The Challenge continues

The Big Ten will look to maintain their early lead in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge with five interesting games tonight. Here's a quick preview (all ratings are from Pomeroy):

61 Iowa at #44 Boston College: Thus far, both teams have been very good offensively (27th, 22nd) and mediocre defensively (154th, 103rd), and both play at a slow tempo. Iowa's gotten it done by shooting extremely well (4th nationally in eFG%), while Boston College excels on the offensive glass (11th). The main guy to box out is 6'5'' sophomore Corey Raji, who is 5th in the ACC in OR% and FT Rate. The offense flows through 6'1'' PG Tyrese Rice, who can shoot from deep but also gets into the lane quite a bit. The other big scoring threat is 6'8'' sophomore Joe Trapani, a versatile player who can score from inside and out.

I don't expect Iowa to win this game, but the Hawkeyes should keep it somewhat close as long as their shots are falling. The key number for me is Iowa's turnover rate - if they keep it reasonably low, they've got a good chance to win pull off the road win.

6 Ohio State at #19 Miami(FL): I'm not sure I buy that #6 ranking for Ohio State just yet - it's driven mostly by one exceptional defensive effort against Samford, and a sample size of three games probably isn't enough for Pomeroy's ratings to really work. That said, I do think Ohio State has enough talent to pull off the upset here, but they'll really need to get their turnovers under control. Happily, Miami forces very few turnovers, so this might be the right matchup for the Buckeye offense. The Hurricanes have excelled at defending the three, which hasn't been a good weapon for Ohio State anyway (32.8% from downtown).

All that said, I think Miami is too solid at both ends of the court, and I'm expecting an Ohio State loss.

16 Clemson at #35 Illinois: This is an intriguing matchup of undefeateds. The Illini have won thus far with defense, while Clemson is tough at both ends of the court. There's a serious contrast in styles here, as Illinois is 315th in adjusted tempo compared to Clemson's 66th. Defensive rebounding will be crucial for the Illini, as Clemson ranks 16th nationally in OR%. 6'7'' junior Trevor Booker does it all for Clemson, leading the team in Poss%, ORtg, DR%, and OR%. He's also an excellent shotblocker, although backup Jerai Grant actually edges him out in Block%. The other big threat offensively is sophomore SG Terrence Oglesby (48.6% from three).

The young Illinois frontline will have their hands full tonight, and I see the rebounding battle as the key to this game. If Illinois can keep Clemson's OR% to a reasonable level - say 32 or lower - I think they can pull this one off.

10 Duke at #13 Purdue: This is probably the biggest game of the Challenge, pitting two excellent defenses against each other. Surprisingly, both teams have played at a fast pace thus far, so we'll see if Purdue tries to run with Duke. The Blue Devils' weakness thus far has been turnovers, which plays right into Purdue's hands. If Purdue can win the turnover battle, I like their chances. This should be a fun one to watch, with neither team using true big men very often.

122 Virginia at #64 Minnesota: Virginia actually has a pretty good offense, but their defense has been atrocious. Minnesota has had similar issues, although not to the same extent. Virginia's star has been 6'6'' freshman Sylven Landesberg, a swingman that does almost all of his damage inside the arc. 6'8'' sophomore Mike Scott has been all over the offensive glass thus far (17.5 OR%, tops in the ACC), so Minnesota will really need to get a body on him. I like Minnesota's chances of picking up a win here at home.

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