Dec. 1, 2008
ACC/Big Ten Challenge Tips Off Monday Night: The 10th annual ACC/BigTen Challenge has arrived--11 games and three days of top collegiate basketball. The ACC and Big Ten will play for conference supremacy and the Commissioner's Cup on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. This year's challenge is highlighted by Michigan State hosting North Carolina at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich. The ACC and Big Ten teams competing enter this week with a combined record of 114-18 (.864). The Big Ten is 53-9 against non-conference foes to rank second nationally behind the ACC, which owns a 61-9 record.
More on the Challenge Games: Forty-seven of the 86 Challenge games played to date have had at least one ranked team playing. This year's match ups are no different. Five of the 11 games will feature ranked teams, including two games with both opponents ranked. Over the nine years of the Challenge, 22 games have had both teams ranked. No. 4 Duke will travel to West Lafayette to meet No. 10 Purdue. Top-ranked North Carolina travels to Detroit to face No. 12 Michigan State. No. 23 Wisconsin travels to Virginia Tech while Ohio State will play No. 22 Miami. Wake Forest is the only other ranked team in this year's event. The Demon Deacons are 17th and will host Indiana.
Challenge Trends: For the second consecutive year, a Big Ten team will take on the No. 1 ranked team in the nation as No. 12 Michigan State meets No.1/1 North Carolina on Wednesday. Last year, Ohio State fell to then-No. 1 UNC, 66-55, in Columbus.
Storied Conferences: The ACC and Big Ten conferences are synonymous with the NCAA Tournament. The two conferences have combined for 625 NCAA Tournament victories. The Big Ten is the only conference since 2000 to advance five different programs to the Final Four. The ACC has had four different schools reach the national semifinals over that time. Michigan State leads the Big Ten with three appearances (2000, 2001 and 2005) while Illinois (2005), Indiana (2002), Ohio State (2007) and Wisconsin (2000) have each earned a Final Four spot since 2000. The Big Ten has accumulated a record 39 Final Four appearances, tying the ACC for the national lead. Since the inception of the NCAA Tournament in 1939, the Big Ten has recorded the most appearances of any conference in the Big Dance with 184 (ACC, 171) and has the second-most NCAA Tournament victories with 295 (ACC, 329).
Winning Ways: Through the first three weeks of the 2008-09 campaign, all 11 teams are above .500. The Big Ten owns the second-best win percentage in the nation (.855) behind only the ACC (.871). The Big East is ranked third, sporting an .843 win percentage. A conference-by- conference breakdown is below.
Perfection: Three weeks into the 2008-09 season, the Big Ten has three teams remaining with perfect records. Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio State are all undefeated. Illinois and Minnesota are both 6-0 entering the week, while the Buckeyes are 3-0.
Still Sizzling: Minnesota is off to its best start in recent program history. The Golden Gophers are 6-0, marking their best start to a season since opening 6-0 to tip off the 1999-2000 campaign.
Smokin' Hot: Illinois is the only other Big Ten team to start 6-0. The Fighting Illini are off to a 6-0 start--their best since opening the 2006-07 campaign at 7-0. Illinois has now won 10 of its last 11 games dating back to the end of the 2007-08 season.
Young Guns: Of the Big Ten's 11 teams, seven are led in scoring by underclassmen, including two freshmen. Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue are all paced by freshmen or sophomore standouts. Michigan sophomore Manny Harris leads all scorers in the conference, averaging 22.6 points per game. Other sophomores to lead their teams in scoring include Illinois' Mike Davis (12.7), Ohio State's Evan Turner (12.0), Penn State's Talor Battle (19.4) and Purdue's E'Twaun Moore (16.7). Freshmen include Indiana's Tom Pritchard (15.8) and Iowa's Anthony Tucker (15.1). Spreading the Wealth: Illinois is leading the Big Ten in assists, averaging 19.17 helpers per game. To date, 75 percent of their field goals have been assisted (115-of-154). Senior Chester Frazier leads all players with 42 assists in six games for a 7.00 average per contest. Sophomore Demetri McCamey ranks fifth in the conference, dishing out 4.50 assists per game.
Tournament Recaps: Several Big Ten squads posted impressive performances in tournament action last week. Illinois defeated Tulsa in the championship game of the South Padre Island Invitational, while Purdue earned runner-up honors at the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden. Wisconsin took home second-place honors at the Paradise Jam, after falling to No. 2 Connecticut in the finale. Iowa placed third in the Las Vegas Invitational with a 65-63 win over Kansas State. Michigan State finished fifth in the Old Spice Classic.
All-Tournament Honorees: Four Big Ten student-athletes were named to All-Tournament teams last week. Illinois' Mike Tisdale earned MVP honors after leading the Illini in the South Padre Invitational last week. Wisconsin's Trevon Hughes landed on the Paradise Jam All-Tournament team, while Iowa's Jeff Peterson (Las Vegas Invitational) and Purdue's E'Twaun Moore (Preseason NIT) also picked up All-Tournament accolades last week.
Working Overtime: Last year at this time, Big Ten squads had not competed in any overtime contests. This year, in only the third week of action, conference teams have played in four overtime contests--three of which occurred over the weekend. The Big Ten is 3-1 in those games. Illinois needed an extra stanza to oust Kent State, 69-63, and advance to the championship game of the South Padre Invitational. Michigan took hot-shooting Savannah State to overtime, before prevailing, 66-64, en route to a 5-1 overall record. Purdue and Oklahoma needed an additional five minutes to settle the game, before the Sooners won 87-82. Wisconsin defeated Iona in an overtime contest on Nov. 21.
Stingy Defense: In the slate of 62 games to open the Big Ten non-conference campaign, the conference is averaging 59.3 points allowed per game to lead the nation. The Pac-10 ranks second, limiting opponents to only 61.5 ppg, while the Big East is allowing only 62.7 points per contests. Ohio State leads the conference, allowing opponents only 40.3 points per contest. Northwestern and Illinois rank second and third, respectively, limiting foes to 52.0 and 56.2 points per contest. The Buckeye suffocating defense held Samford to the fewest points by an opponent in 69 years as OSU defeated the Bulldogs 59-22. The 22 points is also the fewest scored by a Big Ten opponent this season.
Staking a Place in the Books: Two current players are nearing milestones in steals and assists. Michigan State's Travis Walton has dished out 445 assists during his two plus seasons in East Lansing. The junior is 55 helpers shy of breaking into the 500 assists career club. Former Spartan Mateen Cleaves is the career assists leader, dishing out 816 during his career spanning from 1997-2000. Purdue's Chris Kramer--in his junior campaign--now has 151 career steals to rank sixth all-time in Boilermaker annals. Illinois' Bruce Douglas holds the record with 324 steals in his career from 1983-1986.
Coaches Nearing Milestones: Several Big Ten coaches are nearing landmark wins or games coached. Minnesota's Tubby Smith is three games away from coaching in his 575th career contest. Smith is 413-159 in his 18th year as a head coach. In his second season at Minnesota, Smith has compiled a 26-14 record. Northwestern's Bill Carmody is two wins shy of his 200th career victory. Indiana's Tom Crean is six wins away from his 200th-career triumph.