What did we learn about ACC basketball from the ACC/Big10 Challenge?


The Big 10 won the ACC/Big 10 Challenge 8-6, and at one point led 8-3. I like this challenge against a quality basketball conference like the Big10 because it gives good barometer of where the ACC is.

Here is what we learned.

Duke is really really good

Duke walked into Wisconsin to face the number 2 ranked Badgers. The Blue Devils basically cruised from start to finish for a 10 point win. Wisconsin is a legit final 4 threat, and what Duke did on the road was every bit as impressive as Kentucky when they destroyed Kansas earlier in the year. Incredibly talented freshmen like Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor mixed with a nice group of upper classmen makes Duke a national title contender. In recent years Duke had peaked in November/December only to fade late. That’s not happening this year.

The Top of the ACC is really strong. 

We have already talked about Duke, but some of the other ACC’s top team looks good as well. The ACC went 4-0 in head to head ranked team vs ranked team battles with the Big 10. #15 Miami beat#24 Illinois, #5 Louisville defeated #14 Ohio State, #4 Duke won against #2 Wisconsin, and #7 Virginia won at #21 Maryland. I know Maryland was without Dez Wells, but that’s still a good win by the Cavaliers. That’s at least 4 teams the ACC have that could make at the Elite 8 or better.

The Bottom of the ACC is really not strong

Clemson lost to a bad Rutgers team on their home floor. FSU has been ACC’s most disappointing team and got beat at home by Nebraska. Wake Forest lost by 15 at home to Minnesota. The separation from the top of the ACC to the bottom is huge.

Teams that surprised in a good way

Notre Dame has quietly started the year 7-1 and got a nice quality win over Michigan State. Notre Dame looks like an NCAA team. Georgia Tech isn’t an NCAA tournament team, but this is an improved squad. They went on the road and defeated Northwestern, to go along with wins over Rhode Island and Georgia. They are off to a 6-1 start.

Teams that surprised in a bad way

Um North Carolina you lost to a slightly above average Iowa team on your home floor. The Heels have again become too reliant on Marcus Paige for perimeter scoring, and just plain looked flat against the Hawkeyes. At least UNC can feel good about building Iowa’s NCAA resume.

The ACC is a very good basketball league, but the best? 

The Big 10 proved it’s deeper, but the ACC at the top is better. So that’s a wash… The ACC will get at least 7 teams in the NCAAs, and possibly 8, but the bottom of the league is just plain bad. For now I think the ACC and Big 10 are a bit ahead the rest of the country. If a couple of borderline teams like NC State, Syracuse or Pittsburgh develop the ACC could be a league that legitimately 9-10 teams deep.

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