Youth will be served tonight in Chapel HillOhio State vs. North Carolina (ESPN, 9 ET)If you had told me last March 13 that the national championship was about to be won by a preternaturally young team that had not won its conference's regular season title, I would have put money on North Carolina. (Then I would have asked you if you had electricity where you live. If you had said yes, I would have asked if I could live with you. But that's another story entirely.)Last year's Heels, though young, put together some glittering numbers in ACC play. They shot the ball extremely well--only three "power"-conference teams nationally shot better in-conference but, as it happened, two of those were nearby: NC State and Duke. And Roy Williams' men went after their rare misses with notable ferocity--only Connecticut and Boston College did better on the offensive glass in conference play. Those two facets offset a number that did not glitter: Carolina's youngsters turned the ball over on nearly 24 percent of their possessions in-conference. But when they held on to the ball, the Heels' offense was balanced (they shot threes rarely but well) and lethal.This year they are expected to be even better. And so tonight's game in Chapel Hill between North Carolina and Ohio State is the marquee game of this year's ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the only matchup where both participants, in murky November, look like legitimate no-surprise Final Four contenders.On paper it would appear that tonight's contest has been designed to satisfy fans of good offense, for each team's defensive question mark should be at the mercy of the opposing team's offensive strength. For the pre-Greg Oden Buckeyes, of course, the question is interior defense. The numbers there so far have been fine for Thad Matta's team but OSU has hardly, to say the least, faced the likes of Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright (a combined 61.8 2FG pct.). On the other side, a Carolina D that's already allowed opponents to hit 39.4 percent of their threes this year is about to face the best three-point shooting team they've seen. Ohio State in the Matta era reliably devotes four in every ten shots to attempted threes--and thus far they've hit 42.3 percent of those attempts from beyond the arc. In Ron Lewis, Jamar Butler, and Ivan Harris, the Buckeyes have multiple perimeter threats. In Daequan Cook they have a pure scorer. And in Mike Conley Jr. they have a player who may be even better than all of the above.Both teams are young. So too, last year, was Florida.Identical stats, opposite stylesHansbrough and Reyshawn Terry have each hauled in 15.3 percent of the possible rebounds during their minutes on the floor so far this season. But they've done so in diametrically opposed fashions. Terry is what might be termed a Chuck Taylor high-top traditionalist in his preferences: outstanding on the defensive glass (20.2 defensive reb. pct.) and merely average on the offensive boards (9.5 offensive). Hansbrough, on the other hand, is a true eccentric: slightly below-average for his height, surprisingly, on the defensive boards (15.6) but an absolute insatiable monster on the offensive glass (15.0).Carolina O-fers: the only drinking game based on sound hoops research!Thus far this season there have been zero instances of each of the following phenomena--so raise your glass tonight if:--Hansbrough blocks a shot--Bobby Frasor shoots a free throw--Wes Miller attempts a two-point shotIn today's less Wonk-ish venues.... Heading into the last evening of play, the ACC leads this thing 4-2....ACC-Big Ten ChallengeMaryland beat Illinois 72-66 last night in Champaign. With the exception of second-half feeds to Shaun Pruitt in the post, the Illini looked lost on offense all night. But then so did the Terps for the middle 20 minutes of the game--until freshman Greivis Vasquez took over and began to drive at will on the Illinois D, as Maryland outscored the Illini 29-18 over the final nine minutes. Both teams made five threes but the Terps needed 11 fewer attempts (nine vs. 20) to do so. Only heroic efforts on the offensive glass by the home team (21 offensive boards out of 46 possible) kept this one respectable, as the Illini suffered through their worst shooting of the year (38.4 effective FG pct.). Mike Jones led all scorers with 19 points. Pruitt (18-11) and Warren Carter (13-11) posted dub-dubs. (Box score.)Duke beat Indiana 54-51 in Durham last night. It wasn't exactly a thing of beauty--two young teams playing 63 possessions with much more intensity than skill or savvy--but it was certainly a great contest down the stretch, as the Hoosiers erased an 11-point halftime deficit and came within 53-51 with two minutes left. Armon Bassett made just two of 10 two-pointers but went 4-of-5 on his threes to lead Indiana in shots and points (16), as Kelvin Sampson chose to play long stretches of this game with A.J. Ratliff, Earl Calloway, and Roderick Wilmont seated firmly next to him on the pine. (Well, Ben Allen sat a lot, too, but he fouled out in just 16 minutes. And Lance Stemler did not play due to a concussion suffered in practice over the weekend.) The Blue Devils executed a neat reversal of their strategy from last year's game against Indiana (where they guarded the perimeter and did not double down on Marco Killingsworth) and did an excellent job harassing D.J. White, limiting him to seven points on 3-of-11 shooting from the field. DeMarcus Nelson led all scorers with 19 points. Turnovers were even; IU beat Duke, slightly, on the boards and shot better from the field (42.3 vs. 38.6 effective FG pct.). But the Devils shot 29 free throws; the Hoosiers shot 15--and missed eight of those. (Box score.)Wisconsin beat Florida State 81-66 last night in Madison. With one exception the Badgers just did everything a little better than the Seminoles. Shooting, rebounding, and holding on to the ball--they all favored Bo Ryan's team. (Though that last category says more about the visitors than it does about the home team. Wisconsin, uncharacteristically, gave away 18 turnovers in a 72-possession game.) But the exception was getting to the line--and there the Badgers were a lot better. Add a 29-to-12 advantage in FTAs to all of the above and what you got here is a 15-point win. FSU's Toney Douglas led all players in shots and points (24). Alando Tucker scored 22 for the Badgers in just 27 minutes. (Tucker spent some time in the locker room after getting a finger in his eye.) (Box score (pdf).)Georgia Tech beat Penn State 77-73 in Atlanta last night. The ACC-Big Ten Challenge past is prologue! The Nittany Lions played the role of November 2005-vintage Georgia Tech while the Jackets themselves played November 2005-vintage Michigan State: a heavily favored home team that just couldn't shake a visiting team that refused to miss a shot. Indeed, when Penn State held on to the ball they were well nigh unstoppable, shooting better, by far, than in any other game this year (63.0 eFG pct.--Ben Luber, Mooch Jackson, and Danny Morrissey hit a combined 8-of-11 threes). Problem is they didn't hold on to the ball 20 times out of 66. (Another problem: they allowed Tech to shoot even better.) Jamelle Cornley, though notably less efficient than his teammates on the perimeter, led PSU with 20 points on 17 shots. Geary Claxton, continuing to recover from a broken bone in has hand, came off the bench and scored 12 points in 28 minutes. The Jackets played this game without highly-touted all-everything freshman Thaddeus Young, who was sidelined with patellar tendonitis. (Box score.)Northwestern beat Miami 61-59 last night in Evanston. The Wildcats made 10 threes on 20 attempts and, as it happened, they needed every last one of them. Craig Moore shot 10 threes and made seven of them to lead the 'Cats with 24 points. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, displayed an interesting distribution of offensive efforts and results. Jack McClinton: 9-18 FGAs, 7-8 FTAs, 30 points. Rest of team: 12-38, 1-4, 29 points. Northwestern was beaten to a pulp on the boards but their best shooting of the year was enough for a two-point win at home. (Box score.)Michigan State plays Boston College in Boston tonight (ESPN, 7 ET). Tom Izzo says BC is a "Jekyll-and-Hyde" team. The Eagles beat New Hampshire by 39 points but lost to Vermont by 14. After missing BC's first two outings, Sean Williams has returned to the team and blocked 19 shots (not a typo) in two games. "I've never seen a shot-blocker like Williams," Izzo says. Virginia plays Purdue tonight in West Lafayette (ESPN2, 7:30 ET). Matt Painter says Carl Landry showed him some defense in Maui: "I thought he did the best job he's done defensively since he's been at Purdue." Starting freshman guard Chris Kramer, who strained a knee ligament in the Boilers' loss to Georgia Tech in Maui, is listed as doubtful for tonight's game. Profile of Keaton Grant here.Iowa plays Virginia Tech in Blacksburg tonight (ESPNU, 8 ET). The Hawkeyes have allowed opponents to hit 42.3 percent of their threes and Steve Alford has noticed: "Our three-point field-goal percentage defense is atrocious right now." Alford also says Justin Johnson may take Tony Freeman's place as starting point guard tonight.Clemson plays Minnesota tonight in Minneapolis (ESPN2, 9:30 ET). Coming off four consecutive losses (to Iowa State, Marist, Southern Illinois, and Montana), Dan Monson says the Gophers are struggling: "The Iowa State game really set us back." Meanwhile, with national hoops analysts speculating about Monson's future, Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi says he's standing behind his man: "My job is to be supportive of our basketball coach. That's what I'm going to do."Wonk back! Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!A Hoosier amidst the CraziesAlert reader and loyal Indiana fan Nate D. sends in this report from Cameron Indoor....Great game tonight. Errek Suhr was huge for the Hoosiers in the second half. Although it doesn't show in the box score, he enabled the Hoosiers to get into a flow with the first few possessions after halftime. Hopefully, Wilmont and Ratliff will take their benchings as a wake-up call because they did nothing in the first half. I was surprised that the two big men weren't more active as Josh McRoberts and D.J. White each had seven points. I am not sure if it was the defenses (Duke liked to double down and IU couldn't make them pay). Stemler's injury was a key to this game because he has been an option offensively this season. IU's putrid foul shooting ended up being one of the main reasons they lost tonight but, all in all, it was worth the trip down here.One more thing, Duke fans are very polite and friendly. It was a great atmosphere in Cameron (all of 9,000 seats). The Crazies were great and the venue gets rocking when they want it to be. I hope the game tomorrow is as good.Later, Nate D.Indy (via Durham, NC)Thanks, Nate! I wasn't there but from my seat on the sofa Suhr was feast-or-famine last night. I loved his take-no-prisoners 'tude but he also had four huge turnovers, the most maddening of which was the wholly unnecessary 10-second call.A Big Ten man in Big XII land I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your work on the Big Ten. I've been an Illinois fan since HS in Edwardsville, Illinois, in the mid-1960s and used to watch the Big Ten game of the week with Bill Fleming. I was transferred to Omaha a couple years ago and have two more Husker football seasons to endure up here before I retire. The only things that've saved me are IlliniBoard, Gametracker, ESPN Full Court, and you. I will say this: Ohio State could run the table if they beat Illinois on the road. I don't understand why so many stars are going there because there is only one ball. (Matta is doing something right.) Keep up the good work. Loved the post about you and your little guy at Hinkle. Never been to a game there--another thing to do in 2009 when I move back to Illinois.Jim M.OmahaThanks, Jim!