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Around the Big Ten, post-Challenge.

While IU played no part in it, and I'm not ordinarily a conference-kumbaya guy, it was refreshing to see the Big Ten finally best the ACC in this made-for-TV event.  The current status of the Big Ten is a mixed bag for IU fans.  On one hand, after nearly a couple of decades in the wilderness, the conference finally seems to be returning to its last 80s/early90s status as every bit the peer of the ACC: you remember: the Bob Knight/Gene Keady/Tom Davis/Jud Heathcoate/Lou Henson glory days, with occasionally excellent teams at Minnesota, Michigan, and Ohio State as well.  Overall, it's a positive development, but it comes at precisely the wrong time for IU's program.  The Big Ten is deeper than it has been in a generation, and that will make it difficult for IU to turn its improved play into an improved record. 

In any event, here's a quick tour around SB Nation's Big Ten blogs for postgame reaction for both the winners and the losers (Maize n Brew hasn't posted a wrap-up, so I linked to excellent Michigan basketball blog UMHoops.com instead).

First, a quick look at the conference standings.  Thanks, Iowa!


Big Ten Conference Standings

(updated 12.3.2009 at 12:57 AM EST)


Even at this early date, Purdue remains the only undefeated team, and Iowa and IU are the only teams under .500.  Will either team end up in the black again this season?  Enough with depression and on to the scores.

Wisconsin 73, Duke 69: Of course, this was the signature win of the Challenge.  It's appropriate that Duke lost its first Challenge game in the season in which the Big Ten finally prevailed.  Bucky's Fifth Quarter:

If the Big Ten was going to win the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for the first time in its 11-year existence, you knew it was going to have to get an unexpected win. Consider it done. Behind Trevon Hughes' 26 points, the Badgers upset No. 5/6 Duke 73-69 Wednesday night at the Kohl Center, spilling a rowdy student section onto the court and starting a celebration that spread across the entire Big Ten conference. The significance of the win was lost on no one, including Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. "It was a night Wisconsin fans should feel pretty darn proud," he said. "They should feel very proud of their basketball team. Just minutes after UW's win, Ohio State topped Florida State 77-64, giving the conference its first ever victory in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The loss was also the first for Duke in the challenge, which was previously 10-0 in challenge games.

Ohio State 77, Florida State 64:  The Buckeyes won the last game of the event and therefore had the honor of clinching the win.  WWAHT:

I'll talk about another ridiculous night from Evan Turner in a minute. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the New Jon Diebler. Diebler has been taking smart shots for the better part of the year, but for whatever reason, they weren't falling as consistently as anyone would like. In an interview played early in the game, Thad Matta attributed it to Diebler's ability to deal with expectations; when the crowd inhaled, expecting him to make the big trey, he'd tense up. That's not happening quite so much anymore, and this team is that much better for it. That's two wins in the Big Ten-ACC challenge in a row now for Thad Matta. Last year, the Buckeyes traveled into Miami and scored an upset over the favored 'Canes. This year, the Buckeyes controlled the game almost from the get-go, hitting timely shots, forcing key turnovers and limiting the ability of FSU's big men to affect the tempo of the offense.

North Carolina 89, Michigan State 82:  This is the second time that the Challenge has included a rematch of the previous NCAA title game, but unlike IU in 2002, the Spartans could exact no revenge.  The Only Colors was disappointed in more than the final score:

But what disappointed me--and the reason I don't think this loss can be easily swept away--is the lack of composure shown by the Spartan players at key moments. With the amount of experience MSU has among its perimeter players, they needed to do a better job of knowing when to push things and when to step back and let the game settle down. Kalin Lucas made more out-of-control plays than he has since he was a freshman, taking ill-advised off-balance shots (6-17 from the field) and narrowly avoiding turnovers after dribbling into crowds in the lane. I credit Raymar Morgan for his aggressiveness on offense (18 points on 10 FGA) but he also made some very poor decisions along the way (5 turnovers). And the 2-20 three-point shooting line the team posted was a sign, to me, of a lack of confidence.

Purdue 69, Wake Forest 58: Purdue, after a disappointing home loss to Duke last year, blew the doors off Wake Forest in the second half.  Hammer and Rails was on press row:

Purdue's hosting ability - If I hadn't been so flustered and freaking out (more on this in a moment), I could have really enjoyed sitting down and seeing the placard that said, "Purdue welcomes Travis Miller" right in the press section. Talk about a moment of vindication after working on this blog for over three years. I've covered tons of high school games since 1999, but this was like getting called up to the Majors after toiling for ten years in the minor leagues. Everything was first class on Purdue's end. I owe a big thank you to Randy at Rush the Court for setting everything up, as well as Purdue's basketball SID Cory Walton and his staff for everything on Purdue's end. Let's hope this does not turn into a cup of coffee situation and instead becomes a 10-year journeyman career.

Northwestern 65, NC State 53:  Quality road wins have been a rarity in NU's basketball history, but Sippin on Purple was disappointed in the second half.

But at halftime, they must have been watching the ESPN halftime shows talking about how Northwestern could be a tournament team, and got full of themselves and came out very flat for the 2nd half. There were turnovers, bad passes, forced shots, mental mistakes, defensive breakdowns, you name it. Had they been playing a top Big Ten team, they would have gotten run out of the gym. But two things kept them in the lead, the first that NC State couldn't knock down an open 3 if their life depended on it, and second that Michael Thompson put Northwestern on his back and made big play after big play down the stretch. The final margin was a comfortable 12 points, but this game was much closer than that.

Illinois 76, Clemson 74: Hail to the Orange compares the thrill of the comeback win over Clemson to the comeback win over Arizona in the 2005 regional final.  Seems a bit much, but a nice win for the Illini nevertheless. 

Oh what is there is there to be said about this game? Other than of course that this was the greatest comeback for an Illinois team ever, that it was as improbable of a comeback as there could be and that I have not had this much fun watching a basketball since Arizona in 2005. I cannot stress enough just how bad the Illini looked in the first half. With Demetri sitting on the bench with fouls in the first half, the freshmen wilted under the pressure of Clemson. The Illini seemed to turn the ball over on their end every trip down the court, and give up a foul on every defensive stand. Bad passes, offense not getting set, and a lazy defense giving up long 3's.

Penn State 69, Virginia 66:  The Nittany Lions opened the classic with a close win over the Cavaliers.  Black Shoe Diaries discusses the Lions' luck:

What's behind this PSU phenomenon? As Gasaway wrote late in the 08-09 season, "Penn State (Actual: 8-7; Predicted: 6-9) . The Nittany Lions popping up here is actually quite interesting. Last year Ed DeChellis' team posted the single most fortunate conference season out of the 219 complete league records in this particular vault. (PSU went 7-11 in the Big Ten in 2008, with a scoring margin that would more customarily give you a 3-15 record.) Meaning Penn State has been lucky now two years in a row. How can this be? Take it away Ken Pomeroy: 'When you have 340-some D-I teams, you would expect about a fourth of them to be lucky two years running.' The Nittany Lions are very much in the vanguard of that fourth. Either that or Talor Battle really is Robert Horry. You make the call."

Boston College 62, Michigan 58:  One of the Big Ten's most disappointing teams turned in the Challenge's most disappointing loss.  UMHoops:

Well that’s certainly not how to snap a losing streak. Michigan picked up right where they left off with another terrible performance. Michigan knew the importance of this game but they played without any mental toughness. They blew routine layups, fell asleep on inbounds plays, couldn’t hit a shot, and lacked defensive intensity. The whole nine yards.

Miami 63, Minnesota 58:  Another candidate for worst loss was the Gophers' slip-up in South Florida.  The Daily Gopher:

For the third straight game the Gophers were atrocious from the free throw line (7-15). For the third straight game the Gophers couldn't develop anything consistent in the half-court offense. For the third straight game the Gophers defense had some nice moments, but also way too many costly lapses. The result? A 63-58 loss in Coral Gables to the Miami Hurricanes.

Virginia Tech 70, Iowa 64:  A home loss to one of the ACC's worst programs won't deter Black Heart Gold Pants from reveling in reflected glory:

For the first time in the matchup's 10-year history, the Big Ten has won their annual battle with the basketball-obsessed ACC this season. And for that, they can thank... the Iowa Hawkeyes. Granted, if you want to be all technical about it, Iowa didn't "win" their part of the series, having lost to perennial powerhouse* Virginia Tech. We're not so sure the Hawkeyes didn't lose on purpose. Hear us out. Had Iowa selfishly and short-sightedly won their game, the series would have stood at a deceptive 4-2 lead for the Big Ten coming into today. John Wooden Todd Lickliter, ever wise beyond our comprehension, knew such a lead would have a deleterious effect on the conference's remaining teams, lulling them into a lethal complacency.