With a little over two weeks until the start of College Basketball, its time to start talking some hoops. If you live in ACC country you know that hoops season is perhaps the pinnacle of the year. Let's take a look at some of things that we're going to see this season in the ACC.
First let's take a look at some of the story-lines this year in the ACC.
1. Fabulous Freshman
The ACC sports 21 of the top 100 ESPNU freshman for the 2009 class. That's more than one of every five players going to the ACC. This shows us that the future of the ACC might be even brighter than we have seen of late.
The top ACC class was of course in Chapel Hill, where the Tar Heels reloaded with five top 100 recruits. The Yellow Jackets also had a monster class that is expected to make a huge impact right away.
Perhaps the most overlooked freshman class in the ACC was Clemson's. They brought in four top 150 recruits, including two top 30 recruits in Milton Jennings and Noel Johnson, making this perhaps the greatest class in their history.
2. Some Leave Early, Some Stay
Perhaps the greatest losses of early entries will be felt in Chapel Hill and Winston Salem, where the Tar Heels lost star point guard Ty Lawson, and the Deamon Deacons lost James Johnson and Jeff Teague. On the other hand both programs should feel optimistic with who returns and the freshman classes.
3. What Should We Think of the Dukies?
The Blue Devils have made a habit of fading in the tournament the last few years, and alot of it may have to do with their lack of athleticism.
The sharp shooting Dukies can win on any given night if they get a barrage of three-pointer's or are playing at Cameron Indoor, but it seems they can't compete with the bigger more physical teams game in game out.
The transfer of Elliot Williams, perhaps their most athletic player other than Gerald Henderson who left for the NBA, leaves Duke searching for the athleticism. The late recruitment Andre Dawkins will provide some help, as will the added height of their other two freshmen.
4. The Parity of the ACC Will No Longer Be Only in Football.
This season is perhaps the most evenly talented ACC I can ever remember. Although the talent might be higher in some places, experience and coaching seems to make up for it in other places.
To start the season it is unreasonable to think that any of the 12 teams won't at least have a dream of playing in the big dance. While there might be a few more questions for some teams, there is a huge muddle at the middle of the ACC and it should provide for an amazing season.
Who Are the Best Players?
First Team All-ACC
Ed Davis, UNC
Trevor Booker, Clemson
Grevis Vasquez, Maryland
Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest
Kyle Singler, Duke
Second Team All-ACC
Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech
Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech
Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech
Deon Thompson, UNC
Soloman Alabi, FSU
Third Team All-ACC
Jon Scheyer, Duke
Ish Smith, Wake Forest
Dwayne Collins, Miami
Jeff Allen, Virginia Tech
Demontez Stitt, Clemson
All Freshman First Team
Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech
Mason Plumlee, Duke
Milton Jennings, Clemson
Jon Henson, UNC
Michael Snaer, FSU
All Freshman Second Team
Ryan Kelly, Duke
Noel Johnson, Clemson
Andre Dawkins, Duke
Dexter Strickland, UNC
Ari Stewart, Wake Forest
A Rundown of the Teams:
It is a little too early and difficult to decide how the ACC will rank, but here is a rundown of the teams and the best and worst case scenarios.
Boston College: The Eagles lost one player from last year's tournament team. Unfortunately it was Tyrese Rice. Rice might have been the leader and best player for the Eagles over the last few years, but it was the players that surround him that make the future bright.
The Eagles only have one senior this season, and need to find more consistent three-point shooting if they want to make it two years in a row dancing.
Key OOC games: vs. St. Joe's, vs. Purdue, at Michigan, at Providence, Rhode Island, South Carolina
Worst Case Scenario: The Eagles find losing Rice harder than thought and can't seem to get enough good victories to warrant a NCAA berth and end up in the NIT.
Best Case Scenario: The youthful core from last year continues to grow up and no one remembers Rice at the end of the year as the Eagles make an unexpected run to the Sweet 16.
Clemson: The Tigers have gotten slack for finishing slow the last few years, but they really have only twice. This year might be opposite of that, as the Tigers will rely on the strongest class in school history to join low block master Trevor Booker. The Tigers have a much tougher schedule but this is perhaps the most talented group under Purnell.
Key OOC games: vs. Texas A&M, vs. West Virginia/Portland, vs. UCLA/Butler/Minnesota, South Carolina, Illinois
Worst Case Scenario: The Tiger youth doesn't come together so fast and they struggle at times to deal with speedy teams; they sneak into the tournament but lose again in the first round.
Best Case Scenario: The most talented team in Tigertown lives up to it and delivers as they prove to be a top 15 team and advance to the Sweet 16.
Duke: The Blue Devils have been haunted by the lack of height and athleticism over the last few years. This year they add a little bit of both, but not together. The Blue Devils will miss Gerald Henderson more than you think, but will show signs of turning a corner as they look like a bigger team down low with the freshman additions.
Key OOC games: NIT games, at Wisconsin, St. John's, vs. Gonzaga, vs. Iowa St, at Georgetown
Worst Case Scenario: The Blue Devils prove too un-athletic and not physical inside and are beaten by the teams who are. They do plenty to make the tournament as a seven seed, but are upset in the first round and questions swirl about the future of the program.
Best Case Scenario: The freshman come up big and add what was needed to the core of returning players. The Dukies win the ACC and advance to the Final Four before getting downed by the eventual National Champion.
Florida State: The 'Noles lose their key player much like Boston College, but the amount of talent leftover might even be better. With another great freshman class, Leonard Hamilton has the 'Noles thinking another solid NCAA berth.
Key OCC games: at Florida, vs. Baylor/Alabama, at Ohio State, Auburn
Worst Case Scenario: The 'Noles don't mesh and they underachieve again, barely miss the tournament, and end up in the NIT.
Best Case Scenario: The freshmen add more to the huge lineup they have and the team continues to grow after a great season last year. They end up making an NCAA run to the Elite 8.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets' freshman class highlighted by top recruit Derrick Favors gives them hope of returning to the NCAA tournament again this season. The Jackets also return a host of players who showed lots of promise in what was an underachieving last season.
Honestly this team has top 10 talent, and remind me of a lot of Wake Forest last season, if you want to take that as a positive or a negative.
Key OOC games: vs. Dayton, vs. Villanova, vs. Kansas State/Indiana, USC, at Charlotte, at Georgia
Worst Case Scenario: The Jackets' history of underachieving with loads of talent continues under Paul Hewitt; they improve from last year but only enough to see the NIT.
Best Case Scenario: The Jackets have the talent to compete with anyone in the ACC and around the country and it shows. They are the biggest turnaround in one season we can remember and win the ACC and advance to the Final Four.
Maryland: The Terps are feeling good coming off an NCAA berth and the return of their star Grevis Vasquez. They don't lose much from last year, but were perhaps the most inconsistent team in the ACC last season. The reason might be for the height, or lack thereof.
The other might just be Vasquez, who can carry the Terps, but if he's not on then they can look lost. The Terps have been hyped as a top 25 team for this coming season and a contender in the ACC, but only time will tell if they can live up to those expectations.
Key OOC games: vs. Vandy/Cincinnati, at Indiana, vs. Villanova
Worst Case Scenario: The Terps look like the team that got crushed at times last year, and they can't find the big wins that they did to reach the tournament last year. They fail to reach the tournament and the Gary Williams talk resurfaces.
Best Case Scenario: The Terps live up to the hype and are a top 15 team; they reach the tournament, and make a run to the Sweet 16.
Miami: The Hurricanes lose their sharp shooter Jack McClinton, who carried them at times last year. The Hurricanes' recruiting has picked up quite well the last couple of years and they will rely on some young guys to carry them this year.
The team underachieved and disappointed last year, so for them to make noise they'll have to turn it around fast.
Key OOC games: vs. Penn State, Minnesota
Worst Case Scenario: The freshmen prove too young to help this team who can't click again this season. They drop to the bottom of the ACC and are a borderline NIT team.
Best Case Scenario: The Hurricanes end up as the surprise team of the ACC, they have plenty of young talent, and Frank Haith gets them to come together early and they end up sneaking in the big dance.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels are back with a lot less experience but just as much talent. They will rely heavily on guys who haven't see the court before, or haven't started before. You know that they are just building up for another National Championship run, just maybe not this year.
They have the talent to compete with anyone out there but it will be key for them to come together and develop a more low post oriented team for this season.
Key OOC games: vs. Ohio State, vs. Cal/Syracuse, Michigan State, at Kentucky, vs. Texas, Rutgers
Worst Case Scenario: The Tar Heels look really young and the freshman can't seem to find it. They finish fourth in the ACC and make the tournament before a second round upset loss.
Best Case Scenario: The Tar Heels just reload again and after a few early losses end up as a No. 1 seed in the tourney, where they make another Final Four appearance, but can't make it back to back National Championships.
NC State: The Wolfpack haven't had a great last few years, but last season started to show signs of getting closer to being back. They have a great freshman class coming in and Sidney Lowe needs to get it done this year if he wants to keep his job in Raleigh.
Key OOC games: vs. Auburn, Northwestern, at Marquette, at Arizona, Florida
Worst Case Scenario: Everything seems the same in Raleigh, and the Wolfpack are at the bottom of the ACC, failing to even make an NIT appearence.
Best Case Scenario: The Wolfpack finally click and they make a run and sneak into the tournament as a bubble team.
Virginia: The Cavaliers finally moved in a new direction this season as they hired Tony Bennent. Bennett, known for his defensive and half court oriented teams, will be successful at Virginia; it's just a matter of how fast. They had a lot of young talent on the court last season and we'll see if Bennett can utilize it better.
Key OOC games: South Florida, vs Stanford, vs Cleveland St, Penn State, at Auburn
Worst Case Scenario: The Cavs look too young and they can't learn Bennett's system that fast and fall to the bottom of the ACC
Best Case Scenario: The team is an instant success in Bennett's system and they become the pest of the ACC, and make the big dance.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies have plenty of talent back but they have had lots of problems early in the year and can't seem to quite make up for it come selection Sunday. The Hokies will try to avoid another early season swoon this year, and try to finally break through to the tournament for the first time in a few years.
Key OOC games: vs. Temple, at Iowa, Georgia, at Penn State, vs. Seton Hall
Worst Case Scenario: The same old tune is written for the Hokies and the loss of Vassallo is worse than they thought. They have some moments where they look great but another NIT.
Best Case Scenario: The Hokies finally don't trip early, and they play solid in conference, and make the trip to the big dance and win a game.
Wake Forest: The team that lost the most talent from a year ago might have been Wake Forest, but doesn't mean there isn't a lot leftover. The Deacs looked like a legit Final Four team in January, but then faltered down the stretch.
Dino Gaudio stills needs to prove himself and by sending this Deacon team to the tournament, it might be just what the doctor ordered.
Key OOC games: at Purdue, at Gonzaga, Xavier
Worst Case Scenario: The Deacons of February and March continue to show in Winston-Salem and they don't do enough and end up in the NIT.
Best Case Scenario: The Deacons still have enough talent to be a top 25 team and they prove it, by finishing third in the ACC and making it to the Sweet 16.
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