2-on-5: ACC/BIG 10 Challenge

1. Which team helped itself the most in the ACC/Big 10 challenge?

Mac: Notre Dame. Sure – Michigan State doesn’t have the same level of talent they’ve had in the past, and Notre Dame was at home. Nevertheless this team was right in the thick of the ACC last year before Jerian Grant was suspended for the season. This was a much needed non-conference upset for the Irish and a major confidence boost. Their non-conference schedule overall is fairly weak, with game by far the biggest. Big win for the Irish and their resume come March.

Joe: Iowa. For really the first time since early last February, the Hawkeyes looked like the team everyone thought they would be. After collapsing down the stretch and struggling against Texas and losing to Syracuse in the 2K Classic to start this season, Iowa goes into Chapel Hill and steals a road game from the Tar Heels. What’s more impressive to me is that they won this game against a much more athletic Tar Heel team despite shooting 32% from the field (UNC only shot 28%). This team needed to prove they could grind out a win against a talented team on the road.

2.Which team’s performance concerns you the most?

Mac: North Carolina. The Tar Heels are so offensively challenged it’s difficult to watch. If Marcus Paige doesn’t make it happen, there’s nobody else right now to step up. Kennedy Meeks is steadily improving on the block, and UNC is breaking in three elite freshmen: Theo Pinson, Joel Berry, and Justin Jackson. They will improve, but they’re going to have to. Nobody else on the roster has the firepower to help the Tar Heels. They are well coached, and can play defense. Plus Paige can knock down a clutch shot at any moment. It just seems they aren’t a true contender right now, and lack the offense to make it to Indianapolis.

Joe:  Actually, even though they won, Louisville. Don’t get me wrong, good win and another good team for Rick Pitino. However, once Ohio State settled into the full court pressure in the second half. Louisville’s offense bogged down when they were forced out of transition. Wayne Blackshear stepped up and Terry Rozier looks like another great Louisville guard. I had Louisville winning the ACC. However, if they can’t improve their half-court offense they’ll struggle against teams that have disciplined backcourts capable of handling their pressure. Also, slight pet peeve that Montrezl Harrell is shooting threes now. He looks to have a good stroke but is only 3-12 on the year so far. Maybe he’s showing some stretch 4 skills for the NBA, I’m not sure, but if I’m playing Louisville and Harrell wants to shoot a three instead of dominating on the block, I consider that win

3. Which player impressed you the most?

Mac: Melo Trimble. Trimble struggled from the floor shooting only 2-9, but aided himself going 12-14 from the FT line. Trimble and the Terps were up against a stout Virginia team, and they were doing it without stud Dez Wells. The Terps are not a great team, and a lot is on the back of Trimble, but he looks every bit the part of star. The game is not too fast for him, he has a plethora of offensive moves, and he’s aggressive without ball-hogging. I wasn’t on the Trimble hype coming out of high school. I’m two feet on the boat now.

Joe:  Tyus Jones, Duke. I knew he’d be a good one for the Blue Devils, but wasn’t sure if he was quite the immediate impact freshman that his top 5 ranking made him out to be. Dead wrong.  While he’s averaging just 10.3 PPG and his shot has been a bit inconsistent so far this year, he’s make the Blue Devils go. He’s sporting nearly a 6:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, and as a freshman PG just went into Madison and beat a very good and very experience Wisconsin team. Color me impressed.

4. One thing you learned from the 14 games played over the past three days?

Mac: Duke and Wisconsin are who we thought they were. Duke won, in Madison, starting three freshmen, and did so to the tune of shooting 60+% on the Badgers. The Badgers, are every bit as good as they were last year, and Frank Kaminsky can win games by himself. I picked both of these teams in my Final Four and I saw nothing to change that. Duke was better on this day and might be the better team overall, especially as the freshmen continue to improve. We’ve seen other preseason elites falter early and not look as good as we had thought. Both of these teams though can cut down the nets.

Joe: How about that Purdue has a very good frontcourt? After finishing dead last in the Big 10 last year, Purdue is sporting a 6-1 record with wins over Missouri, BYU, and now NC State. Their two leading scorers are freshmen. Vincent Edwards has been one of the best in the country so far averaging 13 PPG on 64% from the field including 48% from three. Isaac Haas is averaging 12 PPG as the Boilermakers’ BACKUP center in just under 19 minutes per game. And their other seven-footer, A.J. Hammons, hasn’t even played that well yet. Out of nowhere, this Purdue team absolutely looks like a threat to finish in the top half of the Big 10.

5. Alright now for the question everyone wants to know: which conference is better?

Mac: Can I answer the question with a question? You’re a committee member with one spot left and are down to seventh place teams- one from each conference. Team A, from the Big 10 has five decent wins against other middle of the pack conference opponents. Team B, from the ACC, has a lot of wins in the conference, most of which are not against good competition, and while they don’t have as many wins against ‘good’ teams, they beat Duke, Louisville, or Virginia. Who you got?

Joe: Right now? I still think it’s the Big 10. While the ACC may very well end up with more Final Four teams than the Big 10, I don’t consider it the better conference. The ACC has three of the best four teams between both conferences in Louisville, Duke, and Virginia. Well the SEC had two Final Four teams last year, and that doesn’t make them the best conference. As you get deeper into the conference I think the Big 10’s edge becomes more apparent. Admittedly, it’s very early but I can make an argument for eleven, ELEVEN, of the Big 10’s fourteen teams as potential tournament teams. That’s not counting Penn State and Northwestern who look to be improved as well. In the ACC, I’d argue there’s more in the 7-9 range depending on Pitt figuring things out. Remember the Big East at its peak? You’d rarely have a team emerge as the #1 team in the country because there were almost no off nights in conference play (Rutgers is their version of Depaul)? The ‘new’ Big East? That’s the Big 10 in 2014-15. Not the ACC.

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