So the final result of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge was a 6-6 tie, the first in the event's 14-year history (the ACC leads 10-3-1). That means the Big Ten will retain its title. Overall, however, I think the ACC won. It was hard to deny the Big Ten's standing as the nation's strongest conference entering the 2012-13 season. But that's less certain after this outcome. I think the league's top tier can compete with any league's best. The Big Ten hype, however, has been based, in part, on its apparent depth. With Iowa, Michigan State and Wisconsin all losing, it might not be the top-to-bottom juggernaut it appeared to be a few weeks ago. And credit the ACC for exceeding most expectations.
But you have to appreciate the battle between the two perennial powerhouse conferences. It was an entertaining event that showcased the parity within college basketball. Per ESPN Stats & Info, the ACC averaged 69.2 ppg and 31.3 rpg in its six wins, while the Big Ten averaged 70.3 ppg and 30.4 rpg in its victories. It'd be great to see Indiana and Duke battle tonight for the outright championship and the undisputed No. 1 ranking, right? But March will be here soon. The Challenge just made me more excited for it.
Other thoughts on the ACC/Big Ten Challenge:
Do you smell what Tubby is cooking? Past seasons in Tubby Smith's tenure at Minnesota have been defined by the same question: “What if?” What if Royce White and Trevor Mbakwe had played together in 2009-10? What if all those kids hadn't transferred? What if Mbakwe hadn't torn his ACL last November? That's not this year's question. The Gophers are healthy, deep and effective, which they proved in their 77-68 road win over Florida State Tuesday. They've played their way into the national conversation via Rodney Williams' undeniable growth, Andre Hollins' emergence and one of the nation's top defenses. And they're doing this as Mbakwe plays limited minutes. I had a lot of doubts about the program's potential entering 2012-13. They're gone now.
Who's No. 1? I covered Indiana-North Carolina Tuesday in Bloomington and watched Duke's win over Ohio State Wednesday from home. You could make a No. 1 argument for either squad. The Hoosiers crushed a North Carolina team that lacked the size and skill to compete. And the Blue Devils pulled off another gritty win over a top-5 team. Will someone arrange a matchup between these two squads Thursday night so we can settle this, please? Both programs proved that they're as good as advertised -- and possibly better -- with their showings in the Challenge.
Watch out for Miami? In Durand Scott's first two games following a suspension for accepting impermissible benefits, the Hurricanes have defeated Detroit by 15 and Michigan State by eight points. The U could be dangerous in the coming months with Scott, who scored 15 points, leading the way again. The Canes certainly looked the part of an ACC contender when they handled the Spartans Wednesday night.
Is it time to panic in the Big Ten? No. But Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State have some issues to address. Wisconsin's offense (54 points against Virginia) needs more production from young point guards Traevon Jackson and George Marshall. Iowa's defense is an issue again (Virginia Tech scored 95 points against it) and Michigan State (Miami shot 9-for-16 from beyond the arc) is porous in areas that have rarely been issues under Tom Izzo.
Is it time to throw a party in the ACC? A little fiesta never hurt anybody. Again, I think the ACC won because it did more to elevate its stock in the Challenge. Victories by Miami, Maryland, Virginia Tech and Virginia were proof that the ACC is bigger than two or three teams at the top. North Carolina State was better than it had been in past weeks, even though it lost to Michigan. North Carolina lost to an Indiana team that, in my opinion, could've beaten any team in America that night. And Duke made its case for No. 1.
Any fine print? Yes. It's early, folks. So early. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge was a nice, early barometer. But it's November. Things will change in the coming weeks. We'll have more definitive answers about both leagues. We don't have many now. But there's clearly a lot of parity in college basketball this season and the Challenge proved it. We might not have any great teams. But we certainly have a bunch of good ones. Stay tuned. And someone should seriously figure out this Indiana-Duke matchup. I'll set my DVR.