Last Updated: 2017-11-30
There is still one game left in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. For the first time, this has not been much of a challenge at all. Currently, the ACC leads 11-2 with the final game on the schedule. At this point, the ACC seems like a dominant league, but we will rehash the entire challenge after it’s done. One thing is for sure, the Big Ten needs to win to save a little face in the finale.
Thursday Night Game
No. 5 Notre Dame (6-0) vs. No. 3 Michigan State Spartans (5-1) -6.0
This Top 5 matchup has plenty of intriguing qualities as an individual game. Clearly, the Big Ten was hoping this game meant more in the long term. However, when your conference has only won 2 of 13 games, you’ll take a win by any means necessary.
The Michigan State Spartans first loss of the season came to the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils. They also defeated the No. 13 North Carolina Tar Heels when they were in the Top 10. Well, the Spartans are in some type of rubber match when it comes to the ACC. If they lose the home date to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the Spartans will be (1-2) in their toughest games. Naturally, they will fall behind in the pecking order of a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. However, a win will keep Sparty on the top line for the foreseeable future. Since the Big Ten was unable to notch enough meaningful victories, any struggle in conference play may hurt the top of the league.
Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish remains undefeated due to their no-quit attitude. After five easy victories, the Irish needed an improbable comeback in the final seconds to defeat Top 10 opponent Wichita State Shockers. The one point win decided the Maui Invitational and the Fighting Irish had eight days off to prepare for this next contest.
If they are able to earn back to back wins over Top 10 teams, Notre Dame should head into conference play with a No. 1 seed on the line. Certainly, they are going to receive a few losses in conference play, but the ACC has to be looked upon favorably after demolishing the Big Ten. Now, the Fighting Irish can just put the icing on the cake.
The Spartans held the Tar Heels to 45 points in their last outing. Defensively, they have athletic bigs to guard the paint. In turn, the Spartans have done an admirable job against the 3-pointer since being bombarded by Grayson Allen. Coming into the game, the Fighting Irish have 54 3-point makes compared to Michigan State’s 45 makes. The Spartans have also held opponents to 45 3-pointers in six games. Meaning, the Spartans making and giving up 7.5 3-pointers per game. As long as they are even, their inside presence should take over most games. Will it happen against the Fighting Irish?
Projected All-American Bonzie Colson is leading the Fighting Irish with 20 points 10.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. In all, the Fighting Irish have three double digit scorer and the other two guys consist of their dynamic backcourt. Matt Farrell (17.5 points) and T.J. Gibbs (15.5 points) are as explosive as any duo in the country. They also combine for over seven assists per game. However, the biggest contribution may come from Rex Pflueger on the wing. He seems like the perfect candidate to deal with ultimate wing player Miles Bridges.
Overall, the Spartans have five double figure scorers. Bridges leads the team at 15.2 points per game. He also leads the Spartans with five 3-point attempts per game. However, Bridges is at his best when he’s attacking the rim.
The backcourt of Joshua Langford and Cassius Winston have everything to deal with Notre Dame. The only problem- will each guard try to take over the game too early? Clearly, the position battles will be hotly contested, but players on both teams must pick their spots and play to their capabilities. Keep in mind, the Spartans are averaging 16.5 turnovers per game. Sometimes they play too fast and loose with the ball. Once they reign it in, the scoring seems to come in bunches. Defensively, Nick Ward will be one of the handful of players trying to contain Colson.
With both teams averaging at least 80 points per game, this has a chance to be the most compelling game of the challenge. However, they both hold opponents in the 60’s. In fact, the Spartans have the No. 22 defensive rating, while the Fighting Irish have the No. 2 offensive rating in the country.