With the start of official practice last week, hopes are high across the nation. Fans are dreaming of championships, while players are dreaming of the eternal immortality that is college basketball glory.
With the ACC ending last season on top of the basketball world with Duke's national championship victory, this year looks to be another competitive year within the conference.
UNC looks to come back from a poor season and everyone has one common goal—to win the ACC Championship.
So, without further ado, here are my preseason ACC power rankings.
With a 5-11 record in conference and an overall tally of 15-16 in 2010, the Virginia Cavaliers don´t seem to be poised to improve on those numbers.
With Sylven Landesberg leaving the team after his sophomore season to pursue a professional career, the Cavaliers are going into the season without many significant offensive threats. Landesberg scored 17.3 points per game for the Cavs last season, with the next leading scorer, Mike Scott, adding 12 per game.
With only three seniors and seven freshmen rounding out the roster, it could be another tough year in the rebuilding process for Virginia.
Coming off of a 21-win season in 2009-10, the Tigers will be hurt by the loss of Trevor Booker, one of the top players in the ACC last year. Booker averaged 15.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game for Clemson. Without him, the Tigers will turn to his younger brother, Devin, and Jerai Grant to fill his large shoes.
The top returning player for Clemson is senior guard Demontez Stitt. Last season Stitt accounted for 11.4 points per game with a three point field goal percentage of 39.3. Despite his talent and poise for a big year, it doesn't seem like Clemson will have enough skill inside to make waves in the conference this season.
With a seventh place finish in the ACC in 2009-10, expectations shouldn't be quite as high for the 2010-11 season. The loss of Derrick Favors, Gani Lawal, Zachary Peacock, and D'Andre Bell leaves the Yellow Jackets with only one player who averaged more than 20 minutes a game of playing time last season, Iman Shumpert.
Iman averaged a solid 10 points and 3.6 rebounds per game last season. Georgia Tech will look to some inexperienced returning players and Jason Morris, the 87th overall ranked recruit in the class of 2010 to contribute if they expect to compete in ACC play.
Wake Forest's tournament hopes looked fairly bright until a match-up with Kentucky ended their 2009-10 season. The Demon Deacons went 9-7 in conference play last season, good for fifth in the ACC. Wake will have to replace a lot of talent if they want to contend this season. Wake Forest lost Al-Farouq Aminu, Ishmael Smith, L.D Williams, and Chase McFarland heading into play in 2010. Aminu averaged almost 16 points and 11 rebounds in 2009-10. Overall Wake is losing over 45 points and 28 rebounds per game.
C.J Harris and Ari Stewart are the teams best returning players and should average over 10 points per game each. With five freshman and Gary Clark as their lone senior, the Demon Deacons will be young and could run into some experience related trouble during the course of the season.
Maryland was one of the best teams in the country last season, missing out on a trip to the final four because of a two point loss to Michigan State in the elite eight. This year the Terps head into the season with a big question mark, will they be able to get over the loss of Greivis Vasquez, Landon Milbourne, and Eric Hayes? All three averaged over 11 points per game, with Vasquez putting up almost 20. Not only were they talented, but they were the heart and soul of the team, providing key senior leadership.
Maryland's Sean Mosley and Jordan Williams will have to step up this season if Maryland expects to make the NCAA Tournament. Jordan Williams emerged last year as one of the best young forwards in the ACC, ending the season, with almost 10 points and 9 rebounds per game. Though its hard to be sure about Maryland's chances, never rule out a Gary Williams coached team.
While the losses of James Dews and Dwayne Collins will hurt the Hurricanes, Miami is looking to crawl their way out of cellar where they finished the 2009-10 season. Dews averaged 11.5 points per game with a field goal percentage of 45. Dwayne Collins rounded out the campaign with 12 points and 7.8 rebounds per game along with a 60% mark from the floor.
Durand Scott, Malcolm Grant, and Reggie Johnson return as the canes most productive players. Along with 68th ranked recruit Rion Brown, Miami should be solid in the backcourt this season and could pull off some upsets around the conference.
During the 2009-10 season the Eagles finished with a mediocre 15-16 overall record, including a 6-10 mark within the ACC. Though they had a disappointing year, BC looks to rebound this season. With no major losses coming into the season, the Eagles will rely on Joe Trapani, Reggie Jackson, and Corey Raji to bear the brunt of the load.
All three have proved they can play at a high level and this year have a chance to get back to the NCAA tournament and even make a run for the top five in the ACC. First, they will have to adjust to new head coach Steve Donahue, who led the Cornell Big Red to the sweet 16 in last years NCAA Tournament.
After a very strong 2009-10 season, finishing with 22 overall wins, the Seminoles look to continue their winning ways in 2010-11. After losing 7 foot 1 inch Solomon Alabi, Florida State will continue to look toward Chris Singleton to be one of the best big guys in the league. With his size and strength, Singleton is able to dominate a game on the blocks. Also, Michael Snaer will look to improve on a solid freshman year, averaging almost nine points a game.
Florida State has also added more young talent with their most recent recruiting class. Ian Miller and Okaro White are both four star recruits who will be counted on to let their presence be known throughout the upcoming season.
After a bit of a recruiting lull for the Wolfpack, Sidney Lowe came through with a bang for the 2010-11 season. NC State bolsters a freshman class of highly touted stars. All three of their recruits, Lorenzo Brown, Ryan Harrow, and C.J Leslie, are ranked within the top 40 recruits in their class. Furthermore, the Wolfpack returns three of their four most productive players during the 2009-10 season.
Tracy Smith, who averaged over 16 points per game and 7 rebounds last season, will be one of the best forwards in the ACC this year as the Wolfpack should make a run into the NCAA Tournament.
The Hokies finished last season fourth in the ACC with a 10-6 conference record. This year, their talent has been recognized by the coaches as they have been ranked No. 23 in the preseason coaches poll. Virginia Tech is going to look to their experienced players to guide them to their goal of a run in the NCAA Tournament. The Hokies are returning all seven of their players who averaged over ten minutes per game on the court last season.
Of these returnees, the best is by far Malcolm Delaney. Delaney averaged 20.2 points, 3.7 boards, and 4.5 assists per game during his junior season and is poised to be one of the best guards in the country this season. Look for Virginia Tech to be in the hunt for the ACC crown all season long.
The Tar heels will hope to return to their usual form after a 20-17 season. Ranked No. 9 in the country in the preseason coaches poll, UNC will turn to top rated recruit Harrison Barnes to bolster their ability on the wing. Along with Barnes, the Tar Heels picked up Reggie Bullock, the top ranked shooting guard in the 2010 recruiting class. UNC continues to add talent to an already strong roster.
Don't expect the Tar Heels to flounder like last season, they will get back to their old ways to compete for the ACC championship.
Duke could be the most complete team in the NCAA this season. After winning their fourth national title in school history last season, the Blue Devils might be even better this year. Duke will miss the play of Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas, and Brian Zoubek, but expect to replace them with Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, a more seasoned Andre Dawkins, and the Plumlee brothers.
Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler will be two of the most productive players in the NCAA this year. Last season Smith averaged 17.4 points per game, while Singler averaged 17.7 points and 7 rebounds per game. Singler is also an early favorite for ACC player of the year.
With the season still approaching, the ACC conference championship is Duke's to lose.