2010-2011 ACC Basketball Preview

Today, people around the nation set their clocks back an hour, which can only mean one thing in North Carolina: Basketball season is here.  This year the theme in the ACC is likely to be an influx of talent across the board in the freshman class.  With so many new faces in the conference it will likely be a very unpredictable year, except for the fact that Duke will ultimately take home the championship.  

Click through for a comprehensive team-by-team look at the ACC this season as well as some predictions about how it will all shake out.

The rundown, in reverse alphabetical order (With a little more love for Wake, since that's what we do here at BSD):

Wake Forest Demon Deacons - The Jeff Bzdelik era begins at Wake this season, as he will try to bring a more structured, but still fast-paced, offense to Winston-Salem.  The Deacs return just one starter in C.J. Harris and no players that averaged double figures last season.  Tony Woods was expected to be the anchor in the middle, but his domestic dispute led to a pending transfer to Louisville.  As a result, Wake has no upperclassmen that have seen significant playing time.  Ty Walker, a junior, will now be forced into huge minutes at the center position after sparingly seeing the floor in his first two seasons.  Walker brings great shot-blocking ability to the table, as his long arms and athleticism will make opposing players think twice about getting a shot off in the lane.  Rebounding and offensive production, on the other hand, may be question marks for Walker.

While the Demon Deacs lack experience, they will have a wealth of young talent that should be interesting to watch develop.  The aforementioned C.J. Harris had a surprising freshman campaign and will look to avoid the sophomore slump. He is likely to see big minutes at both guard spots, but shooting guard is where he seems to be most comfortable. The other sophomore is Ari Stewart, who showed that he isn't afraid to take big shots last season.  Stewart will likely be the main scoring threat for Wake, as his range and athleticism allows him to get his shot off over defenders.  The biggest factor for WFU this season will undoubtedly be the production from Dino Gaudio's five-man recruiting class, which features a player at every position:  PG Tony Chennault, SG J.T. Terrell, SF Travis McKie, PF Melvin Tabb and C Carson Desrosiers.  Chennault has been battling a foot injury early in the season, but should be cleared by the opener against Stetson.  The tough guard from Philly will look to take over point guard duties and allow Harris and Terrell more opportunities to score.  Terrell is a pure volume scorer with extremely deep range and athleticism.  He is the next Wake player that Deacon fans will love and the rest of the ACC will love to hate.  McKie is a versatile player that is a tough rebounder inside, but can also step out and knock down the long ball.  He led the Deacs with 24 points in the exhibition game, including shooting 3-3 from deep and several big dunks.  Tabb, Desrosiers and Georgetown transfer Nikita Mescheriakov (available after first semester) will look to add some much needed rebounding and production on the blocks.  Finally, senior captain Gary Clark will provide some outside shooting and leadership to the baby Deacons.

Virginia Tech Hokies - This is the year for Seth Greenberg.  He has the best guard (maybe player) in the conference in Malcolm Delaney, who led the ACC in scoring last season.  He also has two other talented and experienced seniors in big man Jeff Allen and Dorenzo Hudson, who finished 10th in scoring in the league last season.  Mix in solid role players Terrell Bell, Victor Davila and 4 star recruit Jarell Eddie, and you have yourself an ACC contender.  While everyone knows that Delaney is the go-to guy, in my opinion the biggest key is to make sure Allen gets the touches that he deserves.  After watching VPI last season, it seemed that he was often forgot about while Delaney and Hudson did their thing.  Of course, Allen also has to stay out of foul trouble so that he actually has a chance to contribute.  If he can receive the ball on the blocks regularly, it will create easy buckets for the Hokies and give Delaney, Hudson and the rest of the guards more space to work with as well.  The loss of J.T. Thompson to a torn ACL is a tough blow for Greenberg, but it should not keep them from being in the top third of the league and a trip to the NCAA tournament, especially if Eddie can step in and contribute right away.  Delaney's propensity to get fouled and make hundreds of free throws per game is also a big factor that cannot be ignored.  Hopefully we will not have to hear Coach Greenberg complaining for hours during the selection show this season.

Virginia Cavaliers - Last year was a tough finish for the Wahoos as star Sylven Landesberg was suspended for the final two weeks of the season, Calvin Baker left for personal reasons and Jamil Tucker forgot he had to study to be a college student.  While it may be another tough season for Tony Bennett, help is on the way as he has reeled in a recruiting class with a lot of promise.  Guard K.T. Harrell (not to be confused with J.T. Terrell) and rugged big man James Johnson are both four star, top-100 players that should come in and contribute immediately in a big way.  The 6'5" Harrell averaged nearly 28 points and 11 rebounds as a senior in high school and will try to fill the huge void left by Landesberg's departure.  The Cavs' best player is likely senior power forward Mike Scott, who is an effective post scorer, but lacked consistency near the end of the season when he was needed most last year.  Returning guards Mustapha Farrakan, Jontel Evans and Sammy Zeglinski (out 8 weeks for knee surgery) each had their moments last season and will need to make the next step for UVA to make some noise this season.

N.C. State Wolfpack - It is now or never for Pack coach Sidney Lowe, as he tries to get his team to the NCAA tournament for the first time under his direction.  This season he has one of the most highly regarded recruiting classes in N.C. State history and returning star Tracy Smith to help him reach that goal.  The two freshmen guards that will join senior Javier Gonzalez in the backcourt are Lorenzo Brown and Ryan Harrow, both of whom earned the highest honors in high school.  Brown is a high scoring combo guard who can fill it up from everywhere on the floor while Harrow is a slight, lightning quick point guard with tremendous court vision and athleticism.  It will be interesting to see how Lowe manages the two newcomers with the established Gonzalez, who has improved drastically since his freshman season.  In the middle another 5-star recruit by the name of C.J. Leslie joins Smith, Richard Howell, who came on strong at the end of last season, and DeShawn Painter to form a solid interior rotation.  Leslie is ultra-athletic and skilled, but needs to learn to play unselfishly.  If this comes to fruition, the Pack may have the second most talented lineup in the conference behind Duke.  Finally, teams will have to keep an eye on 6'6 sophomore Scott Wood.  Wood shot 37% from deep in his freshman campaign and can really be a game changer when he catches fire.  All-in-all, the ceiling is very high for this edition of State basketball.

North Carolina Tar Heels - Coming off one of the most disappointing seasons in school history, Roy Williams looks to reload with a new set of superstar freshmen.  Harrison Barnes, thought by many to be the #1 player in the 2010 class, will try to get the Heels back on track with his multi-faceted skill set.  At 6'8" Barnes can score in a variety of ways, rebound and do whatever it takes to make his team succeed.  His work ethic is second-to-none, which Coach Roy hopes will have an impact on his teammates as well.  The other stud freshman is 6'6" shooting guard Reggie Bullock.  Bullock is known for his long range and his ability to put points on the board.  Returning for the Heels is the lanky John Henson, who played much better last season after moving to power forward.  Henson does not have much of an offensive attack beyond dunking, but his length in the lane on defense is certainly a game changer.  Other than finding consistent point guard play, the health and ability of Tyler Zeller may be the biggest factor for Carolina.  Zeller is a solid post scorer and must stay healthy for UNC to reach their expectations for the season, especially considering their depth issues after losing Ed Davis (NBA), Deon Thompson (graduated) and the Wear twins (transferred to UCLA).  5th year Alabama transfer Justin Knox will join Zeller and Henson as UNC's only true 4/5's on the roster.  In the backcourt, the oft-discussed Larry Drew and freshman Kendall Marshall will handle point guard duties.  Drew had a tough campaign last year, so it will be interesting to see how quickly Marshall steps in and takes over.  Marshall has great size, leadership and vision as a PG, but is not a threat to score.  Finally, explosive sophomore guard Dexter Strickland is garnering a lot of hype as the season approaches.  If he is able to score consistently, it would be a big lift for the Heels.

Miami Hurricanes - As Wake and VT fans witnessed in the ACC tournament last season, this Miami team could be a sleeper in the conference.  Led by sophomore guard Durand Scott, the Canes will look to build on their late season momentum of last year and get back to the big dance.  Scott, a dynamic lead guard from New York, is set for a big year after gaining a wealth of experience last season.  Helping Scott in the backcourt will be Malcolm Grant, the Villanova transfer who averaged about 10 ppg in his first season in Coral Gables.  The Hurricane frontcourt also features a player who made some noise near the end of last season in Reggie Johnson.  The "dancing bear" has great hands, solid post moves and a good stroke from the free throw line.  If he continues to work on his conditioning, he could be a huge factor this season.  The other big body for Miami is Julian Gamble, whose emotional play often fuels his teammates.  A few of the role players, which include the amazingly athletic Daquan Jones, Garrius Adams, Adrian Thomas, and the newcomers, will have to step their game up for Miami to finish in the top half of the conference.  Nevertheless, Frank Haith is recruiting well and looks to have this program on the rise.

Maryland Terrapins - Now that the hated Greivis Vasquez has finally departed, the question for the Terps is who will step up and take a leadership role.  The top candidate for this is almost certainly junior guard Sean Mosley, who averaged 10 points and 5 boards last season.  Mosley is joined by seniors Dino Gregory, Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie, all of whom have been role players throughout their Maryland careers. Gregory is mostly known for his great defensive ability. Easily the biggest name on the Maryland roster is Jordan Williams.  Williams had a fantastic freshman season at center, averaging nearly 10 points and 9 rebounds while showing off impressive post moves and soft hands. James Padgett, the other freshmen big for Maryland last season, was not as impressive, but will look to step into a larger role this season.  As is the trend with several ACC teams, the Terps' season will likely henge on freshmen production.  Gary Williams landed a strong class that includes 4-star Mychal Parker, Pe'shon Howard, and Terrell Stoglin.  Stoglin is a high scoring point guard that averaged early 30 points as a senior at Santa Rita High in Arizona, while Parker is a versatile small forward that uses his athleticism to score in a variety of ways.  With this mix of young talent and experienced role players, it will be intriguing to see who steps up and takes the big shots when the time comes.  Stoglin may be a breakout ACC freshman that no one seems to be talking about.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets - A year after being absolutely loaded in the frontcourt with Favors, Lawal and Peacock, Tech may have the thinnest lineup of bigs in the conference.  As a result, it will be up to Iman Shumpert, Brian Oliver, Mo Miller, Mfon Udofia and Glen Rice Jr. to create easy buckets for themselves and their inexperienced post players.  Shumpert is the unquestioned leader of the Ramblin' Wreck, but needs to show more consistency.  He has shown the ability to score 30 (UNC last season), but often follows up with less-than-inspiring performances.  Rice (47%) and Oliver (38%) can light it up from outside and are not afraid to let it go, especially Oliver.  Udofia and Miller will both play some minutes at the point, but need to avoid catching the turnover bug.  GT's frontcourt will be manned by two redshirt freshmen, Kammeon Holsey and Daniel Miller.  Holsey, who has recovered from a torn ACL, will be the Jackets' main post scoring threat, though his skinny frame may get him in trouble against the bigger bodies of the ACC.  Miller is a thicker presence at 252, but does not have the scoring ability of Holsey at this point in time.  The last piece of the puzzle is 6'5" freshman Jason Morris, who will likely see minutes at a variety of positions due to his athletic skillset.  Overall, Coach Hewitt definitely has a challenge on his hands this season and will have to completely re-shift the focus of his coaching efforts from frontcourt to backcourt production.

Florida State Seminoles - The Noles are led by defending ACC Defensive Player of the Year Chris Singleton.  Singleton, a former McDonald's All-American, is amazingly quickly for a guy his size, which is evidenced by him leading the ACC in steals last season while finishing fifth in block shots.  I don't have the stat, but I'm not sure 6'9" players have led the ACC in steals more than a few times, if any.  Singleton is also a versatile offensive player who can step out and hit the three or take small defenders into the paint.  The next step for him is to be more aggressive inside on the offensive end and become a primary scorer for FSU.  He averaged just over 10 ppg last season, but his ceiling is much higher than that.  Other primary players for Coach Hamilton's squad this season include Michael Snaer, Derwin Kitchen and freshman Ian Miller.  Snaer, another former All-American, had a productive freshman season, averaging nearly 9 ppg.  He will also look to make the next step and become a key player in the ACC, much like Miami's Durand Scott.  Kitchen does not shoot it well from deep, but is an effective floor general, slasher and passer for the Seminoles.  Ian Miller is a newcomer from Charlotte that Coach Hamilton somehow stole from the other ACC squads in the area.  Miller is an exceptional combo guard that can do it all and will look to fill the role of Toney Douglas from a couple years back.  Filling out the rotation are guards Luke Loucks and Devidas Dulkys and agile center Xavier Gibson.  As usual, look for FSU to finish in the middle of the pack and be a tough defensive squad that pulls a couple major upsets.

Duke Blue Devils - Duke is absolutely stacked from top to bottom.  While they did lose a couple key contributors in Jon Scheyer and Brian Zoubek, Coach K went out and secured Kyrie Irving, who may be the best point guard in college basketball already.  Add that to returning All-ACC players in Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, a rugged front line in the Plumlee brothers, freshman Josh Hairston and the versatile Ryan Kelly and shooters Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry, and you have yourself a runaway favorite to repeat as both ACC and national champs.  The additions of Curry and Irving to Smith will allow Coach K to play Singler some power forward, where he is a very effective rebounder on both ends of the floor.  This also allows Singler to take larger, slower bigs outside and either shoot from deep for drive around them.  The Blue Devils will need the expected improvement of the Plumlee brothers in order to get their rings, but that should not be a problem.  Non-Duke fans should fully enjoy any losses that Duke suffers this season, because there will not be many.

Clemson Tigers - Oliver Purnell's surprising departure from Clemson in favor of DePaul was one of the top storylines of the ACC off-season.  Brad Brownell will now step in to try to get the Tigers not only into the NCAA tournament, but out of the first round for the first time in several years.  Demontez Stitt, who has been at Clemson for at least a decade, will lead a new look Tiger squad that is without Trevor Booker, a Washington Wizard.  Coach Brownell will use Stitt as a combo guard in order to utilize his scoring ability and his willingness to get deep into the defense and create.  Stitt averaged nearly 12 ppg last season and will need to build on that for Clemson to be successful this season.  Teaming with Stitt in the backcourt will be Tanner Smith and the diminutive Andre Young.  Smith is a glue guy that contributes in a variety of ways while Young is more of a scorer for the Tigers. Three guys will need to step up in the frontcourt to replace the work of Trevor Booker:  Devin Booker, Jerai Grant and Milton Jennings.  While the younger Booker is not quite as athletic as his brother, he is built similarly and is a load when the catches the ball in position on the blocks.  Grant gives Clemson a much-needed blocking and rebounding force and tends to play with great energy.  Jennings, who received great hype out of high school, will look to shake off a disappointing freshman season. He can do a lot of things at 6'9", so once he gains some confidence things could turn around quickly for the sophomore playing in his home state of South Carolina.  Finally, the X-factor for the Tigers may be sophomore Noel Johnson.  At 6'6", Johnson is primarily a three-point shooter who needs to attack more off the dribble.  Like Jennings, Johnson definitely possesses the talent, he is just in need of a couple good games to gain some positive momentum.

Boston College Eagles - BC was the third team in the conference to make a coaching change, letting go of longtime coach Al Skinner in favor of Cornell head man Steve Donahue.  Donahue has a rough road in 2010, as one of his best players, Rakim Sanders, transferred to Fairfield and all three incoming freshmen changed their minds about becoming an Eagle.  However, he still has a solid trio of players in Corey Raji, Joe Trapani and Reggie Jackson.  Raji is a superb rebounder for his size.  His scrappy play makes up for his small size and allows him to play effectively as a power forward in the ACC.  Trapani is a known quantity in the ACC and is coming off an All-ACC season where he averaged 14 points and 6 rebounds.  Jackson is the spark plug for the Eagles and is one of the most exciting players in the conference.  As a scoring point guard he averaged 13 points and 4.5 assists last season.  Look for him to be even more aggressive this year and to lead the Eagles in scoring.  After starting the last half of the season, Jackson should have the experience and confidence to take the next step.  Finally, the Eagles will need a step up in contribution from role players Biko Paris, Dallas Elmore and Cortney Dunn in order for Coach Donahue's initial campaign to be considered a success.

 

Projected Final Standings

1. Duke

2. Virginia Tech

3. North Carolina

4. N.C. State

5. Florida State

6. Miami

7. Maryland

8. Clemson

9. Boston College

10. Wake Forest

11. Georgia Tech

12. Virginia

 

Projected First Team All-ACC

Kyle Singler - Duke - POY

Malcolm Delaney - VT

Chris Singleton - FSU

Harrison Barnes - UNC

Nolan Smith - Duke

 

Projected All-Rookie Team

Harrison Barnes - UNC - ROY

Kyrie Irving - Duke

C.J. Leslie - N.C. State

K.T. Harrell - UVA

J.T. Terrell - Wake Forest

 

Welcome back college basketball!

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