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Illinois makes loudest statement at Challenge


Dec. 2, 2004
The ACC/Big Ten Challenge is done for another season, and the ACC dominated by a 7-2 margin.

During the early stages of the North Carolina-Indiana game that I called with ESPN play-by-play man Dan Shulman on Wednesday night, it appeared that the Big Ten was making a comeback. Ohio State led Clemson, the Hoosiers were hanging with the Tar Heels, and Northwestern was waiting for a shot at Virginia. But in the end, it wasn't meant to be for the Big Ten. The ACC has seven teams ranked in this week's poll, and the league's superiority was evident.

Here are my picks for the top three performances in this year's ACC/Big Ten Challenge:

1. Illinois — Wow, what a performance by coach Bruce Weber's club Wednesday. The Illini dominated in all facets, beating No. 1-ranked Wake Forest 91-73. Not too many people would have expected coach Skip Prosser's Demon Deacons to be down 21 at intermission and trailing by as many as 32 in the second half.

Illinois was blazing, shooting 56 percent for the game. Point guard Dee Brown was incredible in the first half. This was a statement game for the Illini, and it could lead to some first-place votes in next week's poll.

2. Georgia Tech — The Yellow Jackets went on a 20-0 run Tuesday and it was all over, baby! A good Michigan team was never really in it after that. Michigan was down 59-32 at halftime, with a final of 99-68.

Senior guard B.J. Elder has been on fire from the perimeter (he hit seven trifectas against the Wolverines). Senior guard Will Bynum gives Tech instant offense off the bench. Junior Jarrett Jack is one of the premier point guards in America. Add center Luke Schenscher in the middle, and coach Paul Hewitt's team will make a run at another trip to the Final Four.

3. Duke — The battle against Michigan State was a physical one. In the end, the backcourt tandem of J.J. Redick and Daniel Ewing was too much for the Spartans as each guard scored 29.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski's team pleased the Cameron Crazies, and those naysayers who wondered what would happen with Luol Deng and Chris Duhon gone (and recruit Shawn Livingston going to the NBA instead of Durham) ... well, think again. This Duke squad will scrap and claw to compete in the best conference in America, the ACC.

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

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