ACC Sophomores Will Dictate Conference Play

Chris LucasCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2009

While the number of impact freshman who bolted to the NBA is plentiful, the ACC boasts  key returning sophomores that will determine their teams successes.

As conference play begins, ambiguity surrounds the ability level of several teams and where they will stack up when March is upon us. 

Each year it seems that teams enter ACC conference play and everyone takes a beating.  Night in, night out anybody can beat anybody else. 

This year, UNC and Duke are locks for Dance Reservations in March and Wake is playing well also. However, the ACC, which historically sends four or five or even six teams to the NCAA Tourney, appears to be up for grabs.

Headed into conference play, the players filling up the statistical categories are sophomores.

The determination of what teams fill these tournament spots will rest upon the shoulders of these sophomores and how well then can perform in conference play.

F Mike Scott and G Sammy Zeglinski - Virginia Cavaliers

While the Cavs are lead by freshman Sylven Landesberg, he has yet to play a college game against any significant competition (other than an early season loss to Syracuse).  The riggors of an ACC in conference schedule can be brutal, and experience is necessary.

Scott and Zeglinski are second and third on the team in scoring averaging 12 and 11 respectively. 

Scott also averages just a shade under 10 rebounds a game—good enough for second in the ACC.  While the Cavs field a smaller line up, Scott's athletic ability and mean streak under the glass will allow the Cavsto hang around in many games they should be blown out of. 

Zeglinski also leads the Cavs in assists at 3.2 andshoots over 40% from behindthe three point line.  With the attention on leading scorer Landesberg, Zeglingski's three point shooting ability will desperately be needed.

If the Cavs want to have any chance of surviving the Russian Roulet style ACC games, they need consistent leadership from Scott and Zeglinski. 

F Gani Lawal - Georgia Tech

Lawal gained a lot of experience on a rebuilding Yellow Jacket team last year, and has responded well putting up 16.7 ppg and 10.2 rebounds—good for 10th and first in the ACC respectively.

Lawal's explosiveness and ability to score in spurts is by far his most impressive feature.  In an early season game against Penn State Lawal shot 15 for 20 on his way to 34 points. 

With a 6-8 216 frame, Lawel stays out of foul trouble fairly well.  After 12 games he's gotten four fouls two times and fouled out none. For the Yellow Jackets to succeed, they will need Lawal's size and ability to produce while staying out of foul trouble. 

GT is in the thick of the ambiguity, however Lawalcould help solidify their ground as a fourthor fifth ACC team to be selected. 

G Jeff Teague and F James Johnson - Wake Forest

Wake Forest is a very dangerous team with several budding stars including freshman Al-Farouq Aminu. 

Teague leads the team in scoring (18.8) and assists (4.2) while Johnson is second in rebounds (7.8) and first in blocks (1.3). 

An inside out combo such as this should alleviate a lot of pressure from Al-Farouq and the other Deacons and end in a very balanced and multi pronged attack. 

Teague doesn't shoot a ton of three pointers, howeverhe is shooting over 50% on the season.  With defenders constantly worried about Johnson's size, the Deacons could look to Teague to shoot the team into success. 

I look for Wake to be a solid tournament selection from the ACC and could be one of the few possibilities to hand UNC a loss on its regular season schedule.

G Malcolm Delaney and F Jeff Allen - Virginia Tech

For the past few seasons, its seemed that the Hokiesare destined to lose on last second shots. 

For their luck to pick up, they will need continuous performances from Delaney and Allen.  They are second and third on the team in scoring (16.7 and 13.9) and Allen gets almost 10 rebounds a game. 

As said earlier, the battle in the post is a major key to winning in the grueling ACC schedule.  If Allen plays as big as he has been, then the Hokies should pose a significant threat for opponent. 

Delaney is first on the team in assists at 4.4 and is a main reason why PG and leading scorer AD Vasallois able to score as much as he does.  With a two point guard starting line, Delaney is able to control the offense and dictate the Hokies speed.

If Delaney and Allen play well, the Hokies could turn into an ACC bubble team that pulls down an eight or nine seed in March.