ACC, Big Ten in battle at basketball’s top


It is a made-for-TV event but the ACC-Big Ten Challenge is a bragging-rights battle between two of the top conferences in Division I.

But for the ACC, the challenge takes on a little more significance because coaches around the league believe this will be the year it asserts itself as the dominant conference in the nation.

And that title may or may not apply, but the reality is the ACC hasn’t finished ahead in this event since the 2008 season when it went 6-5.

The Big Ten won the event in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and the two conferences tied in each of the past two years.


Dec. 1 Nebraska vs. Florida State
Rutgers vs. Clemson
Dec. 2 Pittsburgh vs. Indiana
Minnesota vs. Wake Forest
Syracuse vs. No. 17 Michigan
No. 24 Illinois vs. No. 15 Miami (Fla.)
NC State vs. Purdue
No. 14 Ohio State vs. No. 5 Louisville
Dec. 3 No. 19 Michigan State vs. Notre Dame
Virginia Tech vs. Penn State
Iowa vs. No. 12 North Carolina
No. 7 Virginia vs. No. 21 Maryland
Georgia Tech vs. Northwestern
No. 4 Duke vs. No. 2 Wisconsin

This year the event expands to 14 games starting Monday night with two games: Nebraska at Florida State and Rutgers at Clemson.

Pitt (4-2) plays at Indiana (5-1) Tuesday at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana. It is one of six games Tuesday with six more on Wednesday. The finale of the event is a marquee matchup of two top-five teams — No. 4 Duke (7-0) at No. 2 Wisconsin (7-0).

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon believes it is important for the ACC to win this event every year but he cautions that win or lose, it is only one of many indicators of a conference’s strength.

“In some ways [it matters] and it is built up as a challenge between two leagues that consider themselves to be the best league in the country,” Dixon said.

“So it is more than just bragging rights in some ways, but at the same time, I don’t think it is all defining either way because the matchups aren’t always perfect in terms of lining up equal teams.

“But it is a great idea. I have always liked it and I like the fact that it is a big non-conference game that we can count on having every year.”

The Panthers won their challenge game a year ago against Penn State, but that was at home and the Nittany Lions were not very strong.

This year it will be a much tougher task for Pitt to play on the road against a team that is young but has some talented players and obviously a lot of history.

Dixon said he doesn’t mind going on the road to play non-conference games because it helps get the Panthers ready for tough ACC road games in January and February.

And he also said it is good for teams in both conferences to get the opportunity to play on the road in the non-conference season because it is tough to get many power conference teams to play true road games these days in college basketball.

“This isn’t a perfect event, but it is good in that you can count on a good game every year,” Dixon said. “And you can schedule around it because you know you will be on the road every other year for the most part. So we can go out and find a home-and-home to try to schedule opposite of it.

“The thing is, there aren’t many home-and-home series any more, there are very few teams willing to sign up to play them, they are hard to get. At least with this you know you have a chance to get a good team to come to your place because it is all set up by TV and by the conferences.”

The two conferences are pretty even on paper this year.

The Big Ten has four ranked teams and the ACC has five, though the ACC has four teams in the top 10.

Although the Big Ten has had the upper hand in the past five years (3-0-2), the ACC still has an overwhelming lead in the series, winning 10 of the 15 times the event has been played.