Weekday predictions: ACC retakes control from Big Ten in the Challenge

The ACC will try to bring the Commissioner’s Cup back to its Greensboro, North Carolina, offices after the Big Ten won eight games last year to win the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The ACC holds an overall lead of 10-4-2 since the series began in 1999 but has not won it outright since 2008.

That will change this year.

Michigan at NC State (Raleigh, North Carolina), 7 p.m. ESPN2, Tuesday:

For the first time this season, Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin all played well in Michigan’s win over Texas. That may not matter if Wolfpack guard Anthony “Cat” Barber erupts offensively like he did with 37 points against Winthrop on Nov. 27.

Prediction: Michigan 75, NC State 71.

Northwestern at Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, Virginia), 7 p.m., ESPNU, Tuesday: Coach Chris Collins has instilled the kind of toughness in Northwestern that Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams could surely admire. The Wildcats look like the type of team that could finally be playing in the NCAA tournament. Winning road games is a way to prove it.

Prediction: Northwestern 82, Virginia Tech 75.

No. 10 Virginia at Ohio State (Columbus, Ohio), 7:30 p.m., ESPN, Tuesday: Since its loss at George Washington, Virginia has steadily improved defensively. The Colonials remain the only team to score more than 70 against the Cavaliers. The Buckeyes don’t figure to be the second with a roster that’s devoid of a scholarship senior and overly dependent on six freshmen who have never faced a ranked team.

Prediction: Virginia 74, Ohio State 65.

No. 11 Purdue at Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), 9 p.m., ESPN2, Tuesday: Purdue is off to its best start since the 2009-10 season, thanks in part to a sweltering defense. The Boilermakers are holding opponents to 31.9 percent shooting and rank fourth nationally in defensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy. But they have to face the Panthers in the Peterson Events Center, where Pittsburgh is 121-4.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 70, Purdue 69

No. 21 Miami at Nebraska (Lincoln, Nebraska), 9 p.m., ESPNU, Tuesday: Northeastern cooled off the Canes’ hot streak by making 12 3-pointers en route to a buzzer-beating upset. That’s what it’ll take to keep up with Miami, which ranks second in offensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy. The Huskers don’t have that kind of firepower.

Prediction: Miami 77, Nebraska 70

No. 2 Maryland at No. 9 North Carolina (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 9:30 p.m., ESPN, Tuesday: Marcus Paige makes his debut for the Tar Heels in what should be a throwback to ACC battles of the past. Carolina’s sophomore class of Joel Berry, Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson all showed signs of growth during Paige’s absence. The Terrapins began this season the way they ended last year with a knack for pulling out close games. Including their win over Georgetown this month, they are 13-1 over the past two seasons in games decided by five points or fewer.

Prediction: North Carolina 90, Maryland 84

No. 24 Louisville at No. 3 Michigan State (East Lansing, Michigan), 7:15 p.m., ESPN, Wednesday: Louisville coach Rick Pitino said the current NCAA investigation into allegations made by a former escort has cost his team from being properly recognized in the polls. The simple solution for the Cardinals is to upset the Spartans in this rematch of 2015 Elite Eight teams. Of course, executing that task will be difficult. State’s Denzel Valentine has established himself early on as the front-runner for the Wooden Award.

Prediction: Michigan State 72, Louisville 68

Wisconsin at No. 14 Syracuse (Syracuse, New York), 7:15 p.m., ESPN2, Wednesday: Two teams that seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Orange enter the week red-hot with wins over Connecticut and Texas A&M in the Battle for Atlantis. Wisconsin limps into the game on the heels of a 17-point loss to Oklahoma. One more defeat and the Badgers will match their loss total from last season.

Prediction: Syracuse 74, Wisconsin 62

Penn State at Boston College (Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts), 7:15 p.m., ESPNU, Wednesday: Florida transfer Eli Carter is putting up big numbers, leading the Eagles with 18 points per game. But there’s not much scoring help from their young roster. And Penn State is collectively shooting 39.6 percent from the field, which ranks last in the Big Ten.

Prediction: Boston College 62, Penn State 59

Indiana at No. 7 Duke (Durham, North Carolina), 9:15 p.m., ESPN, Wednesday: When the game was scheduled back in April, we thought we might be seeing two top-10 teams battling. The Hoosiers haven’t lived up to their hype for a reason that is all-too familiar. IU ranks in the bottom half of the Big Ten in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense. The Blue Devils, aside from their loss to Kentucky, have scored at least 79 points and are shooting around 50 percent from the field.

Prediction: Duke 83, Indiana 76

Notre Dame at Illinois (Champaign, Illinois), 9:15 p.m., ESPN2, Wednesday: Illinois’ troubles this season have come largely from having an injury-depleted roster. Six Illini players have missed games including guard Tracy Abrams, who is out for the season, and forward Mike Thorne, now out indefinitely. Notre Dame’s stumbles have resulted from not having a deep or reliable bench. One thing the Irish can rely on, though, is their formidable starting five.

Prediction: Notre Dame 71, Illinois 67

Florida State at Iowa (Iowa City, Iowa), 9:15 p.m., ESPNU, Wednesday: The Seminoles have arguably the best freshman-scoring tandem in the country in Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon. But those freshmen will be playing in their first true road game. The Hawkeyes have lost only one nonconference home game in the past three seasons, and that came to rival Iowa State last year.

Prediction: Iowa 77, Florida State 70

Last week’s record: 7-3

Season record: 14-6

Editor’s note: The predictions do not include two games played on Monday, Wake Forest over Rutgers and Minnesota over Clemson.

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