As we get closer to June, we get closer to the matchups of the 2020-21 ACC/Big Ten Challenge being announced. There’s still a lot of uncertainty around the upcoming season as a result of the ongoing pandemic, but today we’re ranking potential matchups for this year’s challenge.
Virginia has faced one team — Minnesota — four times and never played five of the Big Ten teams since the event was created in 1999. Overall, the Hoos have carried their weight in the ACC, going 13-7 in the challenge. The Hoos are one of four ACC teams to have participated in every iteration of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, never having sat out of any of the 21 years (they did have one game suspended due to an unplayable surface in 2001 vs. MSU). Duke, North Carolina, and Florida State are the other ACC schools to compete in all 21 events, and Maryland has participated in all of them across the ACC and Big Ten.
Teams were ranked based on how interesting the matchups would be, factoring in things like if the two teams have played recently and if the game would bolster Virginia’s resume.
Let’s get to it!
Let’s be honest, there will never be a better game between the Boilermakers and Wahoos than the one played in the 2019 Elite Eight. Virginia let them get a smidge of revenge last season in the challenge, so let’s call it good.
Anyway, here’s THE PLAY because why not.
This matchup wouldn’t really get fans super excited, if we’re being honest. The Wildcats finished at 3-17 in the Big Ten last season and No. 132 on KenPom. These two teams have met three times already in the challenge, let’s not make it four.
Fred Hoiberg at the helm is intriguing, but this matchup doesn’t hold a lot of weight at this point. The Cornhuskers finished at No. 162 in KenPom last season, even with the strong Big Ten KenPom numbers, and went 7-25 (2-18 Big Ten) overall. The only bright spot with this matchup would be playing a team the Hoos have never faced in the event.
11. Ohio State
Virginia played Ohio State in back-to-back seasons as part of the challenge in 2015 and 2016. Let’s play someone new.
In the last 10 years, Virginia has played Wisconsin three times in this event. One of them ended 49-37 (a win), one ended 48-38 (a loss), and one ended 60-54 (a win). The games are almost always a slog, and even the wins are a rock fight. On top of that, the Cavaliers faced the Badgers in the non-con in the 2018 Battle 4 Atlantis title game (which Virginia also won). The only reason they aren’t last on this list is because they should actually be pretty good next season, and it’s always hilarious hearing people complain about this game.
Virginia has played Minnesota a whopping four times in this event, the most out of any opponent. They haven’t played since 2010, but let’s try someone else.
T7. Illinois, Rutgers
Virginia has never played Illinois or Rutgers in this event. Illinois made the Final Four and was the national runner-up in 2005, but haven’t made the tournament since 2013. The Fighting Illini finished last season ranked No. 21, and Rutgers spent some time in the Top-25 last season (the first time ranked since 1979).
6. Penn State
The Nittany Lions flirted with the Top-25 all season, climbing as high as No. 9 in Week 16 before finishing just outside the poll. They had big wins over No. 4 Maryland, No. 16 Michigan State, and No. 21 Ohio State (among others), and return sophomore PG Myreon Jones (40% three point shooter). Virginia and PSU have played just once in this event — in 2009 — with the Nittany Lions winning 69-66.
Yes, Virginia played Maryland twice since 2014 and last played the Terps in 2018 in this event, but both games involved the Hoos heading to College Park. Maryland next season won’t be the same team that finished second in the Big Ten and ended the season at No. 12 in the AP Poll. They lose Anthony Cowan to graduation and Jalen Smith to the draft, leaving some big holes behind. Boston College transfer Jairus Hamilton will look to get a waiver for immediate eligibility, but their incoming class is ranked No. 14 in the Big Ten and No. 86 nationally.
At the very least, JPJ would be rocking if the Terps come to town. This also might happen as a result of the two schools being close if there are still travel concerns around the pandemic in December.
The Hoosiers finished No. 34 in KenPom last season, their best finish since ending the season at No. 11 in 2016. Virginia has never played Indiana in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and although Indiana hasn’t made an Elite Eight since 2002, they’re still a big basketball brand. That would be a fun matchup.
The Hawkeyes are likely to be the highest ranked Big Ten team when the preseason rankings are released, and they could return big man Luka Garza. Iowa usually fields a team that’s adept at three-point shooting, and their offense finished the season at No. 5 in KenPom last year.
Another team Virginia has yet to face in this event.
The Wolverines will probably start the season just outside the Top-25, but Michigan and Virginia would be a game that should get a lot of hype. Michigan and Virginia met just once in this event — in 2011 — and it’s time it happens again.
1. Michigan State
Virginia fans have wanted a rematch for awhile, losing to the Spartans in both the 2014 and 2015 NCAA tournaments. It looked like maybe a matchup between the two would take place in the title game of the 2019 tournament, but MSU fell to Texas Tech in the Final Four. Cassius Winston is gone, but the Spartans should be a preseason top-10 team, AND we’d get a game of Hauser vs. Hauser as Michigan State got Joey, the little brother of Virginia transfer Sam.
Michigan State and Virginia haven’t played in this event since 2002, and the Spartans have only played Duke, UNC, Louisville, and Notre Dame since 2013.
Who do you want Virginia to play? Vote below, or leave a comment!
Which team do you want UVA to play in the ACC/B10 Challenge?
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