2022 ACC/Big Ten Challenge: Ranking the matchups from 1-14
Mike Woodson only needed 1 year to make Indiana basketball relevant again.
That is the chief takeaway from Friday’s schedule release for the 2022 ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Hoosiers have been given the biggest spotlight, hosting defending national runner-up North Carolina on Nov. 30. The Tar Heels may well be the No. 1 team in the country by the time they visit Bloomington.
It will be, health and the man upstairs willing, ESPN’s feature game with Dick Vitale making his very loud return to Assembly Hall to yell about the Heels and Hoosiers. And it sends a message. The perception within the league is the same as it is from the outside looking in — Indiana is the team to beat in the Big Ten next season. The Hoosiers wouldn’t be sent out as sacrificial lambs to Rameses.
Though North Carolina at Indiana is clearly the crown jewel of this upcoming ACC/Big Ten Challenge, it is not the only gem. We’ve taken the liberty of ranking all 14 games in order of curbside appeal of the annual event, which the B1G won last year 8-6.
1. North Carolina at Indiana (Nov. 30)
If the above explanation doesn’t cut it for you, don’t forget about the history here. These programs have won a combined 11 national championships — 6 for North Carolina and 5 for Indiana. The Hoosiers won 1 of those titles at UNC’s expense, beating the Heels in the 1981 championship game. And don’t forget about their 1984 NCAA Tournament game. Dan Dakich certainly hasn’t.
2. Virginia at Michigan (Nov. 29)
Tony Bennett should have the Wahoos back in ACC contention after a down season. Virginia’s defense is always a headache for opponents, but Juwan Howard’s offenses have been among the top 20 nationally in efficiency all 3 of his seasons at Michigan. This should be a fun matchup.
3. Michigan State at Notre Dame (Nov. 30)
The ACC/Big Ten Challenge isn’t prone to producing regional matchups, but this is one of the few exceptions. Any time the Spartans and Fighting Irish can get together in a sport, it’s a good thing. And this should have plenty of excitement on top of that backdrop. Both teams should be in the top 20 in offensive efficiency next season, per BartTorvik.com.
4. Rutgers at Miami (Nov. 30)
What decades ago would have been a snoozefest of a Big East conference game has evolved into a compelling matchup in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Led by Kansas State transfer Nijel Pack, the Hurricanes are poised to have one of the nation’s top offenses next season. Rutgers is defined by its hard-nosed defense, led by reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Caleb McConnell. It will be fun to see which team’s style defines the tempo.
5. Ohio State at Duke (Nov. 30)
This is an interesting matchup in the sense of the unknowns that it presents. Duke will have a new coach for the first time since 1980. Ohio State has a completely overhauled roster that could be a dark horse Big Ten contender — or a total pretender. All of those things also make this a difficult game to properly rank.
It could be great, like Ohio State’s upset of the then-No. 1 Blue Devils last season. Or it could be a total stinkfest.
6. Purdue at Florida State (Nov. 30)
Regardless of roster composition, a coaching battle between Matt Painter and Leonard Hamilton strikes me as pretty fun. There are a number of recent seasons where this matchup would be near the top of the heap, but it looks like the Boilermakers and Seminoles will likely be middle-of-the pack teams next year. But even if that’s the case, I have a feeling this game won’t disappoint.
7. Maryland at Louisville (Nov. 29)
Considering the ACC acted swiftly to poach Louisville after Maryland bolted for the B1G, this game needs a nickname. They’ve only played once since the big move. Last year, Louisville beat Maryland in the Bahamas Championship final. Maryland hasn’t visited Louisville since the 1991-92 season. I’m betting on the atmosphere at KFC Yum! Center bringing this to a higher level than the actual teams will warrant. Though perhaps they will. Both programs are led by new head coaches who will be seeking a signature win — Maryland’s Kevin Willard and Louisville’s Kenny Payne.
8. Syracuse at Illinois (Nov. 29)
At least it should be a fun uniform matchup! And a potential existential crisis for the Orange Krush. But I think this game will provide a lesson in why Jim Boeheim tried to go decades without leaving the state of New York in November or December.
9. Georgia Tech at Iowa (Nov. 29)
File this under “could be interesting, but probably won’t.”
It might have been a fun matchup in November 2020, when the Yellow Jackets were 22nd nationally in offensive efficiency and the Hawkeyes were 3rd. But Josh Pastner’s club regressed last year, and he will be on the hot seat without a rebound next season.
10. Penn State at Clemson (Nov. 29)
Maybe we could try this in football instead?
But this actually is a better basketball game than most people would assume. There’s a reason it isn’t ranked at the very bottom.
Clemson will be one of the nation’s most balanced bubble teams — they’re projected to be 55th in both offensive and defensive efficiency — while Micah Shrewsberry’s defense is an annoying matchup for any opponent.
Potential (NIT) Final Four preview?
11. Wake Forest at Wisconsin (Nov. 29)
What a game this would have been last season with a pair of top-20 NBA Draft picks going at it in Johnny Davis and Jake LaRavia. Instead, we’re a year late and a dollar short. Both teams have a strong NIT feel heading into next season.
12. Boston College at Nebraska (Nov. 30)
That this game is ranked as high as 12th says a lot more about the remaining 2 matchups than it does about Boston College and Nebraska. It gets the nod because at least there will be plenty of buckets.
13. Pitt at Northwestern (Nov. 28)
The Coach K Classic? At least 1 of these coaches — Pitt’s Jeff Capel and Northwestern’s Chris Collins, both of whom starred as players at Duke before working under Mike Krzyzewski — won’t be around for the 2023 ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Possibly both.
14. Minnesota at Virginia Tech (Nov. 28)
The ball was dropped here. Badly.
Virginia Tech will be an NCAA Tournament team next season. Maybe somewhere between a 4-6 seed, even. The Hokies would have made a compelling opponent for any number of Big Ten opponents. Such as Illinois, Iowa or, ya know, neighboring Maryland.
Instead, they get the Golden Gophers, who are likely the worst team in the B1G and a stone-cold lock to be no better than 12th. Minnesota should have been paired with Boston College for a pairing of maroon-and-gold teams that are completely overshadowed in their NBA cities.
At least very few people will be watching the Gophers get clobbered here.