Every year, the ACC and Big Ten conferences get together for a week to put their teams to the test, and some marquee matchups always result and give fans an early preview of some potential NCAA tournament matchups. The ACC dominated this challenge for the first ten years, going 10-0, but hasn’t won since, with five losses and two ties over the past seven years. The ACC is looking to get back to its winning ways in a matchup where they appear to have the stronger teams on paper. However, nothing can be expected in college basketball, where the madness can begin well before March.
Minnesota (6-0) at Florida State (5-1): Florida State (KenPom ranking: 38) comes into this game as the favorite, although Minnesota (KenPom ranking: 60) is playing strong basketball to start the year. If this game were at Minnesota, the home court advantage would play a huge factor, as Minnesota has one of the most underrated fan bases in the nation. Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon (18.5 ppg) and freshman phenom Jonathan Isaac (15.3 ppg) will be tough matchups for Minnesota to defend, as Isaac stands at 6’10” and can score from anywhere, while Bacon is athletic and capable of taking over a game. Minnesota will need a big game from its trio of guards Amir Coffee (15.8 ppg), Nate Mason (13.0 ppg) and Dupree McBrayer (12.2 ppg) to pull off the win. Junior center Reggie Lynch, playing in his first season with the Golden Gophers after transferring from Illinois State, is averaging 3.6 blocks per game so far this season, His career average is about 3 per game, and if he is able to disrupt layups and protect the rim, his presence could be a game changer on the defensive end if he stays out of foul trouble. In the end, Florida State’s offense will be too much for Minnesota to keep up with.
Prediction: Florida State 81, Minnesota 75
Wake Forest (5-1) at Northwestern (4-2): Northwestern (KenPom ranking: 50) has played a challenging early season schedule, knocking off Texas (ranked no.22 at the time), while losing by a combined 6 points to Butler and Notre Dame. They will be slightly favored and well prepared for this matchup, and can lean on juniors Vic Law (17.7 ppg) and Scottie Lindsey (15.5 ppg) to shoulder the scoring load. Bryant McIntosh, coming off of a single season school record of 213 assists last season (6.7 apg) will be a key distributor (5.0 apg) and should be able to control the flow of the game in his floor general type role. Wake Forest (KenPom ranking: 62) has not been tested much early, except for a convincing defeat to number 3 Villanova. This will be their first real test, and they will be looking to sophomore John Collins (18.8 ppg) to lead their scoring with fellow sophomore Bryant Crawford (6.3 apg) to orchestrate the offense. If Austin Arians and Keyshawn Woods (combined 58% from 3 so far) are able to nail a few 3’s to supplement the main duo, Wake Forest could easily find a groove and win the game. However, Northwestern’s veteran experience and early-season tests will lead them to victory in this one, while Wake Forest should make it a close and exciting game.
Prediction: Northwestern 77, Wake Forest 74