The last seven years were fun, but all good things must come to an end. Such was the case with the Big Ten’s title hold on the annual Big Ten/ACC challenge.
Or should I say ACC/Big Ten challenge after the B1G was beat down 9-5 in the 2016 version of this event?
There were doubts about the Big Ten’s strength heading in to the 2016-17 season. The first few weeks of the season had begun to expose those cracks in the conference’s overall strength. However, the challenge proved that even the supposed elite of the Big Ten have plenty of flaws.
Of the five Big Ten wins, only Indiana and Wisconsin took down ranked ACC opponents. Both teams took home impressive double-digit wins at home.
However, alleged contenders in the Big Ten looked rather foolish the rest of the way. Michigan State, for all of its talk of an amazing freshman class, has wilted under the pressure of big games and crazy travel.
That was on full display as they simply couldn’t hang with No. 5 Duke in a 78-69 loss that was much worse than the final score indicated. Tom Izzo’s crew gave up 18 turnovers, created just nine of their own and committed 20 fouls.
That’s how you lose a game in which you shot better from the field (49.1 to 45.5 percent), from three point range (31.3 to 26.9 percent) and out-rebounded your opponent (39-33).
Ohio State was also supposed to be buoyed by a great recruiting class and some returning talent. Instead, the Buckeyes found a way to lose a game in which it led for over 35 minutes and had as large a lead as 16 points (32-16) with 3:41 to play in the first half.
The OSU lead was 12 at the half, but an 11-0 run by Virginia to start the first half whittled that double-digit lead down to just one point. OSU only let the lead slip away once before the final few minutes, and that happened on a London Perrantes jumper which gave UVa an one-point lead that was quickly erased by a C.J. Jackson triple on the very next possession.
Yet, despite an ability to keep a lead, Ohio State eventually submitted and gave up another lead with just 1:59 to play. It was a lead the Cavaliers weren’t giving up and the Buckeyes’ cold shooting killed them down the stretch.
There’s no doubt that Ohio State can learn a lot from a loss like this, and perhaps its a catalyst for the season turn itself around, but it could equally go the other way.
What it did show is that the Buckeyes aren’t ready for prime time just yet and likely will be caught by games like these in the future too.
Iowa, who graduated a ton of talent looked perhaps the worst of all the Big Ten teams, if it weren’t for Maryland’s fail against Pitt at home. Iowa was blown away 92-78 by Notre Dame on the road and is the only team in the conference with a losing record as a result.
However, Maryland were blown out 73-59 at home by Pitt in a matchup of alleged equals. It shouldn’t be all that surprising, as the Terps’ schedule has been light on real competition and even the Power 5 teams they have faced haven’t been great in 2016-17 either. One point wins over Georgetown and Kansas State aren’t exactly things to hang your hat on.
Let’s just say this season’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge was an epic fail for the Big Ten.
While what happens in November can be forgotten in March, an event like the ACC/Big Ten Challenge won’t soon be forgotten in the narrative of conference superiority. For now, the Big Ten has a lot of work to do to rebuild its reputation.
Can it be done? Given we’re heading out of the tournament season and in to finals weeks and thusly weaker opponents, not much can be done for the Big Ten’s reputation. It will likely have to earn most of it back in the NCAA tournament, and that will be an interesting endeavor this season.