Every year, the college basketball season officially begins — in my book, at least — when the Big Ten and the Atlantic Coast Conference face off in the Big Ten-ACC challenge. Early on, the ACC dominated; more recently, the Big Ten has controlled. Either way, it’s been entertaining basketball — and also a living testament to how college basketball is different from college football.
In college football, any loss could, potentially, disqualify you from contention from a national championship. (Just ask Alabama.) In college basketball, on the other hand, no one goes undefeated. In college basketball, in fact, you want your team to play the tough teams early on. Let them get a taste of tough competition at the outset, so that they will understand the need to play hard when the later stages of the NCAA Tournament roll around and your team has to realize the need to play hard, or go home.
And that’s why the Big Ten-ACC Challenge is so great. It’s a guaranteed, evenly matched, power conference game on the schedule, and a chance to assess how your boys fare against a quality opponent. This year, the Ohio State Buckeyes trounced Maryland as Sam Thompson displayed his high-flying act, LaQuinton Ross displayed his silky three-point stroke, and Aaron Craft . . . well, Aaron Craft did what Aaron Craft always does. Does it mean Ohio State will win it all? No, or course not — but it gives us a bit of a measuring stick, and some bragging rights, too. After all, Maryland will be joining the Big Ten next year.
I love the Big Ten-ACC Challenge!