With only one team left in this week’s AP Top 25, the ACC’s struggles have been well-documented this season. The defending champions are the lone remaining undefeated team in this young season. For comparison’s sake, as of Monday, eight conferences had multiple undefeated teams.
One of these conferences is the Big Ten, one of the strongest conferences this season. Jay Bilas thinks it’s the best league in the country, and it boasts five ranked teams this week heading into the ACC-Big Ten challenge. The ACC won the first nine series between the conferences. Last season, the ACC was leading 5-4 and needed a win from either the Blue Devils or the Seminoles who were both on the road. The home Badgers and Buckeyes pulled out the victories and earned their conference bragging rights last season with a 6-5 win.
Although the ACC has dominated this clash since its inauguration, the Big Ten certainly is favored this season. The ACC will also see this as an opportunity to earn respect both for the conference and the individual programs since all eleven contests will be televised on the ESPN family of networks between Monday and Wednesday.
One of Tuesday’s biggest games is between No. 2 Ohio State and unranked 5-1 Florida State. The Seminoles have not played a game on national television yet this season, and they will have their hands full when they face one of the Big Ten’s strongest squads. They will need a big game from reigning conference defensive player of the year Chris Singleton. Singleton, the ACC’s representative for ESPN’s Conference Voices Blog series, wrote about the pressure of playing in front of NBA Scouts.
Singleton and the rest of the players in that contest can be sure that there will be scouts in attendance for Tuesday’s meeting which will be on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. Florida State center Xavier Gibson, who has seen his playing time increase as he entered the starting lineup this season, along with the aforementioned Singleton are both viewed as NBA prospects. With Singleton averaging 15.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game heading into Tuesday’s contest, he can jump onto the radar of NBA teams if he performs like that against the second-ranked team in the country.
Following the Seminoles’ contest, the Tar Heels will battle No. 21 Illinois. The Fighting Illini beat Maryland by four points at Madison Square Garden to take third place in the 2K Sports Classic. North Carolina, who has fallen out of the rankings, has lost its last two meetings televised on ESPN to Minnesota and Vanderbilt respectively. In the Tar Heels’ matchup with the Gophers, freshman phenom Harrison Barnes shot 0-for-12 from the field. He followed that up with an 11 point game against Vanderbilt.
While scouts agree that Barnes has the potential to be the top selection in this year’s NBA draft, he has yet to prove he can score consistently at the collegiate level. Although Barnes is scoring 11.8 points per game, scouts cannot be impressed with his 35.2 field goal percentage. Fortunately for Barnes, this season is young and he will have several more opportunities to shine on national television, beginning Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN.
Lastly, one of the most anticipated games of this young season showcases two of the greatest coaches in college basketball history as well as two of the strongest programs of the last decade. Coach K’s No. 1 Blue Devils host Tom Izzo’s No. 6 Spartans in Cameron Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m. As the last scheduled game in this year’s ACC-Big Ten challenge, it may be the deciding game in the series; however, more than likely, it will be up to Duke to save some respect for its conference.