Sizzling In The Spotlight: Bennett & Wesner's ACC/Big Ten Challenge Picks

Already missing early season tournaments? No need to be upset, because today (Monday) the ACC/Big Ten Challenge begins with two quality games as an appetizer for the main course showdowns such as Maryland/North Carolina. And guess what? VAVEL US' Tyler Bennett and Peyton Wesner will be predicting every contest as a part of "Sizzling in the Spotlight."

Monday, November 30

7:00 PM EST
4-2 Wake Forest @ 3-3 Rutgers (ESPNU)

Coming In:
Wake Forest: 80-77 Win - UCLA
Rutgers: 76-58 Loss - Clemson

Players to Watch:
Wake Forest:
Devin Thomas (SR)
---17.7 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, & 1.2 BPG.
Deshawn Freeman (JR)
---14.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG, & 1.2 BPG.

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons are coming off an impressive 3rd place finish in the Maui Invitational, scoring wins over then 13th ranked Indiana and unranked UCLA. They did so without star guard Codi Miller-McIntyre, who is recovering from an offseason injury. Rutgers is coming off a blowout loss to the Clemson Tigers, and are looking for answers on offense as they move forward in 2015-16. The emergence of several role players for Wake Forest will be the difference on Monday, and the Demon Deacons will score the first blow for the ACC in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
---Wake Forest 71, Rutgers 64

With one team trending up and the other down, tonight's ACC/Big Ten Challenge opener seems to be a no brainer. The Wake Forest Demon Deacons', as a team and program, are turning past struggles around, specifically seen in their three days at Maui with wins against Indiana and UCLA. Scoring at least 78 points in five of their six matchups, head coach Danny Manning has a very offensively orientated group starting with frontcourt duo Devin Thomas and Cornellus Hudson. And that's not even mentioning "fab freshman" Bryant Crawford and "stud sophomore" Konstantinos Mitoglou! On the other end of the court, the Scarlet Knights continue to be the mediocre teams of old as their best victory to date is against Howard. Even if Deshawn Freeman and Mike Williams combine for 50, Wake Forest will move to 5-2.
---Wake Forest 84, Rutgers 72

9:00 PM EST
4-1 Clemson @ 4-2 Minnesota (ESPN2)
***Spotlight Game

Coming In:
Clemson: 76-58 Win - Rutgers
Minnesota: 93-90 Win - Omaha

Players to Watch:
Jaron Blossomgame (JR)
---18.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, & 1.4 BPG.
Joey King (SR)
---17.2 PPG & 3.8 RPG.

The Clemson Tigers have played some strong basketball to open the 2015-16 season, starting with a 4-1 record, with the exception of a loss to Massachusetts in the MGM Grand Main Event. In the consolation game at MGM, the Tigers’ big men led the team to a big win over Rutgers. The confidence the team has coming into "The Barn" to take on Minnesota is something hard to overlook. In a hard-fought battle, Jaron Blossomgame and the Tigers come out on top. Score another win for the ACC.
---Clemson 70, Minnesota 68

Now this game is going to be fun! With scorers who will have a say in their individual conferences' scoring race and could guard each other this evening (Jaron Blossomgame and Joey King), Clemson traveling to "The Barn" to take on the Golden Gophers of Minnesota has the potential to be a barnburner of a showdown. But who wins? Considering the offensive side of the ball to be a push (because of how evenly matched the two teams are), Clemson has a great advantage when it comes to defense. Nonetheless, Minnesota holds home-court advantage. Because of how close Joey King's team allows games to be against inferior opponents (Missouri State and Omaha for example), the Tigers will come out on top thanks to 20+ points from Blossomgame and an additional 15 by Donte Grantham.
---Clemson 70, Minnesota 69

Tuesday, December 1

7:00 PM EST
4-2 Michigan @ 4-2 NC State (ESPN2)

Coming In:
Michigan: 78-72 Win - Texas
NC State: 87-79 Win - Winthrop

Players to Watch:
Caris LeVert (SR)
---18.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.0 APG, & 1.5 SPG.
NC State:
Anthony "Cat" Barber (JR)
---21.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, & 6.7 APG.

Since their season-opening loss to William & Mary on their floor no less, the NC State Wolfpack have seemingly turned a corner and are 4-1. Freshman Maverick Rowan is starting to find his groove, and is averaging 14.5 points per contest on the year. On Tuesday, the Wolfpack will get their biggest test to date, in the form of the Michigan Wolverines. Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin are healthy for the Wolverines, and will keep Michigan in the game. Playing on the road at NC State is never an easy thing to do (ask any ACC team and they’ll say the same thing), and the Wolfpack will roll to an impressive victory.
---NC State 81, Michigan 74

---NC State 74, Michigan 69

5-1 Northwestern @ 4-2 Virginia Tech (ESPNU)

Coming In:
Northwestern: 90-63 Win - New Orleans
Virginia Tech: 82-77 Win - UAB

Players to Watch:
Tre Demps (SR)
---16.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG, & 3.7 APG.
Virginia Tech:
Zach LeDay (JR)
---19.0 PPG, 10.7 RPG, & 1.2 BPG.

Tuesday night marks a return to Virginia Tech for Northwestern big man Joey van Zegeren. He transferred to Northwestern from the Hokies, and adds another dimension to the frontcourt for the Wildcats. Add in Alex Olah, Tre Demps, and Bryant McIntosh, who is one of the most underrated players in college basketball, and the Wildcats have a ton of talent. In a true road game for Northwestern, van Zegeren could be the deciding factor. On this night, he leads his new team to a hard-fought win over his old team.
---Northwestern 78, Virginia Tech 75

---Virginia Tech 75, Northwestern 73

7:30 PM EST
5-1 10. Virginia @ 2-3 Ohio State (ESPN)

Coming In:
Virginia: 80-56 Win - Lehigh
Ohio State: 81-76 Loss - Memphis

Players to Watch:
Malcolm Brogdon (SR)
---16.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.2 APG, & 1.0 SPG.
Ohio State:
Marc Loving (JR)
---16.6 PPG & 6.2 RPG.

The Ohio State Buckeyes have struggled mightily this season, and a loss at home to UT-Arlington doesn’t help matters moving forwards. Their confidence is lacking, and it will take another big hit when the Buckeyes welcome Virginia to town in the B1G/ACC Challenge. The Cavaliers will rely on their defense to stymy the offense for Ohio State, and Malcolm Brogdon will lead the Cavaliers to a big road win. Chalk up another point for the ACC.
---Virginia 70, Ohio State 60

---Virginia 73, Ohio State 65

9:00 PM EST
6-0 11. Purdue @ 4-0 Pittsburgh (ESPN2)

Coming In:
Purdue: 77-55 Win - Lehigh
Pittsburgh: 85-76 Win - Kent State

Players to Watch:
Isaac Hass (SO)
---15.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, & 2.3 BPG.
Michael Young (JR)
---18.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 4.8 APG, & 1.3 BPG.

Despite A.J. Hammons only playing in 4 of the team’s 6 games this season, the Purdue Boilermakers have started the season with a perfect 6-0 record. Freshman Caleb Swanigan has averaged 9.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, and has been a big boost for the team up front. Not to be outdone, the duo of Jamel Artis and Michael Young have led Pittsburgh to a 4-0 start. With two perfect records on the line on Tuesday night, the Boilermakers’ depth will propel them to a big road win, and a big point for the Big Ten as a whole.
---Purdue 82, Pittsburgh 80

---Purdue 85, Pittsburgh 81

5-1 21. Miami (FL) @ 5-2 Nebraska (ESPNU)

Coming In:
Miami (FL): 78-77 Loss - Northeastern
Nebraska: 82-71 Win - Tennessee

Players to Watch:
Miami (FL):
Sheldon McClellan (SR)
---17.5 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.7 BPG, & 1.5 SPG.
Andrew White (JR)
---14.9 PPG & 4.4 RPG.

One week ago, the Miami Hurricanes were on top of the college basketball world. They rolled over the competition in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, notching wins over Mississippi State, Utah, and Butler by an average of 20 points per game. Additionally, they vaulted to 15th in the AP Top 25 poll, only to fall at home to Northeastern on a last-second jumper from Quincy Ford. Tuesday night gives Angel Rodriguez and company a shot for redemption, and you can bet that they will seize the opportunity. The Hurricanes will score a big road win over Nebraska.
---Miami (FL) 90, Nebraska 76

---Miami (FL) 77, Nebraska 64

9:30 PM EST
6-0 2. Maryland @ 5-1 9. North Carolina
***Spotlight Game

Coming In:
Maryland: 80-63 Win - Cleveland State
North Carolina: 80-70 Win - Kansas State

Players to Watch:
Melo Trimble (SO)
---14.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 4.5 APG, & 1.5 SPG.
North Carolina:
Justin Jackson (SO)
---14.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, & 4.7 APG.

When the schedule was announced for the B1G/ACC Challenge, this contest was billed as a potential 1 - 2 showdown in terms of the AP Poll. Yet, the game lost a bit of its appeal when the Tar Heels lost to Northern Iowa, and fell to 9th in the rankings. Now that Marcus Paige will make his season debut in this game, it has regained most of that lost appeal. The Terrapins are a balanced squad, led by Melo Trimble and Jake Layman, but it’s Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter who could be the impact player in the game. In must-see television, the Terrapins will come away with the massive road win, and could jump Kentucky to become the #1 team in the nation next week.
---Maryland 81, North Carolina 77

---North Carolina 78, Maryland 73

1. Bennett 125 pts (98-48)
2. Wesner 119 pts (94-52)

***Spotlight Games are worth two points in opposed to one.