With the B1G/ACC challenge officially ending in a win for the ACC 9-5, let’s take a look back at what we learned from the three days of play in 14 arenas around the country.
1. The conversation includes everyone: Just when we thought we could begin to narrow the tournament picture, we were wrong. Illinois captured a redemption win vs NC State. Northwestern grabbed a much needed resume booster vs Wake Forest. Nebraska and Clemson were too close to learn much. Buzz Williams and Kevin Stallings reminded everyone that their goal is March as well. On the other hand, not everyone proved they were quite ready to be top teams in their conference. Is Michigan still in the top half of the Big Ten? Is Syracuse a top 25 team? Where does Maryland stand now? Why isn’t NC State getting better results? The results produced as many questions as answers.
2. Yes, the Home Court Advantage is real: In an event with pairings designed to be competitive, it is that much more telling that 12 of the 14 games were won by the home team. With most of the games being close, it doesn’t appear to be a coincidence that the home teams squeezed out the wins.
3. Everyone wants to be relevant: Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech both had statement wins. Illinois and Northwestern made sure they were still in the conversation. Ohio State isn’t ready to slip from the limelight and the Seminoles did what they needed to do. However, Ohio State, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Wake Forest’s efforts ensured no one could forget about them just yet.
4. These conferences are still very even: Yes, the ACC pulled away Wednesday night, but not convincingly. Miami won via a beneficial pairing vs Rutgers, Virginia almost blew an expected victory, and Clemson didn’t exactly affirm themselves as a tournament team. In the match-ups that featured two ranked opponents, the B1G took 2 of the 3 (UW vs. SYR and IU vs UNC) rather handily. A replay of this year’s challenge, or even a change in the home-courts, could have produced dramatically different results
5. These are the two toughest conferences to be in: Having eight of the 24 teams in this challenged ranked is a respectable feat. What’s more respectable are the number of teams who will be in the mix as well. Of the top six teams who missed the top 25 in this week’s AP poll, five took part in this challenge. Not too far behind are Florida State and Virginia Tech, who will likely get more love after their wins this week. After their performance in recent weeks, Pittsburgh and Northwestern may be receiving a few votes as well. As of right now, only a couple teams from each conference need to start facing the reality that is the NIT.