It was an interesting Big Ten – ACC Challenge this year, with the home teams largely holding serve. Duke roared back to beat Ohio State 73-68 last night, and Tom Izzo’s Spartans continued to disappoint in the early season, dropping their second game to an unranked opponent, this time being easily handled by Miami down in Coral Gables.
There were a few road surprises, namely Purdue going off from three point range to beat Clemson in Littlejohn Coliseum and Virginia continue to exploit the injury weaknesses of Wisconsin, going into the Kohl Center where NOONE other than the Badgers typically wins, and pulling off the 60-54 upset.
Tonight another pair of dynamic conferences begin their face-off for the similarly-modeled SEC – Big East Challenge. But let’s all be honest. With the freeflowing nature of conference affiliation these days, no one really cares what conference wins these bogus challenges. It is all about the individual matchups.
There’s a dynamite one tonight in Notre Dame with the young but talented Wildcats coming in to tussle with the veteran, yet limited, Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Let’s move on to tonight’s free pick:
Kentucky Wildcats at Notre Dame Fighting Irish -1
Kentucky has lost its only true “test” of the season, a close game against Duke (who now owns wins over Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State) at the Barclays Center. However, they now how another valuable three weeks experience, which may not sound like much, but it actually significant in today’s rapidly-shifting college basketball world. They are still solving some point guard issues, but it is unlikely they will be exacerbated tonight against Notre Dame’s compact defense. This is not a team that is going to put tremendous ball pressure on guards. They do this for two reasons; one, they aren’t particularly quick, and two, they are not particularly deep, playing only seven players most games.
Notre Dame does have a smart basketball team, and they are playing a very young team at home. Those are two chips in their favor, but I am not quite sure it will be enough. It is hard to see Jack Cooley having his way tonight against the sze and shot blocking of Kentucky’s interior.
Notre Dame is going to need a big game from their most athletic player Jerian Grant if they want to keep pace with the Wildcats. They are also going to need deadly shooting nights from Scott Martin and Pat Connaughton.
It seems like a lot of “ifs” to me…
Give me the Wildcats getting a point on the road.
Free Pick: Kentucky Wildcats +1