It’s once again time for the ACC/ Big Ten Challenge. This event started in 1999 and the ACC won the first 10 challenges but the Big Ten is on a roll winning the last 3 challenges. Check out my previews and predictions of Boston College at Penn State and Ohio State at Duke.
Coach: Steve Donahue (Two seasons at Boston College 30-35) Overall 176-173, 12 years
2011-12: Record 9-22 overall, 4-12 in ACC ( Tie 9th)
Starters Returning (4) Jordan Daniels, Ryan Anderson, Lonnie Jackson, Dennis Clifford
Preseason Tournament: Charleston Classic
Top Non-Conference Games: at Penn State, vs. Auburn, vs. Providence
Transfers Out : Matt Humphrey (West Virginia – eligible immediately); Gabe Moton
Transfers In: Alex Dragicevich (Notre Dame), Andrew VanNest ( Harvard eligible-immediately)
Last season was another rough season for Steve Donahue at Boston College, but there is hope in the future. Donahue started 4 freshman last year and had 8 on the roster. The Eagles return 5 of their top 6 scorer. Now those players are sophomores and have plenty of playing experience. The bad news last year’s second leading scorer Matt Humphrey transferred to West Virginia and this same group only had 9 wins last season, they might be a year away.
Leading the way for Boston College is power forward Ryan Anderson (11.2 ppg). Anderson can score both inside and out and is an effective rebounder. Joining Anderson in the frontcourt is Seven-footer Dennis Clifford (8.9 ppg). He really came on as last season went on. Providing the depth will be Harvard transfer Andrew Van Nest, Kyle Caudill (2.2 ppg), and John Cain Carney. This unit will get a boost next season when Notre Dame transfer Alex Dragicevich becomes eligible. Patrick Heckmann (8.3 ppg)will once again start at the 3 for the Eagles. Backing him up will be Danny Rubin (1.1 ppg) and Eddie Odio(.9 ppg).
In the backcourt Lonnie Jackson (8.3 ppg) returns as the top three point shooter for Boston College. At the point will be point guard Joe Rahon. Rahon was a star in practice and took the starting job from day one. This forced guard Jordan Daniels to transfer out of Boston College in the fall. DaOlivier Hanlan another freshman will provide depth here.
Coach: Patrick Chambers(1st season at PSU 12-20) Overall 54-48, 3 years
2011-12: Record 12-20 overall, 4-14 in Big 10 ( Tie 11th)
Starters Returning (3) Jon Graham, Tim Frazier, Jermaine Marshall
Preseason Tournament: Puerto Rico Tip-Off
Top Non-Conference Games: vs. Boston College
Transfer Out: Matt Glover (San Francisco); Trey Lewis (Cleveland State); Peter Alexis (Philadelphia University)
Sat out: D.J. Newbill (Southern Mississippi)
A year after making the NCAA tournament, the Nittany Lions had another rough season under 1st year head coach Patrick Chambers. Chambers wasn’t left with a whole lot of talent, but you have to love his energy for the program. I think, no question Chambers is the right man for the job. The good news the Nittany Lions return their top 2 scorers and add a highly touted transfer. The bad news 3 players left the program and this team is lacking in the frontcourt.
Leading the Nittany Lions is point guard Tim Frazier (18.8 ppg). He is probably the most underrated player in the country if he were playing at North Carolina; he would be a household name. Last season he led the Nittany Lions in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. Update recently Frazier hurt his Achilles tendon and will be out for the season, this is really a huge blow. Joining Frazier in the backcourt is Southern Mississippi transfer D.J. Newbill. As a freshman he averaged 9.2 ppg. Recently Chambers called this the best backcourt in the nation. Starting at the 3 will be Jermaine Marshall (10.8 ppg). Marshall had 4 games last year where he scored over 20 points. The Nittany Lions don’t have much depth here. Providing the depth is former walk-on Nick Colella (2.7 ppg) and freshman Akosa Maduebunam.
While Penn State is loaded in the backcourt same can’t be said in the frontcourt. PSU did not get a lot of production from frontcourt last season. It’s pretty sad when your point guard is your leading rebounder. Ross Travis (4.4 ppg) is probably the best talent here he showed some poteinal as a freshman. Jon Graham (3.9 ppg) will likely get the start at center but he has to become a better rebounder and scorer. The Nittany Lions have some depth here but most of it is unproven. Sasa Borovnjak (4.3 ppg) has the most experience. Also providing depth is Patrick Ackerman and freshman Donovon Jack and Brandon Taylor. Taylor has the best shot at getting some playing time here.
Prediction: Penn State over Boston College- Even without Tim Fraizer I like the Nittany Lions in this game. They should still dominate in the backcourt with D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall. Boston College is really struggling. They are coming off a lost to Bryant yes Bryant.
Coach: Thad Matta (8 seasons at Ohio State 221-65) Overall 323-96, 12 years
2011-12: Record 31-8 overall, 13-5 in Big Ten (Tie/1st)
Starters Returning (3) Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr.
Preseason Tournament: Hall of Fame Tip-Off
Top Non-Conference Games: at Duke, vs. Marquette, vs. Kansas
Transfer Out: Jordan Sibert (Dayton), J.D. Weatherspoon (Toledo)
Early Departure: Jared Sullinger
Thad Matta has built a heck of a program since he has got to Columbus in 2004. He was won 5 regular season titles and three conference tournaments and 2 final fours. Sadly for Matta last season the Buckeyes had a 13 point lead in the final four but they blew the game. The Buckeyes lose 2 out of their top 3 scorers but they do return everyone else. That being said the Buckeyes still will return 3 starters and 2 of the top players in the country.
Leading the way in the backcourt for the Buckeyes is pesky point guard Aaron Craft (8.8 ppg). Craft makes his name on defense he was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year last season. He was second in the nation with 2.5 steals pg. Craft also has a great assist to turnover ratio. While on offense he is more of a driver and mid-range player than a three point shooter. Joining him in the backcourt is Lenzelle Smith Jr. (6.8 ppg), who played really well in the NCAA tournament. He had a breakout year as a three point shooter. Smith also had nearly 5 rebounds as a guard not bad. The top option off the bench will be Shannon Scott (1.2 ppg). Also providing depth will be freshman sharp shooter Amedeo Della Valle, who is from Italy. After Scott and Della Valle depth is a big question mark for the Buckeyes, because it is walk ons.
In the frontcourt will be forward Deshaun Thomas (15.9 ppg), who turned down the NBA to return to Ohio State. He was a beast in the NCAA tournament averaging 15.9 points pg. Thomas is probably the most versatile scorer in the country. Last season he made 50 three pointer and he made many shots around the basket. He shot just under 60 % on 2 pointers. Thomas is also a pretty good rebounder. Also at forward will be LaQuinton Ross (2 ppg), who become eligible mid-season and never got on track . However big things are expected from him this season, he does most of his work behind the arch. At center will be Amir Williams (1. 7 ppg). Williams didn’t see a lot of time last season but when he did played he was really effective. He is a dominant rebounder and shot blocker. The Buckeyes have very two quality options off the bench in Sam Thompson (2.1 ppg) and Evan Ravenel (3.4 ppg). Thomas is a great athlete and slasher, while Ravenel is a great role player. Trey McDonald (.2 ppg) will also provide depth here.
Coach: Mike Krzyewski (32 seasons at Duke 927-291) Overall 927-291, 37 years
2011-12: Record 27-7 overall, 13-3 in ACC (2nd)
Starters Returning (3) Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly
Preseason Tournament: Battle of Atlantis, Champions Classic
Top Non-Conference Games: vs. Ohio State, vs. Temple
Transfer Out: Michael Gbinjie (Syracuse)
Transfer In : Rodney Hood (Mississippi State)
Sat Out: Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee (redshirt)
Sit Out: Andre Dawkins (Personal reasons)
After overachieving in the regular season the Blue Devils were a huge disappointment in the NCAA tournament losing to 15th seed Lehigh. Their best player Austin Rivers also departs to the NBA. The good news the Blue Devils return 3 senior starters and bring in 2 very talented freshman. One thing is for sure you can never count out a Coach K team; he will always get the most out of his team.
This Duke team will have a very strong frontcourt led by two senior starters. Leading the way is Mason Plumlee (11.1 ppg), who turned down the NBA. He almost averaged a double double last season; look for him to average one easily this season. He is also pretty athletic for a big guy and he is a good shot blocker, currently 5th in Duke History. Joining him in the frontcourt is Ryan Kelly(11.8 ppg). Kelly value to this team showed when he missed the final three games with an injury Duke lost two of those games. Kelly is most effective as a three pointer shooter, which he made 41 % from distance last season. At the small forward position will be redshirt freshman Alex Murphy. Murphy is basically a Kyle Single clone. He is a very versatile player than can score inside and out and guard multiple positions. Also in the frontcourt will be glue guy Josh Hairston (2.7 ppg) and highly touted freshman Amile Jefferson. He is probably the best athlete on the Duke roster. Also providing depth here is Marshall Plumlee. This unit receives a major boost next season with Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood.
Leading the way in the backcourt for Duke will be shooting guard Seth Curry (13.2 ppg). Curry led the Blue Devils in assists and steals last season and is Duke’s returning leading scorer. Curry’s biggest asset is his shooting ability and mid-range game. He made 67 three pointers last season. He needs to attack the rim more. At point guard will be either Quinn Cook (4.4 ppg) or Tyler Thornton (4.1 ppg). Cook had a up and down season with injuries . Last year he had pretty good assist to turnover ratio but struggled to score. Look for him to double his scoring average this season. Thornton (4.1 ppg) is the ultimate glue guy. He is best known for being a pesky defender. Also providing depth here is highly though of freshman Rasheed Sulaimon, who is a deadly shooter. Don’t be shocked if Sulaimon starts if Duke goes to a 3 guard lineup. Andre Dawkins will redshirt this season due to personal reasons.
Prediction: Duke over Ohio State- So far this season it is tough to find a team with a better resume than Duke with wins over Louisville, VCU, Minnesota and Kentucky. The difference in this game will be Duke big man Mason Plumlee the Buckeyes will have no answer for him. Also look for Seth Curry to a hit couple threes late to seal the win for Duke. You think the Blue Devils remember getting destroyed by the Buckeyes last season in Columbus? I am sure all the players want revenge.