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November 28, 2006
ACC, Big Ten take center stage
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The College Basketball Wire
Get the inside scoop on your favorite team:
Bragging rights are on the line for two of the biggest conferences. Actually, pride might be a more accurate term - especially when it comes to the Big Ten.
The eighth annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge began Monday night, ends Wednesday and features 11 games (Wake Forest is the ACC team excluded this season) between the conferences.
The ACC has never lost the series, winning seven commissioners cups (the trophy given to the winner) and racking up a 40-24 overall edge.
But that record is misleading. The Big Ten has been close to breaking through on several occasions. Three of the first four series were decided by one game. Last year, the ACC won six games to the Big Ten's five. The ACC only dominated in 2003 and 2004 when it won seven out of nine games.
Third-ranked Ohio State's road trip to No. 7 North Carolina (4-1) on Wednesday night highlights this year's matchups. The Tar Heels and Buckeyes (6-0) landed the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 recruiting classes this year according to Rivals.com, and each group includes a few future first-round NBA draft picks.
The young Buckeyes are off to an impressive start without center Greg Oden, the top-ranked prospect in the class of 2006. Oden isn't expected to return from a wrist injury until Jan. 1. With a starting lineup that includes two freshmen and a junior college transfer, Ohio State has won each of its first six games by double digits and has an average margin of victory of 26.1 points per game.
The Tar Heels were upset by No. 22 Gonzaga 82-74 in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off in New York City last week, but bounced back with a 101-87 win over Tennessee in the consolation game.
We break down the UNC-Ohio State showdown and each of the matchups in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge (with the exception of N.C. State's 74-67 win over Michigan on Monday night) in this version of A Look Ahead.
While the annual series takes much of the national spotlight this week, there are two games on Saturday that deserve plenty of attention as well.
Gonzaga (6-1) and Texas (4-1) meet in Phoenix in what pits a team of veterans versus one of the nation's youngest squads. The Zags have rebounded from the loss of star Adam Morrison, thanks to several former role players who have raised their level of play. The most notable improvement has come from big man Josh Heytvelt (17.3 points per game). The Longhorns start four freshmen including Kevin Durant (22.4 ppg), who is off to a sensational start.
Eleventh-ranked Duke (5-1) will look to get revenge when it plays host to No. 18 Georgetown (3-1). The Blue Devils were ranked No. 1 and sported a 17-0 record when they lost to the Hoyas 87-84 last season. The Blue Devils look far different now, having lost J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams. To make up for their departures, coach Mike Krzyzewski added four highly touted freshmen.