I love the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. I can’t help it. The Challenge takes place the week after Thanksgiving, which always happens to be right around my birthday. Once or twice the games have actually fallen on my birthday, and the best present is an Illini win.
I also love the Challenge because it’s often the first real game that the Illini play all year, and we can get an idea of what the season will bring… sort of. Last year Illinois had a great road win against Maryland led by Sam Maniscalco, but the team fell apart as the season continued and Sammy Ice became a non-factor. But I digress…
The Fighting Illini and Yellow Jackets will meet for the eighth time overall, and Illinois holds a 6-1 advantage, including four straight wins. The teams last played on Nov. 23, 2001 in Las Vegas, a 105-66 Illini victory. This will mark the first meeting between the programs in Champaign since Jan. 22, 1989, when the Flyin’ Illini earned the nation’s No. 1-ranking after defeating Georgia Tech in double overtime by the score of 103-92.
Illinois owns an all-time record of 6-7 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, with its six Challenge wins tied for the most among Big Ten teams along with Michigan State, Ohio State, Northwestern and Wisconsin. The Illini carry a three-game winning streak in the Challenge after recording victories over Clemson (2009), North Carolina (2010) and Maryland(2011). The Big Ten Conference, meanwhile, also has won three straight Challenges, defeating the ACC by 6-to-5 margins in 2009 and 2010 and 8-to-4 last year. We won’t talk about what happened before those three straight years of winning.
I’m guessing the matchup has something to do with the fact that neither Illinois nor Georgia Tech are projected to be any good next year. Illinois has a big question mark over the program going into next season under the helm of new HOC John Groce, so it’ll be nice not to have them face off against a gentler team in the Challenge, and potentially keep the streak going.
One fun part of the matchup is that Senior and Chi-suburb native Iman Shumpert was heavily recruited by Bruce Weber a few years back, and he will be a GT senior heading into Champaign in November. It looks like he’ll get to play in the Assembly Hall at some point in his career.
Here are the rest of the matchups to look foward to:
Tuesday, Nov. 27
North Carolina at Indiana
North Carolina State at Michigan
Minnesota at Florida State
Maryland at Northwestern
Iowa at Virginia Tech
Nebraska at Wake Forest
Wednesday, Nov. 28
Ohio State at Duke
Michigan State at Miami
Virginia at Wisconsin
Georgia Tech at Illinois
Purdue at Clemson
Boston College at Penn State
Illinois’ ACC/Big Ten Challenge History
Nov. 29, 2011 – Illinois 71, Maryland 62 (Comcast Center; College Park, Md.)
Nov. 30, 2010 – #20 Illinois 79, North Carolina 67 (Assembly Hall, Champaign, Ill.)
Dec. 2, 2009 – Illinois 76, #18 Clemson 74 (Littlejohn Coliseum; Clemson, S.C.)
Dec. 2, 2008 – Clemson 76, Illinois 74 (Assembly Hall; Champaign, Ill.)
Nov. 28, 2007 – Maryland 69, Illinois 61 (Comcast Center; College Park, Md.)
Nov. 28, 2006 – #23 Maryland 72, Illinois 66 (Assembly Hall; Champaign, Ill.
Nov. 29, 2005 – #12 Illinois 68, North Carolina 64 (Smith Center; Chapel Hill, N.C.)
Dec. 1, 2004 – #5 Illinois 91, #1 Wake Forest 73 (Assembly Hall; Champaign, Ill.)
Dec. 2, 2003 – #10 North Carolina 88, #11 Illinois 81 (Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum)
Dec. 3, 2002 – #25 Illinois 92, #12 North Carolina 65 (Assembly Hall; Champaign, Ill.)
Nov. 27, 2001 – #5 Maryland 76, #2 Illinois 63 (Cole Fieldhouse; College Park, Md.)
Nov. 28, 2000 – #1 Duke 78, #9 Illinois 77 (Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum)
Nov. 30, 1999 – #17 Duke 72, #16 Illinois 69 (United Center, Chicago)