five things, has got to be number one or two. The problem is coaches, innately, are afraid to overschedule so they under-schedule. I was as big of an offender as anyone. It depends on where you are in your program and who you are. There are some coaches - their players are buying no matter what. Like a bunch of coaches in these two conferences. But some coaches - they are selling every single day. So having the right schedule is key to them selling, because they have to show progress, show they are winning games to keep their jobs. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the Maui, preseason NIT - the major preseason events - are so pivotal in helping you build your program or maintain the program."
Dakich on benefit of Challenge for scheduling: "This is one of the great scheduling pieces for schools, regardless of who you play. Obviously, it helps if you're the better team that's playing, where you're playing and if you get a win. Without question it helps scheduling, without question it helps exposure of the league and helps fans."
Greenberg on the Challenge as a whole: "Every one of these games has a storyline. Each one of these games has a little bit of a personality. It's not just the Duke's and the Wisconsin's."