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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at 10:51 AM

Football takes a brief hiatus for a couple of days, but the college basketball schedule is absolutely LOADED on Tuesday and Wednesday because of the annual Big Ten-ACC Challenge that will have all games televised within the ESPN family of networks.

The two BIGGEST matchups will definitely have a March Madness flair...and could conceivably be Elite Eight or Final Four previews.

Tonight: Duke at Ohio State (Wow!)
Wednesday: Wisconsin at North Carolina

The respected computer ratings put out by Ken Pomeroy actually had Wisconsin rated ahead of North Carolina after the weekend because of that Tar Heels loss to UNLV. Truly blockbuster matchups that will introduce many of you to college hoops for the new season. Yes, games have been going on for awhile now. But, many of you don't even think about college basketball until your favorite college football team finishes its regular season. Many did just that over Thanksgiving Weekend. So, it's time to bear down in the baskets!

We're going to give you some brief notes for all 12 games in this year's series. The addition of Nebraska brought the Big 10 to 12 teams, so there's now a perfect alignment. We'll have six games tonight, and six games Wednesday Night. Of course, with Pittsburgh and Syracuse set to join the ACC next year, we'll be out of alignment again! We'll worry about that in late November of 2012.

Games are presented in rotation order...


Both of these teams are currently in Pomeroy's top 40, which means the game should have a March Madness feel to it as well (just more like a first round 8-9 game than the Final Four). The Wolverines impressed in Maui last week, scoring double digit wins over UCLA and Memphis (covering by 16 as a dog here). Their only loss this season was to Maui champ Duke. Will Michigan be jet-lagged, or ready to keep the roll going? Defensive-minded Virginia is off to a 5-1 start (3-1 ATS), but the loss was a poor performance as 9-point favorites against TCU.

Northwestern has hopes of reaching the Big Dance this year. A 3-game tourney sweep in South Carolina last week was certainly impressive. But, the 5-point win over Stony Brook that followed won't look too good on the resume. Georgia Tech has two losses on the ledger already, both as small favorites against LSU and St. Joseph's. But, they did upset VCU as a small dog.

In past years, this would have been one of the classic matchups in the series. But, these teams have fallen off the map lately. Illinois is barely in Pomeroy's top 60. Maryland isn't in the top 100. Maryland's two losses this year were ugly, falling by 20 points to Alabama, and 26 points to Iona. The loss to Iona was followed up by only as six point win over non-entity Florida Gulf Coast! Could be a horrible year on tap for the Terps.

Miami hasn't been tested yet by a team as good as Purdue. They lost Friday Night at Ole Miss in overtime. Purdue definitely plans to be in the championship mix this year with Robbie Hummel back in the lineup. A loss to Alabama on a neutral floor as a 2-point underdog suggests the Boilermakers will have trouble down the road with powers Wisconsin and Ohio State.

Clemson has fallen to Coastal Carolina and Charleston already, suggesting it's going to be a long season for the Tigers. Iowa lost a home game to Campbell by 16 points! That shouldn't be possible. There's also a 23-point loss to Creighton on the early resume. Would you watch Coastal Carolina vs. Campbell? ESPNU is televising a game matching teams who LOST to those guys!

This is the showcase game of the night...and possibly of all pre-conference play in the sport depending on what happens with North Carolina and a few other superpowers in the next few weeks. Even if you've been barely paying attention to college hoops this year, you've probably seen plenty of Duke. The Blue Devils might as well move to Bristol, Connecticut so Coach K can have his own 24-hour channel! They've earned the coverage though, with a 7-0 record against a very competitive schedule. We'll wait for another time to complain about Duke being overrated. They're really delivering to this point. Good challenge in Columbus here, against an Ohio State team that won but didn't cover on this court against Florida a couple of weeks back.


Are the Hoosiers ready to rejoin this sport's elite? They're 6-0 straight up this year, 3-0 on the board with impressive covers against Butler, Evansville, and Chattanooga. Pomeroy has Indiana in his top 25 heading into the week. NC State barely misses the top 60...but they did beat Texas on a neutral floor and only lost to respected Vanderbilt by seven points. Might be a couple of pointspread sleepers here you need to pay attention to through December.

The dog of the challenge this year, with Penn State not in the top 125 of Pomeroy's rankings, and Boston College is barely in the top 250. Penn State lost to St. Joe's by 18, and Kentucky by 38. Boston College is only 2-4 thus far, with losses to New Mexico, Saint Louis, UMass, and Holy Cross. Some really ugly teams in the back end of the ACC this season.

This is one of the most anticipated games of the series. Florida State just took UCONN to the wire down in the tropics. Michigan State is gaining experience quickly against a tough early schedule. It may be an ugly defensive struggle (FSU scored 0 points in the first 11 minutes against Harvard a few days ago). We should say it's anticipated in terms of the caliber of teams, not the beauty of play! Put it in a steel cage and sell it on pay-per-view!

Wake Forest is another ugly ACC squad. They lost to Arizona State by 26 a few days ago, and currently aren't in the top 175 of Pomeroy's rankings. It's just amazing how many storied programs are drifting toward irrelevance in this much-hyped conference. Nebraska hopes to be in the mix for a Dance invite out of the Big 12. But, a 7-point home loss to Oregon won't help that cause.

A possible sleeper here based on Pomeroy's numbers...with both of these team ranked around the #40 area. That's good enough to get into the Dance as a general rule. Virginia Tech may be overrated by oddsmakers though, as they failed to cover against Oklahoma State and Syracuse at MSG last week. Minnesota may be in the same boat. The Gophers just got spanked by Dayton by 16 points on Sunday. Good test for both tonight.

The grand finale truly could be grand, though it's very hard for opponents to knock off Carolina in Chapel Hill. And, now you have to throw in the bounce back emotion that's in play because the Heels were caught napping by UNLV this past weekend. Remember when preseason hype was asking if North Carolina could go undefeated? That lasted six games. Wisconsin is playing great ball early, and just obliterated BYU and Bradley in a Chicago tournament last Friday and Saturday.

It goes without saying that...if you're only going to watch one game a night...make it Duke-Ohio State and Wisconsin-North Carolina. But, if you're serious about picking winners over the next several weeks, you should watch as many games as you can (and record the rest!). If your schedule is so busy that you just can't be a do-it-yourselfer until after football ends...then take the easy way out and sign up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

Game day basketball releases go up a few hours before tipoff every afternoon (and weekend mornings). We have great rates for seasonal service. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

There may not be any football games left on the November schedule. But, some fantastic stuff on the college slate will help us close out the month in fine fashion. HOOP IT UP WITH JIM HURLEY TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY NIGHT!

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