ACC back up to speed vs. Big Ten?

Want a clue as to who will be in the National Championship game? Keep an eye on the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Since 1999, the two conferences have provided a participant in the National Championship game 15 times, eight times walking away with the crown. On four occasions, the ACC and Big Ten have had the entire stage to themselves, including last year, when Louisville, which joins the ACC next season, knocked off Michigan. As far as the Big Ten/ACC Challenge itself, the ACC has dominated over the years, holding a 10-3-1 series edge since the conferences started going mano-a-mano in 1999.

For the last four years, however, the conference has failed to achieve victory. The Big Ten has gone 3-0-1, including a resounding 8-4 thumping in 2011, its most lopsided win. This year, the ACC has called in some reinforcements to try and change its luck. The ACC’s addition of Syracuse, Pittsburgh (a participant in the Jimmy V Men’s Classic) and Notre Dame brings coaches Jim Boeheim, Jamie Dixon and Mike Brey to the sidelines. The trio holds a combined .574 winning percentage over the Big Ten, going a combined 39-29 over its current configuration.

The most formidable of the three is Boeheim, who has dominated the Big Ten, to the tune of a career 30-13 record (a .698 winning percentage). Brey, at 6-12, has not seen much of the conference and hasn’t really fared overly well, while Dixon’s exposure (3-4) is limited. But Brey and Dixon promise to pay dividends next season, when the Big Ten expands with the absorption of Maryland from the ACC and Rutgers from the Big East. Brey is 16-8 against the Big Ten’ers-to-be, having a .667 winning percentage against both Maryland (2-1) and Rutgers (12-6).

Dixon is winning at .700, with a combined 7-3 record. Throw in Boeheim’s 28-7 mark against the two schools—he’s been particularly harsh on the Scarlet Knights, with a career 26-5 record—and the ACC’s new kids are 88-34, a .721 success rate. Of the current Big Ten members, Michigan (7-4), who will play in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Indiana (7-6), and Ohio State (5-2) have fared the best, while Penn State has struggled at 1-12.

Only Ohio State (4-2), Illinois (2-1), Minnesota (1-0) and Iowa (1-0) can claim a winning record against Boeheim. Indiana (1-0), Michigan (1-0), and Michigan State (1-0), have winning records against Dixon, while Michigan (3-0) and Indiana (5-2) have the lion’s share of the success over Brey. Penn State, Ohio State and Northwestern all 1-0, have each nicked Notre Dame’s head man for a loss.

In case this threesome can’t get the job done, the ACC will add further reinforcement next season when Louisville joins the fold. Louisville coach Rick Pitino is 25-9 against next year’s Big Ten, and is an impressive 10-4 against Big Ten heavyweights Indiana (6-4) and Ohio State (4-0). The only teams to get the better of Pitino are Purdue (1-3), a participant in the Old Spice Classic, and Iowa (1-2).