The ACC/Big Ten Challenge is always fun to watch, and this year is no different. Tonight is one the most interesting matchups of the entire season, Ohio State vs. UNC.
Ohio State is currently ranked #1 in the country thanks in part to losses both by the Tar Heels and the Florida Gators. Make no mistake, however, the Buckeyes are a very talented team, and would be even more formidable if they had a healthy Greg Oden. The defending Big Ten regular season champions, led by senior guard Ron Lewis, have several players returning from their successful 2005-2006 campaign as well as one of the most highly touted recruiting classes in the country. While Oden (who is out with a hand injury) is the most prominent freshman on the team, the Buckeyes landed other promising stars, including Oden’s high school teammate Mike Conley and forward Daquan Cook. Their schedule has so far been filled with patsies, so this will be their first true test.
(Extra Note: The Ohio State Basketball and Football teams are ranked #1 at the same time, the first time in Buckeyes history.)
North Carolina brings in an impressive freshman class of their own, including Brendan Wright, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Deion Thompson, and Alex Stephenson. But the Tar Heel offense undoubtedly revolves around sophomore sensation Tyler Hansbrough, whom my sister (a UNC junior) has a secret crush on. When allowed the opportunity he is perhaps the most dominant post player in college basketball right now.
The emphasis here is on “when given the opportunity”. Gonzaga was able to to cut off inside feeds to Hansbrough and ultimate handed UNC their first loss of the season. He was triple teamed nearly every time he got the ball; I’m sure that Ohio State has seen the Gonzaga tape as many times as I’ve seen The Matrix. The rest of the team will have to step up to lighten Tyler’s load if they want to beat a team as good as OSU.
Of course, this time the Heels will also ave home court advantage on their side. Over 21,000 fans will pack the Dean Dome tonight, including me. Yes, this means I won’t be able to live blog this huge event. One day I’ll get a BlackBerry and be able to live blog from the games, but until then yu’ll just have to sit back, enjoy the game, and then read my post-game analysis (SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION ALERT).