The Big Ten is off to a terrible start this basketball season. Just ask Michigan, Illinois, Ohio State, Maryland … you name it. Except for Purdue, everyone who’s anyone in this league has looked less than worthy of its preseason billing.
Perhaps that makes this the perfect time for the 23rd ACC/Big Ten Challenge, with two games on Monday, six on Tuesday and six on Wednesday. Anyone else old enough to remember when the ACC won the first 10 of these shindigs from 1999 to 2008? Since then, though, the Big Ten has won it seven times — including in 2019 and 2020 — tied three times and lost only twice. This is a chance to get well as a league.
And if you don’t care about that, you can still revel in Tuesday’s ESPN doubleheader. Purdue hosts Florida State at 6:30, with Duke at Ohio State to follow. If you haven’t been paying attention, the Boilermakers and Blue Devils are the “it” teams in college basketball so far.
Who’s No. 1? It isn’t Gonzaga after Friday’s stirring 84-81 loss to Duke. The Blue Devils have a great chance to be in the top spot when the new Top 25 comes out Monday. If they aren’t, it’ll be because the Boilermakers — who’ve already beaten North Carolina and Villanova — are.
“I love what my guys did,” said Mike Krzyzewski, in his final season as Duke coach. “I love my team.”
Let’s see what he’s saying after the Ohio State game. Here’s what’s happening:
Titans at Patriots (noon, Ch. 2)
Two first-place teams: check. Mentor (Bill Belichick) against mentee (Mike Vrabel): check. Tom Brady playing on another channel at the same time: check. Wait, ignore that last one.
Buccaneers at Colts (noon, Fox-32)
These are two good-looking squads, but, man, don’t you miss the rivalry Brady used to have with Indy? Maybe QB Carson Wentz can yell “Omaha!” all day just for old times’ sake.
Rams at Packers (3:25 p.m., Fox-32)
Both teams have been shaky of late, especially the Rams. Frankly, we’re beginning to question whether or not QB Matthew Stafford (career playoff victories: zero) has magical superpowers after all.
Sharks at Blackhawks (6 p.m., NBCSCH)
The Hawks are 4-0 at home since kicking Jeremy Colliton to the curb. Coincidence? Yes or no, having a team with a pulse around here sure is kind of nice.
Browns at Ravens (7:20 p.m., Ch. 5, Peacock)
The last time these division rivals collided, it was 47-42 — 89 points! — in favor of the Ravens. You know what that means: Bet the under.
Hornets at Bulls (7 p.m., NBCSCH)
Get your Big Ballers out: It’s big brother Lonzo vs. little brother LaMelo. Pops LaVar has earned this carnival bark.
CBB: Notre Dame at Illinois (8 p.m., ESPN2)
The ACC/Big Ten Challenge has swung the Big Ten’s way the past couple of years, and this is a game the Illini are supposed to win. They’ve been a bit of a hot mess so far, though.
CBB: Northwestern at Wake Forest (8 p.m., ESPNU)
Pete Nance and Boo Buie have carried the Wildcats to a pretty good start, but a “W” for the visitors would be a surprise. Come to think of it, has a Northwestern road “W” ever not been a surprise?
Warriors at Suns (9 p.m., TNT)
FYI: These are the top two teams in the NBA going at it. Just in case you’re, you know, into that sort of thing.
Penguins at Oilers (9 p.m., TNT)
If you dig pucks at all, you’re watching Pens superstar Sidney Crosby and Oilers superstar Connor McDavid tonight. As if you have anything better to do on a Wednesday.
Blackhawks at Capitals (6 p.m., NBCSCH)
Alex Ovechkin’s still got it. Heck, this whole Caps team does. Is there a Hawks defense in the house?
Bulls at Knicks (6:30 p.m., NBCSCH+, NBA)
The Knicks are pretty much just a .500 team, but they’ve been all the Bulls could handle twice already at the United Center. Anyone else smell a budding rivalry?
CBB: Rutgers at Illinois (6 p.m., ESPN2)
It’s the Big Ten opener for the Illini, which is great. Maybe someday the football team will also have a meaningful game on the first weekend of December.
MAC: Northern Illinois vs. Kent State (11 a.m., ESPN)
Get a load of the Huskies making it back to the conference title game, will you? After a winless 2020 campaign, they sure are authoring one hell of a comeback story.
CBB: Loyola at DePaul (3 p.m., FS1)
First-year coaches Drew Valentine and Tony Stubblefield are off to promising starts. All the more reason these schools should meet on the court every single year.
AAC: Cincinnati vs. Houston (3 p.m., Ch. 7)
Is Cincy really playoff worthy? Will beating Houston change anyone’s opinions about that?
SEC: Georgia vs. Alabama (3 p.m., Ch. 2)
How utterly unusual to have the Crimson Tide going into a game as clear underdogs. Refreshing, isn’t it?
Bulls at Nets (6:30 p.m., NBCSCH)
We know Brooklyn is no pretender at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, but do the Bulls legitimately belong up there, too?
Big Ten: Iowa vs. Michigan (7 p.m., Fox-32)
Letdown time for the Maize and Blue after an earth-shaking win against Ohio State? Oh, don’t get your khakis in a bunch, Wolverines fans — we’re sure it’ll work out just fine.