2009-2010 ACC Basketball Preview: Duke, UNC Remain the Head Of the Class

Tyler LambertSenior Analyst IAugust 1, 2009

Yes, I know it is only August, but when is a better time to preview and prepare for the ACC basketball season than now?

The ACC Basketball season is one of the most anticipated events in the entire world of sports. Every game and player brings something to the table that intrigues the fans and makes them want to come back for more.  

Every school in the ACC excels in some way, shape, or form, making for great athletic competition. Two teams in particular have excelled during basketball season in the ACC—Duke and UNC.

Bitter rivals, yet respected basketball powerhouses.

Year in and year out, schools make changes to their basketball programs by hiring new coaches and trying to draw more fans and media to the games. The other schools also strive for success, yet not all are as successful as these two teams from North Carolina.

When it comes down to Duke University and UNC, you always know what you are going to get: extremely talented players who have a love and devotion for the game of basketball.

That is what makes the "Tobacco Road Rivalry" so great. Both Duke and UNC will be firing on all cylinders ready to take a crack at one another.

In every game played between the two schools in recent memory, it seems as if one or the other, if not both, is ranked in the top five in the nation.

Each of the past two seasons have seen UNC and Duke finish one-two respectively in the conference, and that is why I am naming both UNC and Duke as the top two contenders for the 2010 ACC Championship (formerly known jokingly as the Duke Invitational) come March.

Here's the Breakdown:


Duke University

  • Key Returning Players: Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith, Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek and Miles Plumlee
  • Key Additions: Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Andre Dawkins
  • Key Losses: Gerald Henderson and Elliot Williams

Duke's two most athletic and versatile guards on the roster last season are now gone—Gerald Henderson bypassed his senior year to play in the NBA, while Elliot Williams transferred to Memphis to be with family due to his mother's illness.

Although these two will greatly be missed by all Duke fans, the additions of three great recruits should help ease the pain a little.

The first recruit from the Duke class of 2009 was Mason Plumlee. The younger sibling of Miles Plumlee, currently on the Duke roster, Mason is quicker and more versatile than his brother.

The addition of Mason Plumlee will not only give Duke more versatility in the low post area, but also give Duke much needed depth in the front court. Mason Plumlee is an outstanding athlete who should fit in well with the Duke offense and defense come next season.

The next recruit from the Duke class of 2009 is Ryan Kelly.

Kelly, who played his high school ball at the nearby Ravenscroft School, will give Duke another front court presence. Kelly is a better overall shooter than many of Duke's big men and can even stand out behind the line and drain the three. 

However, the final and most important recruit for Duke this coming up season will most likely be Andre Dawkins. Dawkins, who had already committed to the Duke class of 2010, was able to graduate high school during the summer and will enroll into Duke early.

This move will not only give Duke another guard on roster, but also will give Duke a big scoring threat, much like Gerald Henderson on last year's team.

On a recent article of mine, Justin McTeer made the following comment about Dawkins:

"Dawkins is not only the most athletic guard Duke will have in the backcourt next year, but he is BY FAR the purest shooter Duke has had since JJ Redick. Think of him as a JJ/Henderson hybrid"

I honestly agree with Justin. The addition of Andre Dawkins, to me, may change the whole course of the season for Duke. Having three guards on roster (Scheyer, Smith, Dawkins) instead of two may prove to be the difference between a good season and a great season for the Blue Devils.

Look for the now-veteran Blue Devils to succeed in the ACC this season behind the leadership of Scheyer and Singler. The two players could raise Duke to new heights this season, somewhere Duke hasn't been in the past few years.

Although learning to play with more front court players may be a challenge at first, look for Duke to settle in nicely with the players they have and do some damage in the ACC.


University of North Carolina

  • Key Returning Players: Ed Davis, Tyler Zeller, Deon Thompson, Marcus Ginyard and Will Graves
  • Key Additions: David and Travis Wear, John Henson, Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland
  • Key Losses: Tyler Hansborough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green

Sure, UNC lost the ACC's all-time leading scorer in Tyler Hansborough, one of the fastest and best guards in the country in Ty Lawson, one of the best pure-shooters in all of college hoops in Wayne Ellington, and one of the most dynamic sixth men in the country in Danny Green.

But they made up for those losses by having one of the best recruiting classes in the country.

One of the biggest recruiting deals in the country was in the favor of UNC, when twins Travis and David Wear signed with the Tar Heels. Not only were they adding size to their lineup, but they also added depth.

The twins did not want to be separated, and thus were both awarded scholarships to play at UNC. Although both players were ranked near each other in the overall prospect rankings, David Wear is probably the better player between the two. 

The Wear twins attended high school at Mater Dei in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Another huge signing for UNC was in the form of John Henson. Henson, like the Wear twins, was a highly rated prospect coming out of high school. Henson will most likely serve as a small forward or power forward for the Tar Heels.

He attended Sickles High School in Tampa, Fla.

Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland are the final of five recruits from the Tar Heels' class of 2009.  

Leslie McDonald was one of the more undecided recruits coming out of high school. Receiving offers from UNC, Duke, Georgetown, Louisville, and Memphis, among others, McDonald had a lot to think about when it came down to his decision. In the end, however, McDonald found UNC as the best fit for his style of play. 

McDonald is a wing player who could possibly fill the role of Ellington in the starting lineup. Some scouts have said that he even has potential to be better than he appears at this point in his young career. He needs to develop a more aggressive style to be effective.

The final player, and possibly the most impressive, is Dexter Strickland. Strickland is a big-time scorer who has the confidence to succeed at the college level.

He is one of the elite players in the class of 2009, and is a multi-positional talent. He could possibly start at point guard for the Tar Heels, but his more permanent position will be as the shooting guard.

Add these outstanding five recruits to the returning players on the team and you have the potential to win another national championship. There will be learning curves for this young group, but they will learn from their mistakes along the way and more than likely succeed in the ACC.