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Iowa Basketball: Hawkeye men to face UNC in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

The Iowa men's basketball team, and head coach Fran McCaffery (pictured), will face North Carolina in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on December 3, 2014.
University of Iowa

There are likely several Iowa men’s basketball fans who were not alive the last time the Hawkeyes won a game in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Those fans may finally get a chance to witness that feat this December when Iowa takes on North Carolina as part of the 2014 ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The Hawkeyes and Tar Heels, who likely will be ranked in the preseason top 15, will meet in the Dean Dome on Dec. 3.

Iowa and North Carolina have met three other times in their history. UNC won the most recent meeting, 106-92, in the championship game of the 2004 Maui Invitational, but Iowa won the first two meetings in 1989 and 1990. The Hawkeyes beat the Tar Heels 98-97 in Chapel Hill in 1989 and then took down UNC 87-74 in Iowa City the following season.

“We are excited about the opportunity to play North Carolina in this year’s Challenge,” said Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery. “North Carolina is a talented basketball team that is extremely well-coached. This game will enhance our nonconference schedule and be a good road test for us early in the season.”

The tip-off time will be announced at a later date but all 14 games in the three-day Challenge will be aired on ESPN’s family of networks.

The Hawkeyes, who went 20-13 last year, won their Challenge game last year, beating Notre Dame 98-93 in Iowa City.

Iowa, which secured its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2006 last season, returns 10 letter winners from this year’s squad, including starters Aaron White (13 ppg, 6.7 rpg), Mike Gesell (7.8 ppg and 3.9 apg) and Adam Woodbury (5.7 rpg and 3.9 rpg).

North Carolina also welcomes back three starters from its NCAA Tournament team, including Marion, Iowa, native Marcus Paige, who averaged 17.5 points per game and garnered second-team All-America honors last year. Paige also played on the same All-Iowa Attack AAU team as Gesell and Woodbury.

Paige is one of three former Mr. Iowa Basketball players who will be playing in the game. The other two are Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok.

Each conference won six games in each of the past two seasons to split the Challenge down the middle. The Big Ten currently has the Commissioner’s Cup because it won three previous Challenges before the last two ties. Seven of the 15 total Challenges also have been decided by just one game.

With 15 teams in the ACC and 14 in the Big Ten, Boston College will not be participating in this year’s event.

The best games in the event will likely be Duke at Wisconsin and Syracuse at Michigan, but Virginia and Maryland also has some intrigue as they were both bitter rivals before Maryland left the ACC to join the Big Ten. Illinois-Miami also features two teams who are expected to bounce back from disappointing 2013-14 seasons.

The 2014-15 Challenge schedule is listed below:

Monday, Dec. 1

Nebraska at Florida State

Rutgers at Clemson

Tuesday, Dec. 2

Illinois at Miami

Minnesota at Wake Forest

NC State at Purdue

Ohio State at Louisville

Pittsburgh at Indiana

Syracuse at Michigan

Wednesday, Dec. 3

Duke at Wisconsin

Georgia Tech at Northwestern

Iowa at North Carolina

Michigan State at Notre Dame

Virginia at Maryland

Virginia Tech at Penn State