Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ACC College Basketball 2010 Preview

 The ACC has been almost been a two team league lately, and it looks like it might stay that way.  Sure, NC State and Virginia Tech are up this year, but Clemson, Georgia Tech, and especially Wake Forest are down.  Even when UNC was bad last year, you knew it wouldn't last, and in Duke's darkest days they recovered.  It seems every other school is on a constant up/down cycle.  Either Duke or UNC has either won outright or tied for the ACC regular season championship the last seven years and 17 of the last 20.  That's lame.  Somebody do something. 

1.  Duke Blue Devils.  I mean, you pretty much have to pick them first, right, no matter how much it burns when you say it?  Scheyer is gone, but they are so loaded with everybody else coming in, and the rumor is that incoming frosh PG Kyrie Irving is the best player on the Duke roster - and Singler is still here.  About the only real issues are with Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas gone there are some questions about Duke's toughness inside since they're all a bunch of dandies down in Durham.  I'll also be curious to see how many games Seth Curry shoots the Devils right out of.

2.  North Carolina Tar Heels.  I hate putting them second since they didn't even bother to make the NCAA Tournament last season, but the talent level is there - at least on paper.  Harrison Barnes is going to be a great one, Kevin Durant II, maybe, and Henson and Zellar are supposed to be star types as well.  The real question, as it was last year, is what of the PG spot?  Larry Drew was a disappointment most of last season, and I've read some are questioning if incoming freshman Kendall Marshall is really ACC material (and of course, the next thing you read says he's the best PG in this class).  Projected starting shooting guard Will Graves was also just dismissed for the ever ubiquitous "violation of team rules" so there's even more uncertainty in the backcourt.  Combine those questions with the thin frontcourt and although they have the talent and I'm picking them at #2 they also have to potential to fall apart for a second consecutive season.  I'm hoping for the second one.

3.  North Carolina State Wolfpack.  This is the team I'll be rooting for out of the ACC this year, and they pretty much deserve to have a nice season.  Sid Lowe hasn't show himself to necessarily be much of a game coach, which we are all pretty familiar with here in Minnesota, but his recruiting efforts are paying off.  The Wolfpack landed one of the best classes in the country (ESPN ranks it as the 7th best) with power forward C.J. Leslie and guards Lorenzo Brown and Ryan Harrow all ranking in the top 37 in the country according to Rivals.  With their All-ACC second team PF Tracy Smith back along with big-time shooter Scott Wood, all the talent is there for NC State to be relevant for the first time since Fire & Ice.  Yes, Fire & Ice.  You know you remember them.

4.  Florida State Seminoles.  There are plenty of question marks, but FSU also has some seriously top flight talent coming back, and this team continues to be a defensive powerhouse year-after-year, which means they always have a chance.  Helping out would be some offensive firepower, and they have two guys with a chance to really bring it:  Chris Singleton, a junior forward who can do it all, and Michael Snaer, a sophomore guard and great athlete who needs to improve his shot.  Also look for Xavier Gibson to try to fill in for Solomon Alabi.  He might end up as the biggest key to FSU's season.  Also, literally since he's 6-11, 240.    

5.  Virginia Tech Hokies.  They were going to be my sleeper and I was going to pick them second in the ACC for this year, but injuries have hurt their depth and although I fear I may be dropping them too far, I also think their depth behind Malcolm Delaney was their biggest strength.  And there's no doubt Delaney is an ACC Player-of-the-Year candidate and a possible All-American, but it will be up to that supporting cast to take VT as far as they are going to go.  The best news for the Hokies, however, is that they finally put together a decent non-conference schedule, so the annual tradition of coach Seth Greenberg bitching that his team deserves an NCAA bid despite not having played anybody out of conference all year should mercifully come to an end. 

6.  Maryland Terrapins.  The Terps lose a ton, with three career 1,000 point scorers on their way out in dirty stud Greivis Vasquez, backcourt mate Eric Hayes, and swingman Landon Milbourne, but Gary Williams still has some good talent and also sweats a lot.  Jordan Williams proved himself to be one of the best rebounders in the conference last year and has a very good all-around game, and Sean Mosley is one of those solid, all-around guards who score when needed, are smart with the ball, and grab too many rebounds for their size; an excellent complementary piece, but they need a star to team with Williams.  The recruiting class is deep, but not exceptional at the top, so expect Maryland to be a solid, yet unspectacular team this year.  Sort of like set-up man extraordinaire Scott Shields.  

7.  Miami Hurricanes.  It's not often a team loses it's highest scoring guard (James Dews) and highest scoring post player (Dwayne Collins) and gets better without an outstanding recruiting class, but that may be the case for the Hurricanes this year thanks to Durand Scott.  Don't forget that although Miami finished last in the ACC at 4-12 (way to go, Gophers) they did have a nice little run going in the ACC tournament beating Wake, Virginia Tech in a game the Hokies needed desperately, and losing by just three to Duke, and the biggest reason for their success in two of those three games was the play of Scott.  He's not much of a shooter (just 29% from three on just 58 attempts), but if he ever adds that piece to his game he could end up an all-league type of player, or get good enough to transfer like Denis Clemente did.

8.  Virginia Cavaliers.  Most of the positive affects of hiring Tony Bennett won't be felt until his recruiting classes have more time to gel, particularly with Sylvan Landesburg no longer being on the team, and last year was pretty meh but I have a hunch this year the Cavaliers are going to be tough and knock off a team or two they shouldn't (please not the Gophers please).  A large and talented class of freshmen, led by guards K.T. Harrell (#30 recruit by Rivals) and Joe Harris (#119) and forwards James Johnson (#108) and Will Regan (#148), will join an established star, if second tier one, in forward Mike Scott and two other returning starters.  That's a lot of talent in Charlottesville, more than we've seen in quite some time.  They probably aren't ready to be truly dangerous yet, but they're going to be pesky.  You watch.  If they don't knock off more than one top 25 team this year I'll send everyone who remembers this prediction a token of my shame as an act of contrition.

9.  Boston College Eagles. Most of the squad is back from last season, with just the transferring Rakim Sanders missing, but the problem is what's left just isn't all that exciting.  Joe Trapani is already an excellent all-around player and should thrive in new coach Steve Donahue's offense, and there are a couple of other decent players but the team is thin, both in bodies and in talent.  Donahue is already paying dividends on the recruiting trail (one site I saw has them with the #17 recruiting class in the country for next year) so things should turn around soon for B.C., just not this year.   

10.  Clemson Tigers.  Nearly everybody is back from last year's NCAA team, but the one guy missing is going to be very difficult to replace in Trevor Booker, who was top 10 last year in the ACC in scoring, rebounding, and field goal percentage, even if they do have his little brother.  Booker basically carried that team last season, and it may be up to the only other double-digit scorer from last year, point man Demontez Stitt, to carry them this year.  He did score 21 in their NCAA Tournament loss to Missouri, but reached 20 points just two other times last year, and doesn't average many assists for a point guard (just 3.1 apg).  Really there is a lot of blah talent here, and unless somebody takes a big leap forward the Tigers' streak of three straight NCAA Tourny bids will end at three. 

11.  Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.  The Jackets have a lineup of guards that could potentially be as good as any group in the country.  Mfon Udofia, Iman Shumpert, Brian Oliver, and Glen Rice, Jr. was a nice group last year and will be outstanding this year.  Unfortunately, there's nothing in the front court after Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal took off for the NBA and Zack Peacock graduated, so it's going to be awfully difficult to compete.  The only non-freshman over 6'-6" is seven-footer Brad Sheehan whose scored less than a hundred points in his combined three years, and the freshman aren't exactly superstars, with one who redshirted last year because he wasn't ready and another coming off a torn ACL.  It's going to be a rough year in Atlanta (although honestly when isn't it?  Talk about murder-happy people, sheesh), but with the shooting and perimeter skills of the guards they might shock a team here and there.

12.  Wake Forest Demon Deacons.  At least the Jackets have their guards, the Demon Deacons can't even say they have that with the losses of Al-Farouq Aminu, Ishmael Smith, Chas McFarland, and LD Williams, leaving them with just C.J. Harris (9.9 ppg) as their only returning scorer.  There is a good recruiting class coming in to Winston-Salem with four players in Rivals top 100 arriving on campus this year so the future looks bright, but this is going to be a pretty awful team this season.  I mean, like, Dan Monson's Gophers terrible.  Yes, for real.

Other Previews:

The Big 12

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