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Who might be next for Notre Dame hoops in ACC/Big Ten Challenge?

IRISH STEW

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Let a scheduling guessing game begin for the Notre Dame men’s basketball team, which likely will get its answer around the first of May.

One of the marquee non-conference matchups for Notre Dame has become its opponent in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Set to start its third season this winter in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Notre Dame opened challenge play in 2013 with a memorable 98-93 shootout loss to Iowa in Iowa City. Last December, Notre Dame registered one of its many marquee wins during a 32-6 season with a 79-78 overtime victory at home against eventual Final Four participant Michigan State.

So who will Notre Dame get in 2015?

Wisconsin?

Michigan?

Northwestern?

Nope.

Nope.

Nope.

The general rule of ACC/Big Ten Challenge scheduling is that a team that played the previous season at home likely will not get a home game for a second-straight season. That means Notre Dame will be sent on the road. As will Wisconsin, which advanced to the 2015 NCAA tournament championship game before losing to Duke since those two teams played last December in Madison, Wisc.

Michigan (against Syracuse) and Northwestern (Georgia Tech) also played challenge home games last season, so likely scratch those as potential candidates.

Who could be Notre Dame’s challenge partner?

How about Ohio State?

Or Illinois?

Minnesota?

Nebraska?

All four of those teams, in addition to Iowa, Rutgers and Michigan State – played road games in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge last season. That means they’ll likely get home games this season. But ESPN has a strong say – maybe THE say – when it comes to creating the best possible television matchup. 

An early guess leader in the clubhouse?

Illinois, as long as the ongoing renovations of State Farm Center are far enough along that allow the Illini to play an early-December home game. Illinois has moved some of its November home games out of town because of the renovations.

Notre Dame and Illinois have not met since the then-second round of the 2003 NCAA tournament in Indianapolis. Illinois and Notre Dame have not met during the regular season since a game at old Chicago Stadium in January 1973. Notre Dame has not visited Champaign during the regular season since 1943.

How about a trip to Williams Arena in Minneapolis for the first time since 1969.

We'll know soon enough.

The ACC won each of the first 10 seasons of the challenge and leads the all-time series 94-75. The Big Ten won last season’s challenge, 8-6, after the previous two years ended in ties.