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The Morning Dish – Thursday, November 30, 2017

November 30, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

There is no simpler way to put this: the ACC is dominating the Big Ten. The ACC has the most wins – 11 – in the history of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and that’s with one night of games still to go. That comes against just two losses, both with the ACC team on the road. And while the ACC has a commanding 12-5-2 all-time record in the Challenge, this year stands out.

Last night’s 5-1 mark – with Nebraska’s 71-62 win over Boston College as the lone Big Ten win – keeps the ACC rolling at 11-2 overall.

Duke’s 91-81 win at Indiana was perhaps the most hyped game, and North Carolina’s 86-71 handling of Michigan in Chapel Hill had a lot of people going back to 1993. NC State’s 85-78 home win over Penn State and Clemson’s impressive 79-65 win at Ohio State will fly under the radar. But the best matchup of the night was in Minneapolis as Miami took on Minnesota, a battle of two good teams that aren’t getting enough mention thus far.

The teams were tied at 36 at intermission, but Miami took over to start the second half as they opened with a 9-2 run. They would build the lead up to 62-51, with Dewan Huell continuing to show not only how much he has improved with a bigger role, but also the potential he has, as he had a career-high 23 points on 10-16 shooting. Four others, including the very versatile Bruce Brown (16 points, nine rebounds, five assists) also scored in double figures and were prominent in that run.

Minnesota was not going to go quietly, and they haven’t under Richard Pitino in the big picture. Remember, this is a program that had a really bad couple of months to close the season and then begin the off-season in 2015-16, which along with a new athletic director had some wondering if Pitino was on borrowed time there. They rebounded with an NCAA Tournament season last year and are off to a great start this season that includes a win at Providence.

On Wednesday night, the Golden Gophers battled back to within two, but that was as close as they would get as Miami had answers the rest of the way starting with a 7-0 run. The final margin was 86-81, and it’s the fourth straight win in the event for Miami. This was also the fifth time in six games that five Hurricanes scored in double figures.

To be sure an event like this is a very imperfect way to measure one conference against the other. The matchups come from teams who rotate home and road games, and other early season events play a role as well (for example, Duke and North Carolina already played Michigan State in other events, so neither would be the Spartans’ opponent here). The closest thing one can definitely gain is a sense of which conference is deeper, because in most cases the top few teams in two conferences can compete with one another, but the question comes later on.

Even so, the ACC’s showing this year is unprecedented, and perhaps a bit shocking, too, because as a whole the ACC enters this season with as many questions as answers.

 

Side Dishes

NC State’s win was especially notable since the Wolfpack had a couple of injuries to deal with. Forward Darius Hicks is done for the season after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee in practice, while senior forward Abdul-Malik Abu did not play on Wednesday night as he reported soreness in his right knee earlier in the week, the same knee in which he suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain in October.

Also of note on the injury front, Baylor‘s loss to Xavier on Tuesday has come at a greater cost, as Terry Maston will be out until January. The senior forward suffered a broken right hand in the loss and will have surgery on Thursday. It’s no small loss for the Bears, as he’s their third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder despite coming off the bench, and they aren’t very deep to begin with.

The Mountain West and Missouri Valley have their own challenge going on, and the most notable game there on the evening was Northern Iowa handing UNLV their first loss of the season with a 77-68 win in overtime behind 30 points from Bennett Koch.

East Carolina head coach Jeff Lebo resigned on Wednesday, effective immediately, which will leave Michael Perry in charge of the team as interim head coach. Lebo spent just over seven seasons at the helm in Greenville, bringing the program to the CIT three times including the 2013 championship, but never to another postseason tournament. He went 116-122 during that time, including a 2-4 start this season, and spent the last two months of last season away from the team after having hip surgery, and Perry, who was once the head coach at Georgia State, led the team then as well. Lebo is just the latest coach to try his hand there but have limited success at best.

In a game that will go down as a fantastic finish – for one team, anyway – two former CAA foes locked up as George Mason visited James Madison. Down 71-67 in the final minute, the Patriots finished the game on a 9-1 run in the final 26.2 seconds for a 76-72 win.

Your box score of the night also includes perhaps the most noteworthy individual scoring note of the night. William & Mary beat Marshall 114-104, shooting 60 percent from the field including 18-28 from long range. Connor Burchfield hit 10 three-pointers (on just 12 attempts) to account for all 30 of his points for the Tribe, a career high. Interestingly, the senior guard was not the high scorer on his team, as talented sophomore Nathan Knight topped him with 31 points to go with 12 rebounds.

 

Tonight’s Menu

The Big Ten/ACC Challenge concludes with the best matchup of the bunch as the highlight.

  • The Under Armour Reunion is on tap at Madison Square Garden, with Seton Hall taking on Texas Tech (6:30), then South Carolina battles Temple (9 p.m.)
  • Michigan State hosts Notre Dame in East Lansing (7 p.m.) in what figures to be a great matchup.
  • Former Conference USA rivals match up as UAB hosts Memphis (8 p.m.)
  • UCF hosts Missouri in an intriguing matchup that is actually a campus game in the AdvoCare Invitational (9 p.m.)
  • San Diego hosts San Diego State (11 p.m.) in what may be a better local rivalry matchup than in some other years, as San Diego is 5-0 thus far.

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