Although it stubbled on Day 3, losing 4 of 6 games, the Big Ten escaped the B1G/ACC Challenge with a league victory, its third in a row in the series.

In all, the Big Ten won 8 of the 14 games, with Michigan State and Wisconsin providing the 2 wins on Wednesday that put the league over the top.

Following are takeaways from Day 3.

Preseason favorite Michigan has a problem

The Wolverines were picked as the league favorite in the preseason, edging out Purdue as the team likely to win the Big Ten regular-season title this season.

But they’ve not played up to that standard, not even close. Michigan looks like a hot mess right now, scoring only 51 points in a 21-point loss at North Carolina on Wednesday night. What gives? The Wolverines look lost on offense right now, with turnovers, bad spacing, poor shot selection and a limited number of legitimate scoring options being all too frequently. In the loss to the Tar Heels, Michigan had 7 turnovers in its first 9 possessions, setting an early tone that it was unable to overcome.

The 4-3 start is the worst for UM since 2009 and the 3 losses — it’s only early December — match all of the 2020 regular season.

Michigan has pieces, which is why the Wolverines were picked to win the league, but they aren’t gelling. Only Hunter Dickinson, whose foul trouble led to one of the worst games of his career at UNC, and Eli Brooks have been consistent scorers. Freshman Caleb Houstan, veteran Brandon Johns Jr. and newcomer DeVante’ Jones have been sporadic, at best, during the first 7 games of the season.

It means that when the ball goes into the post for Dickinson, as it should often, he has fewer options. Either take it himself — and he’s facing more double-teams — or force the ball to a thus-far unreliable teammate. Michigan is 11th in the league in scoring, averaging less than 69 points per game.

Luckily, the Wolverines have a soft start to their Big Ten schedule, with a trip to Nebraska and a home date with Minnesota in the early conference window, so there’s time yet to figure things out.

The biggest challengers?

With the first Big Ten games beginning on Friday, it’s clear that Purdue is the frontrunner for a league title.

It might even be able to run away with it, unless other teams step up to challenge. Who could those be? Based on the early season, and the Challenge results in particular, there are a few who have stepped forward as the most likely: Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin.

The latter 2 picked up wins on Wednesday, against Louisville and Georgia Tech, respectively. The Spartans have picked up a few quality victories early in the season, like against the Cardinals and vs. Loyola Chicago and UConn in the Battle 4 Atlantis a week ago, plus its 2 losses (to Kansas and Baylor) are against a couple of the best teams in the country.

Whereas Michigan State didn’t embrace its traditional style last season, the Spartans are getting after it this season, playing physical, tough, hard-nosed defense that is creating issues for the opponent. And when they can shoot like they did vs. UL, with 10 3-pointers in only 18 attempts, they are particularly hard to beat.

Wisconsin (along with Iowa) might be the biggest surprise of the first month of the season, with the Badgers rolling out to a 6-1 start with the only loss coming on a day when star Johnny Davis was unavailable. With Davis, Wisconsin has a lead guard and primary scorer who can break down defenses to get his own shot, and can set up the Badgers’ shooters, like veteran Brad Davison. Davis, who has nearly tripled his scoring average from last season, up to 19.3 points per game, is likely the league’s most improved player (at least among those outside of West Lafayette).

But can anyone knock Purdue down from the mountaintop?

We might find out more on Friday, when the Hawkeyes and their 7-0 record — the last being an ACC win at Virginia — come into West Lafayette.

And then there’s this …

Nebraska and N.C. State won’t win many games once they get into their respective league play — and they’ll probably be blowout victims on many nights — but at least they’ll always have Wednesday, when the 2 also-rans played to 4 overtimes before the Wolfpack pulled out a 104-100 victory.

It was the first 4-OT game in B1G/ACC history and it featured 4 ejections after a scuffle broke out. Three Nebraska players also fouled out — meaning Fred Hoiberg’s group was down 6 players by the time the game ended — and one from N.C. State. It was an exciting game, given the overtimes, but not aesthetically pleasing. Nebraska has chances to win at the end of regulation, in overtime and in the third OT, but couldn’t pull it out. The most difficult might have been the third OT, when the Wolfpack, for a reason that doesn’t make any sense at all, fouled Cornhuskers star freshman Bryce McGowens 75 feet from the basket with 2.5 seconds left. He has a chance to win it, but missed the second free throw — and looked on in shock after he did — sending the game into yet another 5-minute extra session.

McGowens was great, with 24 points and 9 rebounds in a game-high 58 minutes, but the miss stung. Nebraska might not have a ton of chances to win this season, so Wednesday was a missed opportunity to get one on the road.