Players to Watch: Atlantic Coast Conference

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Players to Watch: Atlantic Coast Conference
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The third installment of the "Players to Watch" segment, this time featuring the Atlantic Coast Conference.  No light introduction this time, just right to the players.

Jordan Williams, Maryland Terrapins

Most people probably did not notice the eight double-doubles that Jordan Williams had last season, due to the nightly shows Greivis Vasquez put on.  

With Vasquez having graduated and moved on to the NBA, it's time for this rising sophomore to step up and lead the Terps in the ACC.  

Williams enters the season as the best returning rebounder in the ACC, and could easily retain that title for next year.  At 260 pounds, Williams is a commanding physical presence who essentially can do whatever he wants in the paint.

With Vasquez's huge offensive presence missing now, Williams offensive game should blossom this season as well, and should create a scary front court.

Nolan Smith, Duke Blue Devils

Nolan Smith has always been a solid player for Duke, but really broke out out in conference play last year.  Though never averaging more than 10 points per game before last season, Smith finished in the top five points per game, as well as top 10 steals per game.

Duke relied upon Smith for offense in almost every game, and two of their five losses came when Smith was held to 13 or fewer points (although, it helps that Smith was only held to single digits twice all season).

With the departure of Jon Scheyer, Smith needs to continue the consistency on offense, but he should have plenty of help from Seth Curry as well as "diaper dandy" Kyrie Irving.

Larry Drew II, North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina did not have a notable season last year whatsoever.  However, Larry Drew, only a sophomore, led the conference in assists and had an outstanding assist-turnover ratio.

There were and are plenty of things the Tar Heels need to work on to improve, and Drew is by no means perfect, but he can be their leader to get better.

Though not a great scorer, Drew is an excellent passer with great vision, and should have a new target to look for next season.  This potential combination could bring back the North Carolina that most of the country is used to seeing.

Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech Hokies

Malcolm Delaney is the ultimate combo guard in the ACC, finishing first in points per game and top five in assists per game.

That feat alone in any conference should make you a "player to watch," but it helps that he did it in an extremely competitive ACC.

Delaney threw down 30 or more points five times last season, and in one of those games, he even had nine assists.

Truly a remarkable scorer, Delaney is perhaps the biggest offensive threat in the ACC, and the Hokies should be even better this season after losing only two players (maybe the NCAA will take notice when March rolls around as well).

Freshman to Watch: Harrison Barnes, North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina may not have had a good year on the court, but they had a great year off the court.

Leading their strong (as always) recruiting class this season is Harrison Barnes.  The highest ranked small forward in 2010's recruiting class, Barnes is noted as an excellent scorer, a solid rebounder, a smart defender, and a more than capable passer.

Barnes is what some may call "the total package."  Yes, you guessed it if you realized that this is the potentially scary combination involving Larry Drew, along with the still developing John Henson, a sophomore.

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