ACC Men's Basketball 2008-09 Preview - Part One: The Bottom Three

Daniel DamicoCorrespondent IOctober 19, 2008

The Atlantic Coastal Conference is always in the argument of which conference plays the best basketball.  And rightfully so.  With schools such as UNC, Duke, Wake Forrest, Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Clemson, Maryland and Florida State, the ACC houses some of the best teams in the country, as well as a number of NBA prospects.

I will take a look at the ACC in four groups. In each group I will give a snapshot of three schools and preview their teams. I will start with the bottom three and work are way up to North Carolina who we all know are the best.

Once we have finished our team preview, I will give you my All ACC-Team as well as my predictions for the individual awards.

The Bottom Three

Conference Rank: 10
North Carolina State Wolfpack
Head Coach: Sydney Lowe
2007-08 Record: 15-16 (4-12 ACC)

2008-09 Roster
Key Losses: F - 6-8 J.J Hickson, F - 6-8 Gavin Grant
Key Additions: G - 6-2 Fr. Julius Mays , F - 6-5 Fr. C.J. Williams
Starting Line-Up
G - Farnold Degand Jr. 6-3 6.9 ppg, 3.2 apg
G - Courtney Fells Sr. 6-6 10.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg
G - Tracy Smith Jr. 6-5 3.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg
F - Brandon Costner Jr. 6-9 8.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg
F - Ben McCauley Sr. 6-9 6.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg
J.J. Hickson’s early exit and Gavin Grant's gaduation leaves a large gap (27.9 ppg and 13 rpg) in the front court of the Wolfpack's starting line-up. Brandon Costner will have to return to the form of his sophomore season and Ben McCauley will just have to be better and assume some leadership on a young and inexperienced team.

Courtney Fells shot 45% from behind the arc and he might need to find other ways to score if Costner and McCauley can not pick-up the slack.

Point guard play will be an adventure for the Wolfpack. Farnold Degand started strong, but feel to injury and Javie Gonzalez had a hard time competing in his freshmen year. Look for a combination of Degand, Gaonzalez, and freshman Julius Mays. Mays will see plenty of minutes and could crack the starting line-up if there are problems.
The short-term does not look good for the Wolfpack. Head Coach Sydney Lowe is only three games over .500 at NC State and this team will not help improve his record. If Costner and McCauley struggle, so will NC State. If the point guards struggle, so will NC State. If they all struggle, the will be hard pressed to win 10 games.


Conference Rank: 11
Florida State Seminoles
Head Coach: Leonard Hamilton
2007-08 Record: 19-15 (7-9 ACC)
2008-09 Roster
Key Losses: G - 6-3 Jason Rich, G - 6-3 Ralph Mims, G - 6-2 Isaiah Swann, F/C - 6-10 Julain Vaighn, F - 6-7 Matt Zitani
Key Additions: F - 6-9 Fr. Chris Singleton, G - 6-5 Fr. Luke Loucks, F - 6-4 So. Derwin kitchen
Starting Line-Up
G - Toney Douglas Sr. 6-1 15.4 ppg, 2.8 apg
G - Derwin Kitchen So. 6-4
F - Chris Singleton Fr. 6-4
F - Uche Echefu Sr. 6-8 10 ppg, 7.3 rpg
C - Solomon Alabi Fr. 7-1 3.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg
Everyone jump on Toney Douglas’ shoulders. Having lost 42 points a game and 15 rebounds a game, the Seminoles will need Douglas to lead this team and up his 15 ppg.
Uche Echefu is the only other returning starter from last season and should have the opportunity to be a double-double threat every game.
Chris Singleton is a McDonalds’s All-American who has the ability to shoot the three and get to the rim. He will be asked to contribute from the beginning of the season.
After missing 10 games last season, Solomon Alabi was granted a medical hardship and he retains his freshmen status. Alabi’s ability to get off the floor will affect the Seminoles at both ends of the court, but his skills will be needed more on the defensive end.
All-American junior college transfer Derwin Kitchen should provide solid play at the point, allowing Douglas to move to his natural position of shooting guard.
Watch out for Luke Loucks. At 6-5, he is a mismatch at point guard and has no problem distributing the ball. He should come off the bench, but might also challenge for the starting spot.
Rebuilding? Yes. Time to abandon ship? Not yet. This Florida State team will win a couple games and should give a game to the teams at the top of the conference. Do not wait for them to make a run into the NCAA tournament, but they should settle back nicely into the NIT. The only way to go is up for FSU.

Conference Rank: 12
Virginia Cavaliers
Head Coach: Dave Leitao
2007-08 Record: 17-16 (5-11 ACC)
2008-09 Roster
Key Losses: G - 6-0 Sean Singletary, F - 6-7 Adrian Joseph, F - 6-8 Laurynas Mikalauskas
Key Additions: G - 6-6 Fr. Sylven Landesberg, C - 7-0 Fr. Assane Sene, C - 6-11 Fr. John Brandenburg
Starting Line-up
G - Jeff Jones Sr. 6-4 4.8 ppg,
G - Sammy Zeglinski Fr. 6-0 8.6 ppg, 2.3 apg
F - Mamadi Diane Sr. 6-5 11.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg
F - Mike Scott So. 6-8 5.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg
F - Jamil Tucker Jr. 6-8 5.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg

The Virginia Cavaliers will rely heavily on freshmen to support Mamadi Diane as he takes over the leadership role left by Sean Singletary. Diane’s scoring will no doubt increase with more shots that will come his way.
Jeff Jones’ production should go up given he will have more chances, but he needs to increase his three-point shooting which was only 36 percent.
The only frontcourt returning player is Mike Scott. At 6-8 he is a strong rebounder who will need to score more.
Jamil Tucker is a physical presence who will see more time and Sammy Zeglinski will start at the point after an injury filled season. He has excellent ball handling skills and is quick off the dribble.
Look for freshmen Sylven Landesberg to take a hold of the sixth man spot and work his way into the starting line-up.
The Cavs only won five ACC games last season with Sean Singletary. What are they going to do without him? I am hoping that the team will lift its play to make-up the production void left by the star, like Texas did when Kevin Durant left. You know what I mean. I do not expect them to break .500, but they could play the spoiler. This team is young and will be experimenting with tactics and variations of line-ups to help solidify next season.