The 17th Big Ten/ACC Challenge tips off tonight. The ACC hasn’t won the event since 2008 but it still leads the series 10-4-2, and its teams have an overall 94-75 record. However, based on what we know about the teams participating this week, chances are that drought will come to an end this week.
While folks like to think of the Big Six conferences as a separate tier from the rest of college basketball, this season we might want to think of a Super-Duper Two and a Pretty Decent Four as separate groups. The ACC and Big 12 are battling it out for top conference honors and there’s a significant gap between them and the rest of the power conferences.
I ran a Monte Carlo simulation using the current ratings and not surprisingly, the ACC is a heavy favorite to emerge victorious. There’s a 63% chance the ACC wins at least eight games and just an 18% chance the Big Ten wins at least eight.
In the simulation, the ACC won an average of 8.06 games. There’s a 1.4% chance the ACC sweeps the first two days of action, rendering Wednesday’s six-game slate completely meaningless.
For the second consecutive year, there are 14 games in this year’s event. (Georgia Tech is sitting out for the ACC.) Unfortunately, the even number of games introduces the possibility of a tie. Based on the current ratings, there’s an 18.6% chance of that happening. Sadly, there is no tie-breaking procedure, but in kenpom-land tradition, I will recognize the conference that has the higher free-throw percentage in the event of a tie. For whatever that’s worth.
As a few of you have noticed, the ACC currently owns the top five offenses in college basketball. “Au contraire” the Big Ten diehards say. “We have seven of the top 21 offenses, while the ACC only has six.” That’s kind of a dumb argument, but it’s a way for me to tell you that 13 of the top 21 offenses in the nation are in this event. The Big Ten/ACC Challenge will be a defensive challenge for many of the participants.
While some will take the result of this event as definitive proof that one conference is better than the other, in reality we are all winners for having 14 games between relatively equal teams in the middle of an otherwise uneventful hoops week. Here’s a handy bar chart with the distribution of win possibilities.