What we're reading a few hours ahead of the 15th Big Ten-ACC Challenge. (Not the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Now get it right or pay the price!)
ESPN Insider John Gasaway checks in with his semi-annual preview/historical review of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge — or, as he rather awesomely calls it, the "Iowa Caucus" of hoops: "There have been 14 Challenges, and in just two of those did the two leagues face each other with an equal number of teams. As of this season, of course, we have again returned to an unbalanced collision, with the 15-team ACC facing a 12-team Big Ten. Confronted with this round hole, the square-peg ACC has decided to let Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest sit this one out. Speaking categorically, the ability to leave three of your weakest teams at home is quite naturally an advantage, one that will surface for the ACC sooner rather than later."
Can No. 22 Michigan stop No. 10 Duke's offense? Is Duke's defense getting better — good enough to stop Wolverines' forward Mitch McGary? Will this be the most entertaining game of the Challenge? I'll answer yes to the last question. UMHoops' Dylan Burkhardt wonders aloud about the others: "Duke wants to play small and fast and is very comfortable in a shoot out. For Michigan to win this game, it needs win the battle in the paint: dominate the defensive glass, attack the offensive glass and defend the rim. Mitch McGary needs to dominate the paint for Michigan to win this game. He’s the one player on the the Wolverine roster that Duke doesn’t have an answer for. High ball screens, offensive rebounds, post-ups, McGary needs to be involved early and often."
Indiana coach Tom Crean told the media his team "can't think rematch," but must "focus on the things we learned from the game," Inside the Hall writes. Call me crazy … but I'm betting Indiana's players are thinking rematch.
You may not know it, but Fran McCaffery has a history with Notre Dame, his No. 23-ranked Hawkeyes' Big Ten-ACC opponent Tuesday night. Unfortunately, it's a totally positive history. Angry Fran is far more entertaining than Wistful Fran.
With Tim Frazier back and playing well, Penn State's status as a Big Ten pushover is less valid this year than most. And yet, its matchup against Pittsburgh (on ESPNU, no less) feels like a function as much of the irresistibility of regional rivalry as a large lack of respect for the Panthers. Note to the world: The 7-0 Panthers rank No. 3 in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted efficiency rankings at present. Their schedule has been bad, yes, but they have not. More on this to come. In the meantime Cardiac Hill has as good a preview (and history) of the Pitt-Penn State "rivalry" as you'll find.