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Big Ten ACC Challenge Preview

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Nov. 28, 2005

The great thing about the Big Ten-ACC Challenge is it eliminates all of those bargain basement goodies. This event has so many good match-ups as a way for coaches to get true evaluations of players early on.

Players and teams want competition and they get it in this series. As a coach, you find out how good you are and what you have to work on when you meet the better opponents.

There are some interesting match-ups in this year's Challenge. Illinois and North Carolina square off in a national championship rematch, but these teams are obviously very different from their meeting in St. Louis. Both Bruce Weber and Roy Williams are back on the sidelines, but little else is similar.

Deron Williams is in the NBA now, so the Illini will rely on the electrifying Dee Brown and James Augustine. North Carolina has a young team after losing its top seven scorers from a year ago.

Tyler Hansbrough has already shown he can be a major factor on the frontline. David Noel has come through already, hitting the game-winning shot in the opener against a pesky Gardner-Webb squad. This should be an exciting game.

Duke, coming off its showing in the NIT Season Tip-Off, travels to Indiana. The Hoosiers will be fired up as there will be a pep rally before the game. Marco Killingsworth and company love the opportunity to upset the Blue Devils, who suffered a blow when DeMarcus Nelson suffered an ankle injury last week.

North Carolina State and Iowa should put on a good show too. Herb Sendek's team faces a test after meeting Notre Dame last weekend. We'll see what the Wolfpack are all about going against Jeff Horner and company.

When people talk about the Big Ten, it certainly is an improved league. Michigan State, despite a couple of early losses, remains the favorite in the conference. Iowa showed something by beating Kentucky. Indiana is going to be tough when D. J. White comes back following an early injury. Michigan should be better with Daniel Horton and Lester Abram back in the lineup.

Let me tell you, one team given less credit is a dangerous Wisconsin squad. The Badgers are not mentioned among the contenders in the Big Ten, yet this club comes to play hard every night.

The Big Ten-ACC Challenge test against Wake Forest should be a battle. Bo Ryan's team really showed something when it won the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands, as it knocked off a very good Old Dominion team (won 28 games last season) in the finals. Kammron Taylor scored 27 in that victory.

Earlier in the tournament, the Badgers beat Eastern Kentucky in double-overtime as Alando Tucker scored 38 points. Those tough games should prepare Wisconsin for a test at Wake Forest.

A message is being sent by Ryan, who is one of the most underrated coaches in the nation. The Badgers will battle night in and night out, and they are so tough at the Kohl Center. Ryan has done an incredible job since his arrival in the Big Ten.

He has a way of getting to the winner's circle.

I look forward to going to North Carolina and Indiana this week for the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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