Former Clemson football coach Frank Howard is credited with popularizing the phrase “a tie is like kissing your sister.”
I’m not sure there was much sibling affection between the ACC and the Big Ten last week but the latest Challenge did end in a 6-6 tie.
How many more times will we see the two-day event? Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski suggested that it might be time for the two conferences to part ways, given that one of them seems rather intent on poaching from the other.
Which may explain why we don’t have an ACC-Big East Challenge.
Normally, this sort of thing would be the province of commissioners and lawyers and people like that. But Krzyzewski is a little like the old E.F. Hutton ads; when he talks, people listen.
But that’s down the road. What about right now? If last week’s challenge and the subsequent weekend games didn’t decide conference supremacy, did it tell us anything about the relative strength of assorted ACC teams?
Well, it is early. But there are some interesting trend lines. Duke certainly solidified itself as the best team in the ACC, perhaps the country. Their 73-68 win over Ohio State was the best game of the week, two thoroughbreds asking for and delivering no quarter.
The other two high-profile matches were less compelling. Michigan dominated most of their game against NC State, withstanding a late Wolfpack surge for a 79-72 win.
NC State has wobbled a bit, losing big to Oklahoma State and posting an underwhelming 82-80 home win over one-win UNC-Asheville. But a win over Connecticut at the Jimmy V Classic suggests they may be close to figuring it all out.
Still, a very dangerous team.
But what are we to make of UNC?
Few expected them to actually beat top-ranked Indiana on the road. And that game was even for much of the first half. But when the Hoosiers got it going, Carolina offered little resistance. Think giant boulder rolling down the mountain, gaining momentum and victims.
An 83-59 loss a week after an 11-point loss to Butler suggests that Roy Williams has some work to do. Or at least, that they should stay away from schools from Indiana.
And Wake Forest may have reached a Bzdelik-era low, with a 79-63 loss to Nebraska. At home. Yes, that Nebraska.
If it was a less-than-stellar week for the Big Four, it was a banner week for the Commonwealth teams. Virginia’s 60-54 win at Wisconsin was the biggest surprise of the Challenge. In fact, Wisconsin went off as the biggest favorite of the event. Virginia wing Joe Harris might be the best ACC player you’ve never heard of.
Unless it’s Virginia Tech guard Erick Green, the ACC’s leading scorer, at 24.9 points per game.
The Hokies opened 6-0, without actually beating much of anyone, Iowa included. But Tech’s 81-71 victory over nationally-ranked Oklahoma State—the same team that beat NC State by 20—suggests that those scribes who picked them last in the ACC, like, oh, I don’t know, me, may have seriously underestimated them.
Tech goes back into they’re-playing-who mode before a December 22/23 trip to the Las Vegas Classic, where they open with Bradley. Should tell us more.
But the trend lines are looking up for the two Virginia schools, which is about as much as they could have hoped for at this point in the season.
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