The matchups for the 2020 ACC/Big Ten Challenge have been set. The 22nd event, featuring 14 ACC teams and all 14 Big Ten teams in a competition for the Commissioner’s Cup, is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 8 and Wednesday, Dec. 9.
Once again, the ACC and Big Ten are expected to be two of the best and most competitive conferences in the country. The Big Ten will be looking at sending 11 teams to the 2021 March Madness, with six of the 14 teams already in the top-25 preseason polls. Within the ACC, Virginia leads the conference at No. 7, with Duke coming in at No. 11, and UNC at No. 16.
Established over 20 years ago, the ACC-Big Ten event has run every year since. The ACC won the first 10 challenges, though in recent years the Big Ten has stepped up. Last year, the Big Ten won by an 8-6 margin, giving them six wins in 21 years. With exceptional teams in this season’s matchups, the competition will be an entertaining one.
All 14 games will air on ESPN’s networks and be available via the ESPN app.
Here are five matchups to look out for:
Illinois vs Duke
Likely to be a battle between top 10 teams, this game will be a thriller from start to finish. To be hosted in Cameron Indoor Stadium, this will be their first encounter since November 20, 2007 at the Maui Invitational where Duke won 79-66. The Fighting Illini, coming off of a 21-10 (13-7 Big Ten) season, have an experienced and talented roster. They return star players, including arguably the best guard-big man duo of Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu. CBS Sports places Illinois as No. 6 in the preseason polls. Ranked only three behind them at No. 9 sits Duke. Once again, the Blue Devils will be a powerhouse under head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Duke’s backcourt will consist of Joey Baker and Jordan Goldwire, who will be providing veteran leadership. They’ll also be adding ESPN’s top 20 recruits Jalen Johnson and Jeremy Roach to the mix, providing depth to the team’s scoring that will be difficult to stop.
North Carolina vs Iowa
Coming off of a disastrous year, UNC is hungry for redemption. They went 14-19 on the season and sat at the bottom of the barrel in conference play. Although they lose star player Cole Anthony, the Heels has several talented veterans returning. Garrison Brooks is one of the ACC’s top returning players. They’ll also have Leaky Black and Armando Bacot, whom both will have to take on bigger roles if UNC wants to see success this season. The addition of Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler gives the Tar Heels one of the best frontcourts in college basketball. This game will likely be a battle of the bigs as UNC will go up against Player of the Year favorite Luka Garza for the Hawkeyes. Garza averaged 23.8 points per game last season and Iowa brings back multiple double-digit scorers. Likely to be a top 20 matchup, this will be a fast-paced game and a fun one to watch.
Virginia vs Michigan State
A Battle of the Hauser Twins: Sam (Virginia) against his younger brother Joey (MSU), who’ve both transferred from Marquette. As a junior, Sam was a consistent rebounder and an efficient offensive player, averaging 7.2 boards per game along with a 50/40/90 performance— .538 FG, .402 3PT, .924 FT. The versatile forward will help improve some struggles the Cavaliers faced last year, especially in a 3-point percentage. According to both CBS and ESPN, Virginia sits at No. 4 in preseason rankings. Facing his brother for the first time, Sam will be pitted against Joey and No. 11 Michigan State. Although the Spartans lose Cassius Winston, they return Josh Langford, Rocket Watts and Aaron Henry. Both teams are stacked for the year and will be competing for a national championship.
Wisconsin vs Louisville
The Wisconsin Badgers have all four juniors returning to the starting line-up: point guard D’Mitrik Trice (9.8 ppg), shooting guard Brad Davison ( 9.9 ppg), small forward Aleem Ford (8.6 ppg) and power forward Nate Reuvers (13.1 ppg). In addition to role player Micah Potter (10.1 ppg), it looks like nothing but a stacked starting 5 for Coach Greg Gard’s rotation. According to CBS preseason rankings, the Badgers are placed at 10. Louisville will be one of their toughest matchups this season. Barely sitting outside of the top 25, according to Dick Vitale’s preseason poll, the Cardinals have many weapons to play. They bring back many rotational players, including Malik Williams and David Johnson. Their biggest asset this year, however, may be graduate transfer Carlik Jones. Jones tallied 20 points, 5.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game for the Radford Highlanders and has already been announced team captain for Louisville.
Penn State vs Virginia Tech
In the 2018 ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Penn State got a one-point win over the Hokies in exhilarating fashion. Two years later, they come face to face again. Coming off one of their greatest seasons in program history (21-10), Penn State will again be fighting to be in the top-25. Although losing many key players, they return junior guard Myreon Jones, last year’s second-leading scorer at 13.3 points per game. The Nittany Lions will likely run small ball this season, with 6-foot-6 Seth Lundy as their starting power forward. One big chance they’ll be facing is a new head coach. With the resignation of Pat Chambers, due to inappropriate interactions, the team will be under assistant coach Jim Ferry. Virginia Tech sits in a similar boat of the coaching staff, with Mike Young just finishing his first year as head coach. The Hokies finished a mediocre 16-16 in the 2019-20 season; 7-13 in conference play. A lot of questions are up in the air as to what we’ll see from the Hokies this year. They’ll be returning point guard Wabissa Bede, but leading scorer Landers Nolley (15.5 points per game) transferred to Memphis.
“From Our Haus to Yours”