Top-25 foes collide in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

The 18th-ranked NC State Wolfpack will try to end their four-game losing streak in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge when they storm into the Crisler Center to face the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines.

Mark Gottfried's Wolfpack were expected to be one of the best teams in the country this year after their visit to the Sweet 16 last season. The school was ranked sixth in the nation to begin the year and held its position in the top 10 through its first three games with an easy win over Miami-Ohio before it went to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament to run past Penn State and Massachusetts. However, the Wolfpack were unable to finish the job on their trip as they were surprisingly routed in the championship game by Oklahoma State, 76-56. NC State barely managed to bounce back its last time out with a narrow 82-80 win over UNC Asheville.

John Beilein has an impressive resume with 20-plus win finishes in 17 of his 34 years coaching. Beilein's current Wolverines squad may be the best he has had in his entire career. Michigan is currently averaging 81.2 points per game, after winning its first five games by an average of 24.8 points per game. The team has also averaged 41.6 rebounds per game and has out-rebounded its opponents by 14.0 caroms per contest.

This will the sixth meeting between these schools. Michigan can tie the series at three wins a piece with a victory.

Gottfried has plenty of athleticism and offense on his team with Richard Howell, Lorenzo Brown, C.J. Leslie, T.J. Warren, Rodney Purvis, and Scott Wood all carrying double-digit scoring averages through five games. However, the Wolfpack have showed their weakness on the defensive end of the floor in their last two outings. The Wolfpack have been especially poor at defending on the perimeter as OSU's Le'Bryan Nash scored 23 points against them before UNC- Asheville's Keith Horsby poured in the same amount.

The freshmen duo of Warren and Purvis is making an immediate impact for NC State. Warren is leading the team in scoring with 14.8 ppg on 68.1 percent shooting off the bench. Purvis has connected on 58.8 percent of his three- point attempts. Howell and Leslie provide toughness on the inside with a combined 15.4 rpg.

The Wolverines' fast 5-0 start to the season was not a filled with cupcake opposition. After handling IUPUI and Cleveland State at the Crisler Center, Michigan defeated Pittsburgh by five points and Kansas State by 14 to win the NIT Season Tip-Off.

The Wolverines are powered mostly by their backcourt duo of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke. The talented tandem has been getting more help than expected from Glenn Robinson III, who is playing a significant role at forward. The freshman is generating 12.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game after finishing with nine points and 12 boards versus KSU. Although there are plenty of talented point guards this season, it is hard to argue any are better than Burke. The sophomore point guard is second on the team in scoring (16.4 ppg) and is dishing out 6.8 assists per contest, which is the 11th highest average in the nation. Hardaway, Jr. is has used his athletic ability, shooting touch, and excellent ball handling to fill it up from all over the court. His scoring prowess has yielded a team-best average of 18.6 ppg. Nik Stauskas is a factor as well due to his tremendous spot up shooting ability.