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OSU-Duke one of many enticing matchups on ACC/Big Ten slate

The third annual ACC/Big Ten Women’s Challenge takes place Wednesday and Thursday.

The previous two have been dominated by the ACC, which holds a 15-7 record since the Challenge’s inaugural season in 2007.

The matchups this year are not favorable for the Big Ten. The ACC has five Top 25 teams competing compared to just two from the Big Ten.

Although the Big Ten seems to be at a disadvantage, both conferences have been very successful in the NCAA Tournament in recent years.

The Big Ten has placed 49 teams in the tournament since 2000, and the ACC has placed 55.

However, the two conferences account for only one National Championship since 2000: Maryland’s title in 2006.

This tournament will most likely have NCAA Tournament ramifications for both conferences, as a big upset could shirk a spot in the postseason from one team and hand it to another.
   
No. 23 Georgia Tech @ Penn State
Penn State’s (5-1) first Top 25 match of the year is not favorable.

The Lions are led by senior guard Tyra Grant, who averages 15.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. She is the catalyst of the offense, and her play dictates the team’s success.

Georgia Tech (4-1) has a much more balanced offensive attack with three players averaging double digits in scoring.

Penn State does hold an advantage in all shooting categories over Georgia Tech, including field goal percentage, three-point percentage and free throw percentage.

Illinois @ Wake Forest
Illinois’ (6-1) only loss of the season came against a talented Temple team in overtime of its opening game. The Illini have won all of their other games by at least nine points.

Their guards are the most important facet of their offense. Their three-point field goals can make or break the game plan. They enter Wednesday shooting 33 percent from behind the arc.

Senior center Jenna Smith plays cleanup in the paint for Illinois’ three-point attack, grabbing 11.7 rebounds per game and adding a team-high 20.1 points per game.

Wake Forest (6-2) plays through the post through freshman center Sandra Garcia and junior forward Brittany Waters. They combine for 32 points and 16.8 rebounds per game and nearly half the team’s scoring.

Boston College @ Iowa
Iowa (5-2) is a very young team with only two upperclassmen having played this year. One of those upperclassmen and the team’s star player, junior guard Kachine Alexander, has been sidelined the last four games with a stress fracture in her right leg and will not play Wednesday. She averaged 21 points and 15.7 rebounds per game before her injury.

Alexander’s loss has had a major effect on the team, which has had its last two games, one win and one loss, decided by three points.

The team relies heavily on the three-point shot, with 155 attempts. With a shooting percentage of 36.7, the team can afford to take that many attempts.
Boston College (3-3) has had a rocky season, losing its first three games and winning its next three.

Junior center Carolyn Swords leads the team with 17.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. Three other players average double digit points, but Swords is the only consistent player, game in and game out.

Swords could be a problem for Iowa, who has no big inside presence, but BC lacks strong guard play, leaving this game up for grabs.

No. 12 Florida State @ Indiana
Indiana (4-2) has had a good season behind the play of senior guard Jamie Brown and junior guard Jori Davis. They combine for 31 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.5 steals per game.

Indiana’s major flaw is the lack of an inside presence. Its tallest players are 6 feet 3 inches and 6 feet 2 inches, which has limited Indiana to averaging only 36.8 rebounds per game as a team while allowing its opponents 41.7 per game. On the other hand, Florida State (6-0) has two starters who are 6 feet 4 inches tall.

The Seminoles also have a great range of role players. As a team, FSU averages just below 40 percent from three-point range and wins the battle on the boards by 11 rebounds per game.

Also, eight players average better than seven points per game, and all eight play about the same amount of minutes each game. This allows the FSU players to stay fresh on the court and have a fast-paced offense to beat teams without as talented of a bench.

No. 3 Ohio State @ No. 11 Duke
This is the challenge’s only matchup of Top 15 teams.

OSU (8-0) has already played a big game this year against No. 20 California and handled it easily with a 12-point victory. While OSU thrived in its big game, Duke (5-1) lost its only Top 25 match against No. 10 Texas A&M by 18 points.

OSU’s inside-out game has kept every opponent on their heels. Not only are the Buckeyes shooting 44 percent from three-point range, but they have one of the best players in the country in the paint.

Junior center Jantel Lavender leads the Buckeyes with 24.3 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.

OSU has won its games by an average of 27.4 points.

Duke boasts an all junior and senior starting lineup and has a balanced scoring and rebounding attack, with five players averaging at least eight points and four rebounds per game.

Junior guard Jasmine Thomas averages 14.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, six assists and 2.3 steals per game. She plays almost every minute of every game, and OSU’s mix of guards could wear her down late in the game.

Minnesota @ Maryland
Minnesota’s (5-2) scoring is led by three players: senior forward Ashley Ellis-Milan, sophomore forward Jackie Voigt and senior guard Kiara Buford. They combine for 38 of the team’s 72.3 points per game.

Maryland (6-1), with no major wins and a devastating 29-point loss to Mississippi State, appears to be rebuilding. This could spell a win for the Big Ten.

Wisconsin @ North Carolina State
Wisconsin (6-1) is a team that relies on its starters. They account for 74 percent of the Badgers’ scoring, 61 percent of their rebounds, 70 percent of their assists, and 66 percent of their blocks.

If any of the starters get into foul trouble or are injured, Wisconsin will be in major trouble.
N.C. State (5-2) is a small, fast-paced team. Its tallest player is 6 feet 1 inch tall, but the Wolfpack plays eight players interchangeably.

There are no major standouts for either team, but contrasting styles could mean whoever controls the pace of the game will win.

Purdue @ No. 14 Virginia
Purdue (3-3) has struggled this season, averaging only 35 rebounds, 59 points and 22.5 turnovers per game.

The only bright spots are sophomore guard Brittany Rayburn, averaging 13.3 points per game, and senior guard Jodi Howell, averaging 9.5 points per game.
Virginia (5-1) is a different story. Its only loss of the season was to No. 6 Tennessee.

Senior guard Monica Wright leads the team in points with 19.3 per game, assists with 23, steals with 21, and blocks with six.

Wright starts alongside two freshmen and two sophomores but keeps the team on track with the ball in her hands most of the game.

Player for player, Purdue looks outmatched in every way.
   
Michigan @ Virginia Tech
Michigan’s (4-2) two losses, to No. 24 Kansas and New Mexico State, were not close.

With no major wins and two starting freshmen guards who account for a third of their turnovers, the Wolverines might have a tough time against Virginia Tech.

The only thing that has saved the Wolverines is their shooting ability. They average 38.9 percent from behind the arc and 48 percent overall from the field.

Virginia Tech (4-2) has losses against Virginia Commonwealth and James Madison this season.

Clemson @ Northwestern
Northwestern (5-1) has a favorable game agai
nst Clemson (3-3).

Northwestern has 6-foot-5-inch junior center Amy Jaeschke dominating in the paint, with 15.2 points and 4.3 blocks per game.

Clemson’s star senior guard Lele Hardy, who leads the team in almost every statistic, makes a living shooting the three and using that ability to drive to the basket. With a shot-blocking center in the paint for Northwestern, Hardy will have a tough time driving the lane.

Clemson’s Achilles’ heel is the free throw line. The team shoots only 54 percent from the line. If the game comes down to the wire, Northwestern might be in luck.

No. 4 North Carolina @ No. 22 Michigan State
Michigan State (4-2) could easily be undefeated. Its two losses came against No. 25 Dayton by three points and No. 5 Notre Dame by one point.

North Carolina (5-0) has had no competition to date, beating every opponent by at least nine.

The teams both have height to handle guards who like to drive to the basket, so this game might come down to three-point shooting.

MSU senior center Allyssa DeHaan could be too much for North Carolina. The 6-foot-9-inch center averages 12.7 points and 4.5 blocks per game. No Tar Heel is over 6 feet 5 inches tall, which could be MSU’s ticket to an upset.

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