Big Ten/ ACC Challenge Recap

The Big Ten/ ACC challenge is an early season “challenge” where teams of the same caliber from the Big Ten and the ACC play each other early in the season. This “challenge” is usually very competitive, but the matchups and talent on the floor this particular year is outstanding. You had highly touted freshmen going into hostile environments for the first time, and the experienced upperclassmen getting a chance to finally see what these “5-star” recruits are all about. These early season challenges are a great way to see how good teams really are and what their made of. Let’s get to the recap:

-Duke needs their stars back from injury.
Although the Blue Devils have been able to hold off Michigan State and keep it close with Kansas all the way into the final seconds, there will be a time when Duke’s six man rotation hits it’s breaking point. It is critical that Duke gets back at least two of their three 5-star freshman as soon as possible. They still have plenty of talent, but part of that talent gets drained when you have two players playing every second of the game.

-Indiana is for real.
The win over Kansas was not a fluke, but the loss to Fort Wayne was. Every team has one bad night where they don’t make a shot and the team their playing doesn’t miss a shot, that was against Fort Wayne. But no “fluke” team beats two top five teams, one of them in absolutely commanding fashion. They have one of the best scorers in the country in James Blackmon Jr., who is currently shooting about 50% from three and averaging about 20 points per game. To put that in perspective, no player who has attempted over 30 three’s in the NBA is shooting above 48%. They also have two of my favorite players in all of college basketball in Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby. Bryant has one of the highest motors I’ve seen in a while, and Anunoby is a Michael Jordan clone from when he was at UNC–the dunks, the defense, and even the short shorts.

– Bronson Koenig (Wisconsin) is one of the best players in the country.
If I’m a college coach, and I get to pick one guy to lead my team this season, it’s Koenig. The experienced senior has been to two final fours, has hit game winning shots in March, and always has his team behind him. For Wisconsin, they may look ugly at times, very ugly…but, you can NEVER count them out. Not only is Koenig taking on a huge leadership role for this team, he is also scoring the ball at a relatively efficient rate, his three point shot is off right now, so he’s shooting about 30% from behind the arc, but still managing to shoot about 45% from the field. But, Koenig excels in a category not on the stat sheet, and that’s leading his team to wins, and that’s all that matters.

– Dennis Smith Jr. (NC State) needs more air time.
It’s a lot to ask for because the NC State Wolfpack as a team isn’t exactly the most talented or the most fun to watch, but Smith is a different story. He hasn’t gotten a lot of traction because he missed his entire senior season of high school with a torn ACL, and hasn’t really been on national TV as a freshman, but you will want to get familiar with him. He’s averaging about 20 points per game and around 5 assists per game. Also, what’s not on the stat sheet are his poster dunks that, although standing at only 6’3″, makes dunking look effortless. When I wrote about Smith about 15 months ago I called him the “energizer bunny” and I still believe that’s the best way to describe him. He is currently projected as a top five pick, so all I ask for is a little bit more exposure, you all will thank me.

College basketball fans agree there is nothing better. The young talent, energy, determination, player development and incredible competition make it so great to watch…and we are just getting started. Let me know what you think about my analysis.

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