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UNC gets No. 1 Spartans, Syracuse hosts Indiana in Big Ten/ACC Challenge

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Malcolm Brogdon (15) and the Virginia Cavaliers host the 10th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers on Wednesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. (Source: Matt Riley/Virginia Athletics) Malcolm Brogdon (15) and the Virginia Cavaliers host the 10th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers on Wednesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. (Source: Matt Riley/Virginia Athletics)

(RNN) - Imitated but never duplicated, the Big Ten/ACC Challenge offers some of the best out-of-conference action college basketball has to offer every year.

The 15th incarnation of the showcase is no different. Twelve games, split evenly between Tuesday and Wednesday, include a Top-25 duel and multiple games between two prestigious programs.

The contests feature the top 12 from the ACC, based on last year's RPI, facing all of the Big Ten. It will mark the fifth straight attempt by the Atlantic Coasters to take away the Commissioner's Cup after holding it for the first 10 years.

Last season, the Big Ten retained the honors with a 6-6 draw. Here are some of this year's top matchups:

Tuesday (all times Eastern):

Indiana at No. 4 Syracuse, 7:15 p.m.

The initial run for Syracuse (7-0) as an ACC team has been all positives. The Orange are coming off a win against 20th-ranked Baylor in the finals of the Maui Invitational, led by senior C.J. Fair and several young players who are coming along quick.

Sophomore Jerami Grant, brother of Notre Dame's Jerian Grant, uses his speed and size (6'8, 210) to make dynamic plays on both ends of the floor. Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis has the savvy of a veteran and is a big reason why the team averages more steals (11 per game) than turnovers (10).

The Hoosiers (6-1) are the nation's top rebounding team early on. Noah Vonleh, a 6'10" freshman, is grabbing more than 10 boards per game, despite playing only 21.3 minutes on average. Sophomore Yogi Ferrell puts up a lot of shots from the perimeter, but he also earns trips to the free throw line on a regular basis.

No. 22 Michigan at No. 10 Duke, 9:15 p.m.

The Blue Devils (6-2) came up short against No. 2 Arizona in the finals of the NIT Season Tip-Off, but they showed improvement on the defensive end. On offense, they have the firepower to outscore any team on a given night.

Sophomore transfer Rodney Hood and freshman Jabari Parker average 20 points per game while shooting at an efficient rate (62 and 55 percent, respectively). Both are comfortable driving to the hoop and shooting from long range. Tyler Thornton and Quinn Cook, two of the roster's few upperclassmen, provide leadership and are strong on-ball defenders against other guards.

Michigan's (5-2) frontline could give Duke trouble, 6'10" Mitch McGary in particular. When he plays aggressive, he provides himself and others second-chance opportunities on the offensive glass. Nik Stauskas picked up where he left off in last year's NCAA tournament, when his hot shooting from behind the arc helped his team make the title game.

Other games:

Illinois at Georgia Tech, 7:15 p.m.

Penn State at Pittsburgh, 7:30 p.m.

Notre Dame at No. 23 Iowa, 9:15 p.m.

Florida State at Minnesota, 9:30 p.m.

Wednesday:

No. 8 Wisconsin at Virginia, 7 p.m.

The Cavaliers (7-1) have beaten the teams they were supposed to, despite some inconsistency from their starters. This game, a rematch from last year's Challenge, is an excellent opportunity to show they are legitimate contenders in the ACC.

Akil Mitchell has not played well to start the season after making the All-ACC team a year ago, but the talent to be a dangerous two-way player is still there. Joe Harris is the unquestioned offensive leader; he has a reputation as a shooter but can also make plays off the dribble and in transition.

Wisconsin (8-0), much like Virginia, relies on defense and a halfcourt-style offense to limit the other team's possessions. They are successful because of their efficiency and their lack of turnovers. Junior Frank Kaminsky, a 7-footer, leads the team with 15.8 points per game on 58-percent shooting.

North Carolina at No. 1 Michigan State, 9 p.m.

The Tar Heels (4-2) showed how good they can be when they knocked off No. 7 Louisville in the finals of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament. They also showed how badly they can struggle when they got knocked off by UAB.

Coach Roy Williams has toggled his rotation several times as the team works without P.J. Hairston, last year's leading scorer, who is sidelined with off-court issues. Marcus Paige has stepped up to help fill the void, moving to shooting guard and averaging more than 20 points per game, and James Michael McAdoo can take over at a moment's notice with his power moves to the basket.

Gary Harris, the Spartans' (7-0) leading scorer, is expected to play after missing a game with an ankle injury. Senior Keith Appling runs the point for MSU, and he has been white-hot from the floor with 59-percent shooting. The team came by their top ranking honestly, knocking off then-No. 1 Kentucky in early play.

Other games:

Maryland at No. 5 Ohio State, 7 p.m.

Northwestern at NC State, 7:30 p.m.

Boston College at Purdue, 9 p.m.

Miami at Nebraska, 9:30 p.m.

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