BX ACC Conference Preview

BX ACC Conference Preview
Nov 05, 2007, 01:50 am

-The ACC has had five #1 seeds in the last four NCAA Tournaments.

-Only four ACC teams have posted a record of .500 or better in conference play and not made the NCAA Tournament since 1995.

-No ACC teams have made the Final Four in the previous two seasons. That’s the first time in 27 years that the ACC has gone two years in a row without putting a team in the Final Four.

-Ten ACC teams ended up with 20 or more wins last year.


-NORTH CAROLINA returns a ton of talent from a team that won 31 games, finished first in the ACC Standings, won the ACC Tournament, and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Forward Brandon Wright is gone, but Tyler Hansbrough returns at forward and should be one of the best players in the ACC. He averaged over 18ppg and 8rpg last season, and should once again be a dominant force. Guard Ty Lawson is another scoring threat who can also pass the ball very well, and averaged just under 6 assists per game last year. He’ll be joined on the perimeter by Wayne Ellington, another talented guard who can hit from the outside and averaged in double figures last season. The Tarheels have all the makings of a Final Four caliber team

-Here is how strong DUKE’s program is. Last year they won 22 games and made the NCAA Tournament as a #6 seed and fell to VCU in the first round. People are calling that a disappointment. Four big time contributors are back, and we should see a more experienced Duke team that will play as if it has something to prove. Guards DeMarcus Nelson, Greg Paulus and Jon Scheyer make up a very talented backcourt. Both players averaged in double figures last season and Scheyer proved to be a very good shooter as well. Paulus also proved he can distribute the basketball and piled up quite a few assists last year. The loss of Josh McRoberts does leave them a little inexperienced in the frontcourt and someone from the bench will need to step up. Duke also adds freshman small forward Kyle Singler and freshman guard Nolan Smith, both of whom were rated in the top ten at their position coming out of high school.

-NORTH CAROLINA STATE had an unimpressive season last year, but really came on strong at the end and ended up nearly winning the ACC Tournament. Four starters are back from that team, and now that the players have adapted to head coach Sidney Lowe’s style, they should be ready to roll. Forwards Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley are both well rounded players who can shoot, rebound, and create opportunities in the post. Gavin Grant, who averaged just under 15ppg last season, is another terrific all around player. Courtney Fells returns out on the perimeter, and he’ll be joined by Dennis Horner, who is another good outside shooter. As if that wasn’t enough talent, the Wolfpack add four very talented freshmen to the roster in center J.J. Hickson, power forward Tracy Smith, point guard Javier Gonzalez and forward Johnny Thomas. Hickson was one of the top five centers coming out of high school last year, and the other three were all top 40 at their position. This looks to be NC State’s best team in quite some time.

-CLEMSON began last season 17-0, and won just four regular season games after that and ended up missing the NCAA Tournament. Clemson always seems to be a team that starts strong and finishes slow, but last year was extreme even by their standards. Still, they proved that the potential is there, and with three starters returning who averaged in double figures, the team should be better this year. 11 players are back overall, so they should have experience both in the starting lineup and on the bench. Center James Mays and forward Trevor Booker, who both averaged over 6rpg last year, make up a solid frontcourt. The Tigers do need a new point guard and freshman Demontez Stitt, who was a highly touted recruit, could be called on to produce right away.

-FLORIDA STATE seems to spend a lot of time on the bubble. They’ve been close to making the NCAA Tournament, but always seem to come up one or two wins short. After a big win against Duke last season, which appeared to put FSU well in the mix, Toney Douglas suffered a broken hand and the Seminoles lost five straight games. The talent is there to be a solid NCAA team this year. Four starters are back, including guards Jason Rich, Isaiah Swann and Toney Douglas, and Jason Rich, who all averaged in double figures last season. Forward Al Thornton is gone and replacing him won’t be easy, but having two top 15 big men recruits in Solomon Alabi and Julian Vaughn should help. Playing with experienced guards should speed up their development and that should make the Seminoles a very tough team.

-MARYLAND lost a good deal of talent off of last year’s NCAA Tournament team, but does have a decent amount of talent coming in. After beginning league play at 3-6 and looking like they may end up on the bubble, the Terps really finished strong last year. This year’s team will need to gel in a hurry if they want to get back. Forward James Gist is a solid scorer and rebounder, and point guard Greivis Vasquez does a good job distributing the ball. Right now I’d have to say I have more questions than answers when it comes to the Terps.

-BOSTON COLLEGE is always a team that seems to exceed all expectations and sneak up on people. They don’t appear to have a tremendous amount of experience and talent this year, but if we’ve learned anything over the years it’s to never write this team off. Jared Dudley is gone, but freshman center Josh Southern should be able to step in and make up for some of the loss. The Eagles have a talented guard in Tyrese Rice, who averaged over 17ppg and 5 assists per game last year. I’d say they have what it takes to again contend for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. It seems like they always do contend for a spot in the Dance even when it doesn’t look like they will.

-GEORGIA TECH does a great job recruiting talented players, but unfortunately they never seem to stick around for very long. They lost their top two scorers a year ago, and although three starters are back and that experience should help them, they obviously aren’t as good as they would have been had they retained everyone. They again look like they could be an NCAA Tournament team, but I don’t see them as a Final Four team/ACC Championship team. Forwards Ra’Sean Dickey and Feremis Smith make up a solid frontcourt. Both are proven scorers, rebounders and Dickey is a good defender. Unfortunately Dickey won’t be eligible until the second semester due to academics, but he should be a factor once he returns. Guard Anthony Morrow is a good outside shooter and should have the opportunity to play a bigger role this year. He’ll be joined by Lewis Clinch, who averaged double figures coming off the bench. Power forward Gani Lawal and point guard Maurice Miller are two freshmen who should be able to contribute right away as well.

-VIRGINIA tied for first place in the conference last year and proved to be a very tough defensive team. Only two starters are back from that team, but they still appear to be fairly solid. Sean Singletary is one of the best guards in the country, who averaged 19ppg last year, and proved he could distribute the ball as well as score. He’s joined on the perimeter by Mamadi Diane and freshmen Jeff Jones and Mustapha Farrahkan, who were both highly touted recruits. Freshman power forward Mike Scott should see playing time right away as well and can hopefully help out in the front court.

-MIAMI, FL really struggled with injuries last season, and that was one of the things that contributed to their 4-12 record in the ACC. We should see some improvement this year with a healthy roster, but wins are never easy to come by for a program that’s trying to build itself up in a power conference like the ACC. Guard Jack McClinton was a big time contributor last year averaging just under 17ppg and hitting well from the outside. Anthony King is also back and healthy. He averaged just under 10rpg, and his season ending injury had a negative effect on the Canes. This team is definitely more experienced, and if they can stay healthy their win total should definitely go up.

-VIRGINIA TECH had a fantastic season last year, but in a way it appears as though they’re starting from scratch. Forwards Deron Washington and A.D. Vassallo are the only players returning who averaged in double figures, but the Hokies do have some very talented young players coming in. Malcom Delaney could be starting at the point as a freshman. He’s talented, but it may take him some time to adjust. Jeff Allen is a power forward who should see quite a bit of playing time as a freshman this year as well. They did have two talented players in the fold who opted out of their commitments shortly after the tragic shootings, and both would have been an asset. This may be a rebuilding year, but the overall long term health of the program appears to be in great shape.

-WAKE FOREST is probably still grieving after the untimely death of head coach Skip Prosser. The team had been struggling, but recruiting was going fantastic and it looked as if the Demon Deacons were on their way back. They still could be. Point guard Jeff Teague and forward James Johnson, both ranked in the top ten in their position out of this year’s incoming class, both honored their commitment and enrolled at Wake. Those two join three returning starters. I don’t know if this is the year Wake makes it back to the NCAA Tournament, but the talent level is definitely higher and the team should be better.

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