Iowa Draws North Carolina in 2014 Big Ten-ACC Challenge [UPDATED]

Yeah, Woody, we're excited, too! - Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, please.

The full slate of match-ups for the 2014 Big Ten-ACC Challenge is due to be released later this afternoon, but several games have already been leaked -- including Iowa's.

Whoa.

We've lamented the state of Iowa's basketball non-conference scheduling in general for a while, and their match-ups in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge in specific, although only one of those things is really under Iowa's control.  ESPN, the Big Ten, and the ACC (but mostly ESPN) work together to create TV-friendly showdowns for the Challenge; Iowa's low wattage opponents in recent years is directly related to Iowa's own sub-par performances on the court.  But that's changed now; Iowa's won 20+ games two years in a row and made it back to the NCAA Tournament last season.  They're no longer a Big Ten bottomfeeder that you can (justly) pair off with an ACC cellar dweller like Boston College.  Drawing a certified ACC blue blood (and potential preseason top 10 foe) like North Carolina is certainly another strong indicator of Iowa's elevated status.  It says a lot for what Fran McCaffery has done for the state of the Iowa program and the belief folks have in it going forward that even the absence of program standard carrier Roy Devyn Marble, they still warrant a plum opponent like UNC.

A game against an elite opponent would offer plenty of intrigue on its own, but the fact that it's North Carolina adds a few extra layers to the proceedings, thanks to the rosters.  One of UNC's key players next year figures to be Marcus Paige, a junior point guard from Marion, IA who went to Linn-Marr and played AAU ball with Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell.  Paige was first team all-conference in the ACC last year and a second team all-America by Sporting News.  He led UNC in scoring (17.4 ppg) and assists (4.3 apg) and his match-up with Gesell figures to be one of the highlights of the game.  Meanwhile, Woodbury has his own North Carolina tie-in; he was one of the first blue chip Iowa recruits to ignore Roy Williams' siren song and stay home (unlike Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison, and Raef LaFrentz).

So yeah: this should be a hell of a game.  Iowa basketball ended 2013-14 in painful and frustrating fashion, but there's already a lot to look forward to for next year, starting with the schedule:

Texas, incidentally, just landed the top uncommitted recruit in the nation (big man Myles Turner).

UPDATED: The full pairings are out now; start times and TV coverage will be announced in August.  Rankings from ESPN's early preseason top 25.

MON, DEC. 1

Nebraska at Florida State

Rutgers at Clemson

TUE, DEC. 2

#21 Syracuse at #24 Michigan

Ohio State at #8 Louisville

Pittsburgh at Indiana

NC State at Purdue

Illinois at Miami (FL)

Minnesota at Wake Forest

WED, DEC. 3

#2 Duke at #4 Wisconsin

#18 Michigan State at Notre Dame

#25 Iowa at #6 North Carolina

#7 Virginia at Maryland

Georgia Tech at Northwestern

Virginia Tech at Penn State

* * *

With the addition of Louisville in 2014-15, the ACC will have 15 teams, while the additions of Maryland and Rutgers will bring the Big Ten up to 14 teams.  As a result, Boston College is sitting out this year's installment of the Challenge.

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