While most feel like the season will prove that the Big Ten is the deeper, better conference, that didn't bear out in this year's ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The two super-conferences split the annual event, 6-6, making Devin look like a pure genius.
The Big Ten didn't win the on-court competition, but it did poach a school. So, that's got to count for something, right?
Unbeknownst to me -- and I think just about everyone -- there is actually a traveling trophy for this, the Commissioner's Cup. Since the Big Ten came in to this challenge with the cup, the conference retains the trophy in the event of a tie. I'm sure Jim Delany will enjoy staring at it in his bedroom. Or maybe he'll put it in his East Coast office in D.C. Or maybe there isn't a tangible trophy. At this point, it's all speculation.
If I had to blame the tie on one school, I'd pinpoint Wisconsin. When the Badgers are playing at the Kohl Center, it's almost always a victory. That didn't happen Wednesday as Virginia knocked off Wisconsin by six -- meaning the Cavaliers would've won by 35 on a neutral court.
The most depressing thing about all this is the fact that Nebraska won, and the Big Ten still didn't ‘win' the challenge. If the Big Ten gets a point from Nebraska, it has to win this thing.
Personally, I'm not a huge conference pride guy. I know the Big Ten is the premier league. I don't need a made-for-TV event to tell me that. Truthfully, I care about one team and one team only: Indiana. If the Big Ten lost the challenge 11-1 but the point came from the Hoosiers, I'd be jacked.
What I really enjoy is watching good basketball teams square off. The three marquee matchups -- Indiana vs. North Carolina, Michigan vs. North Carolina State and Ohio State at Duke -- failed to live up to their billing, as far as I'm concerned. In the one close game of the three, OSU-Duke, neither team played all that well.
If I learned one thing from this event, it's that I like watching Indiana play. If I learned two things, it's that I like watching Indiana play and Minnesota may just be for real. The Golden Gophers went in to Florida State and played a complete 40-minute game, winning in impressive fashion.
Here's my quick recap of each game, starting with Wednesday night's contests.
- No. 2 Duke 73, No. 4 Ohio State 68
Duke rebounded from a lifeless first half and came from behind to knock off visiting Ohio State, 73-68.
It was a tough shooting night for three of Ohio State's best players -- DeShaun Thomas, Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. -- but the Buckeyes (4-1) did more than hand around in a tough environment. Ohio State led 31-23 at halftime before succumbing to the Blue Devils (7-0) late in the second half.
Craft was 3 for 15 for 11 points, adding one assist to three turnovers. Thomas scored 16 points on 6-for-14 shooting, but he failed to record an assist and has just two rebounds. Smith was 4 for 12 for 11 points, also grabbing five rebounds.
Ohio State was 6 for 21 (28 percent) from beyond the arc and 23 of 68 (33 percent) overall.
Duke's Mason Plumlee has got to be the early leader in the race for Player of the Year. In this one, he netted 21 points and pulled down 17 boards, the latter of which tied a career high. He's averaging 19 and 10 for the season.
Rasheed Sulaimon hit 7 of 12 from the field for 17 points. Ryan Kelly buried a trio of 3-pointers and finished with 15 points. Quinn Cook scored 12 points and handed out eight assists.
- Purdue 73, Clemson 61
D.J. Byrd carried Purdue to a much-needed win as the Boilers picked up a 73-61 road victory over Clemson.
Byrd came out of the gates red-hot, drilling six 3-pointers and scoring 20 points in the first half. Byrd finished with 22 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.
The senior's hot start helped the Boilermakers (3-3) -- who won in the conference challenge for a fourth straight year -- seize a 42-22 at the break. Clemson (4-2) cut its deficit to 68-59 with 1:31 to play, but the Tigers were unable to get any closer.
Purdue came into the game struggling mightily offensively, but making jumpers can be a cure-all. The Boilers shot 51 percent from the floor, 44 percent from beyond the arc and 71 percent from the charity stripe.
Terone Johnson chipped in with 13 points for Purdue while A.J. Hammons and Ronnie Johnson had 10 points apiece.
Devin Booker had 18 points to lead the Tigers.
- Miami 67, No. 13 Michigan State 59
Sparty forgot to take their talents to South Beach.
Miami hit shot after shot in the second half and took it to an uncharacteristically lackluster Michigan State, topping the Spartans, 67-59.
Miami (4-1) had 15 less shot attempts than the Spartans, but the Hurricanes made their shots count. Miami shot 56 percent from the field, including 9 of 16 from 3, and buried 16 of 18 (89 percent) from the free throw line.
Trey McKinney Jones nailed 5 of 7 from beyond the arc on his way to 18 points for the ‘Canes. Durand Scott (15), Shane Larkin (15) and Reggie Johnson (10) also reached double figures. Johnson snagged 11 rebounds.
One of the aforementioned guys has a dad who played shortstop for the Reds. You figure it out.
For Michigan State (5-2), Keith Appling had 15 points, five rebounds and four assists. Branden Dawson added 11 points, but the Spartans' other three starters -- Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne and Denzel Valentine -- teamed up for just 10 points. Gary Harris finished with 12 points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench. He looked healthy, which was good to see.
- Virginia 60, Wisconsin 54
In a game pitting two teams who are mirror images of each other, the style of the game went as expected. The result may have been a little surprising.
Virginia got 22 points, five rebounds and five assists from Joe Harris on its way to an impressive 60-54 victory over Wisconsin at the Kohl Center.
Darion Atkins scored 14 for the Cavaliers (5-2) while Akil Mitchell added 11. Ben Brust led Wisconsin (4-3) with 15 points, and Jared Berggren netted 12.
Both teams struggled from beyond the arc. Virginia, however, hit 17 of its 34 two-point tries and made 14 of 17 free throws. The Badgers, playing at home, attempted only five freebies, making four.
The two teams combined for just 15 turnovers, with Wisconsin only coughing up the ball five times.
Virginia head coach Tony Bennett, the son of former Badgers coach Dick Bennett, used to be an assistant at Wisconsin, where he worked with current Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. They're probably not friends, because Bo Ryan is too scary to have friends.
- No. 22 Illinois 75, Georgia Tech 62
The Fighting Illini continued their hot start with a 75-62 home win over Georgia Tech.
Brandon Paul had a monster game for unbeaten Illinois (8-0), totaling 15 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, two steals and one block. Joseph Bertrand netted 15 points, and D.J. Richardson and Tyler Griffey each added 14 points.
Illinois hit 14 of 28 from the 3-point line and had 15 assists on 27 buckets. The Fighting Illini pulled down 11 offensive rebounds to Georgia Tech's six.
Seven different players scored at least six points for the Yellow Jackets. Kammeon Holsey hit 5 of 6 from the floor and had 14 points. Mfon Udofia and Jason Morris hit for 10 points apiece, and they couldn't have more diverse names. Daniel Miller swatted away five shots.
- Boston College 73, Penn State 61
Coming off a solid win over Bucknell, Penn State was unable to follow it up with another victory, dropping a home game to Boston College, 73-61, in a game that had to be played because some really important people said so.
Penn State (3-3), who is without star guard and All-Big Ten pick Tim Frazier, shot 35 percent from the field and got just three bench points.
Jermaine Marshall hit eight of his 13 shots for 25 points for the Nittany Lions, and D.J. Newbill dropped in 22 points. Only one other player had more than three points, and that was Ross Travis, who scored five.
For Boston College (3-4), Olivier Hanlan made three field goals but finished with 22 points, hitting 15 of 19 from the free throw line (you read that right). Joe Rahon added 14 points.
- No. 1 Indiana 83, No. 14 North Carolina 59
The Hoosiers broke open a tight game in the latter stages of the first half, poured it on after the break and routed North Carolina, 83-59, Tuesday night in front of a raucous crowd at Assembly Hall.
Indiana (7-0) didn't just play well; it showcased a brand of team basketball rarely seen in today's college game. The Hoosiers shared the ball beautifully, celebrated when a teammate made a play and overpowered the Tar Heels (5-2) with their unrivaled depth. It was fun to watch for anyone who enjoys good basketball, not just Indiana fans.
This quote from North Carolina coach Roy Williams says it all: "Boy, I would love to watch them play if it wasn't against my team."
In the first half, Indiana assisted on 12 of 19 field goals, and the Hoosiers finished with 21 assists on 33 baskets. It led to the third-worst loss since Williams came to Chapel Hill.
Indiana scored 83 points, but its offense wasn't the difference. Defensively, the Hoosiers held the Heels to nine points over a 13-minute stretch that was sandwiched around halftime. With the score tied 31-31, Indiana closed the first half with a 15-6 run before starting the second half with a 22-3 spree.
As John pointed out Tuesday, Indiana held North Carolina to .795 points per possession, a 1-for-8 mark from beyond the arc and a 40-percent clip on two-point shots.
It was an all-around spectacular performance from Indiana. Cody Zeller hit 8 of 13 shots for 20 points, adding eight rebounds and four blocks. Victor Oladipo, also 8 for 13, scored 19 points. Jordan Hulls finished with 13 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, hitting 3 of 5 from beyond the arc. Off the bench, Will Sheehey had 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting, making him 16 for 21 over the last two games.
- No. 21 Minnesota 77, Florida State 68
Playing its fourth game in six days, Minnesota jumped out to a quick lead and cruised to a 77-68 win at Florida State.
The Gophers scored the game's first seven points before taking a 35-20 lead late in the first half. Minnesota (7-1) led 38-25 at halftime and by as many as 21 points in the second half. The Gophers' lone loss was to No. 2 Duke in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Playing on the road, Minnesota got to the line 28 times, hitting 20, and shot 47 percent against the Seminoles (4-2), who are annually one of the country's best defensive teams. Minnesota had 17 assists on 26 buckets and pulled down 16 offensive rebounds on 29 missed shots.
Joe Colman was 8 of 13 from the field for 16 points to pace a foursome of Gophers in double figures. Andre Hollins (12), Austin Hollins (13) and Rodney Williams Jr. (14) also reached double digits. Williams started the game with this monster putback.
- Virginia Tech 95, Iowa 79
Virginia Tech went on a pair of big runs -- one to get in front and another to put the game away -- and topped visiting Iowa, 95-79.
The Hokies pieced together a 19-1 run around the break. Iowa clawed back, pulling within 57-54 with under 12 minutes to play, but Virginia Tech responded with a 12-4 run to put the Hawkeyes away.
Aaron White netted 21 points and snared 10 rebounds to lead Iowa (5-2), who was just 4 for 22 from beyond the arc. Roy Devyn Marble finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Sharpshooter Josh Oglesby buried 3 of 6 from the 3-point line for nine points.
The Hokies (6-0) came in having scored over 80 points in four games, including at least 95 twice. Erick Green and Robert Brown netted 24 and 18 points, respectively, for Virginia Tech. The Hokies shot 52 percent (32 for 61) from the field, 90 percent (27 of 30) from the free throw line and turned the ball over merely nine times.
In former Virginia Tech basketball coaches news that I found funny, Seth Greenberg is working as a studio analyst for ESPN. During halftime of the Duke-Ohio State game, Bruce Pearl, another coach turned analyst, referred to a team being on the "Seth Greenberg bubble." Ouch, baby ... very ouch. Greenberg responded by saying "Bruce, do you recognize that Craft kid playing for the Buckeyes?" That's not really what Greenberg said (he just laughed), but it would've been one heck of a comeback.
- Nebraska 79, Wake Forest 63
Nebraska pulled away in the second half for a 79-63 win at Wake Forest. The Cornhuskers (5-1), in their first year under skipper Tim Miles, racked up 51 points in the second half, two fewer than they scored in last year's loss to Wake Forest in this event.
Andre Almeida matched his career-high with 20 points to go with a career-best 11 rebounds to lead Nebraska, who committed just eight turnovers. Ray Gallegos added 20 points, also a career-high.
Miles has won wherever he's been, and his tenure in Lincoln is off to a solid start.
For Wake Forest, Chris Paul isn't walking through that door. Yikes, how far has this program fallen? Freshman Madison Jones scored 14 points off the pine to pace the Demon Deacons.
- Maryland 77, Northwestern 57
The Terrapins have been one of the more surprising teams this young season, and Maryland continued its strong start with a convincing 77-57 win at Northwestern.
Maryland (5-1), who gave Kentucky all it could handle earlier this year, led 28-26 at the break before scoring on their first 10 possessions of the second half to pull away.
Dez Wells, a transfer from Xavier (who instigated this), paced Maryland with a career-high 23 points, draining 9 of 11 from the field and dishing out three assists. Alex Lin, a projected lottery pick in next year's NBA Draft, had 13 points and 13 boards. Maryland nearly had as many assists (15) as Northwestern did made field goals (15).
Reggie Hearn had 19 points and Dave Sobolewski added 14 for Northwestern. The Wildcats (6-1) shot just 34 percent (18 for 53), including 24 percent (6 for 25) from deep. Northwestern only turned the ball over four times, but Maryland held a whopping 42-15 edge on the glass.
After the game, the two teams, as mandated by the Big Ten, sat down together for a study table right there at half court. After all, that's what conference expansion is all about, people!
- No. 3 Michigan 79, No. 18 North Carolina State 72
Trey Burke carved up North Carolina State to the tune of 18 points and a career-high 11 assists as Michigan edged the visiting Wolfpack, 79-72.
Burke didn't score a point in the first half, but finished with an absolutely pristine stat line. Shooting-wise, Burke was 5 of 9 from the floor, including 3 for 5 from 3-point land. He set a new career-best mark in assists without committing a single turnover.
Freshman Nick Stauskas lit it up off the bench for Michigan (6-0), pouring in 20 points on 10 shots and making 4 of 7 from the 3-point line. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 16 points but needed 18 shots to get it. Glenn Robinson III, another rookie, totaled 11 points and seven rebounds.
C.J. Leslie racked up 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Wolfpack (4-2). Freshman T.J. Warren dropped in 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting.