ACC – Big Ten Challenge Preview: Part 2 of 3
Editor’s Note: With this week’s ACC – Big Ten Challenge featuring a number of top-ranked teams, we’ve asked our resident experts to prognosticate the nine games that will take place over the next two days. As they did in yesterday’s Part 1, Mark McGrath, our Big Ten staff writer, and Bill Thayer, our resident ACC expert will analyze Wednesday’s games. We will break down the final results in Part 3 of this feature later in the week. Enjoy!
WISCONSIN AT GEORGIA TECH
Bill Thayer: Let’s see what has happened to each other since they lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament (Wisconsin to Georgia State, Tech to St. Joseph’s). Wisconsin let head coach Brad Soderberg leave, replacing him with Division 3 icon Bo Ryan, and lost Andy Kowskie, Mark Vershaw, Maurice Linton, Roy Boone, Mike Kelly and Ricky Bower. This only represents about 73 % of their offense from a year ago.
Mark McGrath: Granted, Wisconsin lost considerable talent, but both teams come into this game with only a few players that have any experience. Don’t forget Tech lost their lone inside presence of the last four years in Alvin Jones. The one difference between the Badgers and the Yellowjackets is that Georgia Tech’s Paul Hewitt was able to bring in a class of talented freshmen.
BT: So far, each team
has their own reason to panic after taking a loss to a lower tiered team this season (Wisconsin to Weber State and Georgia Tech to Penn). I think it’s going to take time for the Badgers to find their new identity. You can’t take away the number of players from a team, as well as their coach, and expect immediate success.
MM: One player to watch for Tech is Tony Akins. He’ll thrive as he scores twenty and distributes the ball to a much more talented team.
BT: He’s the team’s floor leader and has a solid supporting cast that includes Halston Lane and Marvin Lewis. There is no reason Georgia Tech shouldn’t be competing for an NCAA tournament bid this season. Georgia Tech rebounds from the Penn loss and wins this one. Georgia Tech 78, Wisconsin 71
MM: I agree. Although they may struggle as they attempt to find a team chemistry once the ACC schedule begins, Tech will have no trouble disposing of the Badgers. Georgia Tech 62, Wisconsin 50
MICHIGAN STATE VS VIRGINIA (in Richmond)
MM: It appears that the party may be over at Michigan State. Coach Tom Izzo lost the core of last year’s Final Four team and although they are still loaded with talent, they will struggle to stay near the top of the Big Ten.
BT: Yes, Michigan State fans are beginning to remember what the term “growing pains” means as they begin the 2001-02 campaign. After years of relying on players such as Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson, Andre Hutson, Charlie Bell and Jason Richardson, they are going through a rebuilding stage around players, while as talented as those mentioned earlier, much less experienced than past Spartan teams.
MM: Meanwhile, the Cavaliers are expected to challenge Duke and Maryland for the ACC championship with a team loaded with experience.
BT: Virginia’s season was dealt a difficult hand when they learned point guard Majestic Mapp would miss his second straight season due to a knee injury. Mapp’s quickness and ability to dish would have created havoc on the floor
for opponents. Roger Mason Jr., who made a name for himself nationally by scoring 30 points in the Cavs’ first round tournament loss to Gonzaga a year ago, slides over to handle point guard duties while high flying Adam Hall fills the role of off-guard.
MM: Similarly, Izzo has discussed the possibility of moving point guard Marcus Taylor to shooting guard where he would get more shots. This almost looks like an act of desperation by the Spartan coach.
BT: Still, he will have this young squad competing late in the season. But what Michigan State has shown so far is while they are very talented, they still have much learning to do. The experienced Cavs will win easily. Virginia 88, Michigan State 70
MM: Getting Taylor hot in a hurry will make the difference, as State will win easily. Michigan State 70, Virginia 58
CLEMSON AT PENN STATE
BT: Remember last year’s Penn State team that shocked the world and made it to the Sweet 16? Well forget them, because this year’s Nittany Lions team is a whole different squad.
MM: While both of these two teams were hit especially hard by the loss of key players, Penn State was left with virtually nothing. . Both Crispin brothers are now gone, and only one starter from a year ago remains. No one in State College are exactly sure where their points will come from.
BT: Right. The focus of their offense last year, Gyasi Cline-Heard and Titus Ivory, have vanished, and apparently Jerry Dunn has yet to figure out who will fill their voids. The Lions already have a loss to Yale (at home) to their credit.
MM: Speaking of offensive losses, although Clemson returns most of their starters from a 12-19 season, the departure of Will Solomon to the NBA Draft has left a huge hole in the Tiger’s scoring ability.
BT: Tiger fans refused to panic, even when sophomore scorer Tony Stockman went down to injury. Edward Scott moves to the point and the Tigers will still sneak up on some teams in the ACC. Undersized big man Chris Hobbs has played well so far this season and will need to pick up even more of the scoring slack now that Stockman is out.
MM: My advice? Do not have your young ones tune into this game for its instructional benefits. It’s not going to be pretty. Clemson 60 Penn State 52
BT: The Tigers will win this one, and clinch the Challenge for the ACC. Clemson 71, Penn State 64
INDIANA AT NORTH CAROLINA
BT: Oh how the mighty have fallen. As the old saying goes, “things are going to get worse before they get better.” I don’t think the saying figured in losses to Hampton and Davidson though. Everybody knew this would be a difficult season for the Tar Heels, but nobody imagined this.
MM: If the Tar Heels fall behind early in this one, how soon will it be before the Carolina faithful turn against their beloved team? This is not what Matt Doherty bargained for when he applied for the supposedly illustrious job. An 0-2 start? To Hampton and Davidson? What next? To lose them both at home? Losing three at home to open the season is an inexcusable sin for those bleeding Carolina blue.
BT: Kris Lang has been the only player to step up this season, but he is not the type of player to build around. Jason Capel has become a shell of his former self. Apparently he can only score when he is the third option on the court. The point guard situation is horrendous, and I refuse to believe that Ronald Curry is the answer to all of the Tar Heel woes. Capel will need to step up defensively in this game if the Tar Heels expect to have any chance to win.
MM: Indiana’s Dane Fife will shut down any talent the Heels can throw out on the floor, and I’m liking Jared Jeffries as well.
BT: Jeffries has been playing well in this young season. He has filled the scoring void left by Kirk Haston’s departure to the NBA. This will be a solid Hoosier win. Indiana 76, North Carolina 68
MM: Look for people to start calling for Doherty’s head as the more balanced Hoosiers prevail in an emotional and intense environment. Indiana 72 North Carolina 68
FLORIDA STATE AT NORTHWESTERN
BT: This looks more like it should be played on the gridiron than the hardwood. Florida State’s Michael Joiner is the best player in the ACC that nobody knows.
MM: Backing him up, the Seminoles have a strong group of returning starters, and Steve Robinson’s incredible recruiting class. Meanwhile, Northwestern has been mired in the bottom of the Big Ten for so long that it has become almost customary for its star players to transfer to other schools.
BT: Well that star player this year is Jitim Young, an up and comer in the Big Ten. I liked what Bill Carmody did at Princeton and I have a feeling he’ll have the Wildcats competing in the next five years.
MM: I agree. This year is different. The ‘Cats return four starters from last year and look to be improved from an 11-19 record.
BT: Steve Robinson’s squad is tough to watch. They lack team quickness and turn the ball over too much, something the disciplined Cats will make them pay for, as Northwestern pulls this one out. Northwestern 65, Florida State 60
MM: While talented, Northwestern doesn’t have the talent to match up with Florida State’s experience. This one won’t be close. Florida State 75, Northwestern 58
We will break down Mark and Bill’s predictions and analyze all of the action tomorrow in Part 3 of the ACC – Big Ten Challenge Preview.