ACC Men's Basketball 2008-09 Preview, Part Three: Tigers, Wake, and the Hokies

Daniel DamicoCorrespondent INovember 10, 2008

In Part Three of four looks at the ACC, I break down Clemson, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech.

In the next and last installment, I will have my All-ACC Awards, as well as the top three teams in the conference.

1. UNC
2. Duke
3. Miami
4. Clemson
5. Wake Forest
6. Virginia Tech

7. Georgia Tech
8. Boston College
9. Maryland
10. North Carolina Sate
11. Florida State
12. Virginia

Conference Rank: 4
Clemson Tigers
Head Coach: Oliver Purnell
2007-08 Recap: 24-10 (4-12 ACC)
2008-09 Roster
Key Losses: G 6’3” Cliff Hammonds, F 6’8” James Mays, F 6’5” Sam Perry
Key Additions: G 5’9” Fr. Andre Young, C 7’1” Fr. Catalin Baciu, G/F 6’5” Fr. Tanner Smith, F 6’6” Bryan Narcisse
Starting Lineup
G Demontez Stitt 6’2” So. 8.8ppg, 3.0 apg
G Terrence Oglesby 6’2” So. 10.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg
F K.C. Rivers 6’5” Sr. 14.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg
F Trevor Booker 6’7” Jr. 11 ppg, 7.3 rpg
C Raymond Sykes 6’9” Sr. 4.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg

K.C. Rivers showed he is capable of doing everything. While leading the team in scoring, he was second on the team in rebounding and assists per game. He will be the leader for the Tigers and should compete for All-ACC accolades.
Super quick sophomore Demontez Stitt showed he could handle ACC competition in his freshman year. Not only can he find open looks for others, he will get to the basket with ease when needed.
In his first season, long distance bomber Terrence Oglesby proved he could make the big shots. After scoring 24.4 ppg with the Under-20 Norwegian National team this summer—he has dual citizenship—he will work to bring that scoring average aboard his second year and evolve his game to be dangerous from anywhere on the court, not just behind the three-point line.
Trevor Booker will not have James Mays to keep opponents from double-teaming in the post, but Booker will still be the primary post presence. His scoring average should go up, and Booker should end up with quite a few double-doubles.
Senior Raymond Sykes will not be a scoring threat like Booker. He will be needed to block shots, crash the boards and throw down the occasional lob pass. Sykes has exceptional jumping ability.
Incoming freshmen will be slotted into backup roles. Andre Young is an outstanding shooter from distance and was a Top-100 recruit out of high school.
Offense can wait for Catalin Baciu, but his shot blocking will be felt immediately, and Jerai Grant will continue to develop and see more minutes.

What a year for the Clemson Tigers. They finished the regular season in third place in the ACC, beat Duke in the ACC tournament, and lost to UNC by only five points in the championship game.
So what does Clemson do to continue the success? Shoot better from the free throw line. As a team they shot only 62 percent from the charity stripe—only three players shot over 70 percent from the line—while shooting 37 percent from three. Improving in both would likely lock up at least two more wins.
This team has quality options on offense. They have good post play and great perimeter shooters.
The major question is on defense. Last season the Tigers outscored their opponents 79-69 and outrebounded them by only two rebounds per game. Look for Clemson to try to outscore the other team, not shut them down.

The Tigers will again compete to play in the ACC tournament championship game while making a push into the top three in the regular season.

Conference Rank: 5
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Head Coach: Dino Gaudio
2007-08 Recap: 17-13 (7-9 ACC)
2008-09 Roster
Key Losses: None
Key Additions: F 6’8” Fr. Al-Farouq Aminu, C 7’0” Fr. Ty Walker, F 6’10” Fr. Tony Woods
Starting Lineup
G Ishmael Smith 6’0” Jr. 8.6 ppg, 4.7 apg
G Jeff Teague 6’2” So. 13.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg
F Al-Farouq Aminu 6’9” Fr. 23.1 ppg, 11.2 rpg *High School Stats
F James Johnson 6’8” So. 14.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg
C Chas McFarland 7’0” Jr. 8.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg

While the Demon Deacons have a top five recruiting class, this team is still James Johnson's. Johnson is an elite athlete who is extremely versatile. But this Wake Forest team is extremely talented, and his averages could dip as the shots will be more spread through out the team. In the clutch, though, the ball will be in his hands.
Point guard Ishmael Smith's free throw shooting issues are a well-documented liability. Shooting 29 percent from the charity stripe and 43 from the field is unbelievable as a backcourt player. He is a pass-first point guard who has a ton of talent that needs their shots.
Jeff Teague is a scorer and got better in conference play. He was the only double figure scorer from last season, and he and Smith compliment each other very well.

Stud freshman Al-Farouq Aminu will have high expectations, but he will be given some time to grow. He is a skill player who is very quick off the floor.
There is not shortage of centers on this team. Chas McFarland saw his numbers and minutes jump under Gaudio, but he will be challenged for the starting spot by freshmen Tony Woods and Ty Walker. Both are top-notch defenders with shot blocking ability, but their offensive games need improvement. They will see plenty of time off the bench.
6’4” guard L.D. Williams is the best perimeter defender and will get many chances to shut down players.
Harvey Hale played 23 minutes a game last season. His minutes might depend on how steadily Smith is able to play.

This team is very tough to feel out. The Demon Deacons are obviously talented individually, but how will they play together as a team?
The team has depth and height in the frontcourt, but finding a rotation would a problem most coaches would like to have. Yet it is a problem. With three impact freshmen and a player in Johnson who will complete for Player of the Year honors, minutes could be hard to find.
The Demon Deacons are on their way back to the top of the ACC, and I really think they could end up anywhere from second to seventh in the conference. Ultimately, they are too talented to finish in the bottom half.  If they can find that perfect mix, they could make a run deep into March.

Conference Rank: 6
Virginia Tech Hokies
Head Coach: Seth Greenberg
2007-08 Recap: 21-14 (9-7 ACC)
2008-09 Roster
Key Losses: F 6’7” Deron Washington
Key Additions: F 6’9” Fr. Victor Davila, C 6’11” Fr. Gene Swindle
Starting Line-up
G Malcolm Delaney 6’3” So. 9.6 ppg, 3.1 apg
G A.D. Vassallo 6’6” Sr. 16.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg
F J.T. Thompson 6’6” So. 5.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg
F Jeff Allen 6’7” So. 11.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg
C Cheick Diakite 6’9” Sr. 1.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg

It is now or never for A.D. Vassallo. This team will need him to take the leadership role and continue to expand his scoring. At 6’6”, Vassallo is a matchup problem for most guards in the ACC. He is a volume scorer and is dangerous behind the arc.
Point guard Malcolm Delaney is the third option in this offense, but he might be the most important. He was the Hokies' best shooter from distance, shooting 40 percent last season.
The second wing spot could go to a number of players, but J.T. Thompson adds hustle and takes up space. He will never get shots in the offense but should get some buckets cleaning up.
Jeff Allen had a freshman season filled up moments of good and bad. The good was his production on the court. The bad was his weight and a suspension after making contact with an official. Coach Greenberg has been hard on him regarding his conditioning, but that should improve.

Multiply players could step in at center, and while he lacks an offensive game, the defense of Cheick Diakite is what is needed.
Freshman Victor Davila figures to battle for the starting center spot. Having played for the Puerto Rican national team, his game is more sophisticated than most incoming freshmen.
Hank Thorns and Dorenzo Hudson will make up the backcourt support for the Hokies.

Jeff Greenberg will not have the most athletic team in the ACC, but he has some very good “basketball” pieces. He just has to complete the puzzle by finding the right mix of players.
Where this team finishes in the ACC will depend heavily on how consistently Vassallo and Allen can play. There are not a lot of offensive options on this team, but there are plenty of bodies to help out defensively.
Virginia Tech lost one of the best pure athletes in the ACC in Deron Washington but did not do much to replace him. The concern will not only be finding another double figure scorer, but replacing all the other aspects of the game where Washington contributed, especially on defense.
Last season Virginia Tech had the best scoring defense in the ACC, and if they want to win and play in March, they must repeat the feat.