To build on what Zach did for the Big East, I decided that I would do a report on another major east coast conference. The ACC is always in the top 3 for Conference RPI, and this year shouldn’t be any different as they hoist top teams in Duke, Wake Forest, and North Carolina (ranked number one in almost every preseason poll).
NC State- Probably the biggest letdown team of the ACC last season was NC State, and the losses of J.J. Hickson and Gavin Grant will certainly hurt, but three of the top five scorers from last season are returning in: Courtney Fells (10.6 PPG), Brandon Costner (8.5 PPG), and Farnold Degand (6.9 PPG). Sydney Lowe got two good recruits, the best being Julius Mays who will probably see some major time at point guard this season. Although a lot of the pieces are returning, nothing can be expected yet from the Wolfpack at this point. As for non-conference games, NC State is the sole team left out of the B10/ACC Challenge, but could possibly have a game with Marquette at home.
Wake Forest- I still can’t give enough credit to Dino Gaudio for what he has done at Wake Forest after Skip Prosser’s tragic death. It looked like a terrible situation that may drive recruits away but Gaudio got one of the best classes in the nation for the Demon Deacons. Al-Farouq Aminu (small forward) is projected to be the best player in the class but fellow freshman Tony Woods (center) and Ty Walker (center) are not at all far behind. James Johnson and Jeff Teague will be one of the best forward-guard combos in the conference and will do a lot of the scoring, taking a lot of the weight off of the freshmen.
Maryland- Gary Williams job is certainly in jeopardy this upcoming season, and the losses of Bambale Osby and James Gist (Gist is now with the San Antonio Spurs) will hurt a team that has little size. They will have to use the quickness of Greivis Vasquez to score points. Eric Hayes will be an experienced outside threat, and they also got a great driving guard in recruit Sean Mosley. Maryland plays in the Old Spice Classic and drew Michigan State in the first round which probably means an early exit for the Terps, but there is some good news in the non-conference portion of Maryland’s schedule: they will take on Michigan at home for the B10/ACC challenge.
Georgia Tech- I really thought this team was back on the right track when they got big time recruits Thaddeus Young and Javarris Crittenton, but they both were “one-and-done’s” and for the first time in my memory Tech was the second best team in Georgia. Zack Peacock will be expected to lead this team along with freshman point guard Iman Shumpert. The Yellow Jackets lost their two leading scorers but just got a transfer from St. Francis University (PA) that was granted immediate eligibility; his name is Bassirou Dieng and he averaged 10.7 PPG and 6.6 RPG for the Red Flash last season. Don’t expect much from this year’s Georgia Tech squad, but it is the ACC and you could see them pull a couple of upsets at home.
Miami- When was the last time the Miami basketball team was picked to do better than their football team? After a great run last year and a win in the NCAA tournament over Saint Mary’s, Jack McClinton and the Miami hoops team have given basketball fans in southern Florida something to look forward to (they certainly can’t be looking forward to South Florida’s season). Other key players like James Dews, Brian Asbury and Dwayne Collins return and are expected to be a great supporting cast for McClinton who averaged 17.7 PPG last season while earning himself first team All-ACC honors. This season Miami should be in the top three in the ACC and somewhere around the top 15 in the national polls. If McClinton’s supporting cast can play better than expected you could see a 3/4 seed for Miami in next year’s NCAA tournament.
Florida State- Once again, Florida State got a great recruiting class but the problems lately haven’t been getting good freshmen, it’s been transferring over that talent to winning games on the court. Last year wasn’t terrible as they finished 7-9 in ACC play and had a good showing against Akron in the NIT. Toney Douglas will lead this team once again, along with Uche Echefu and the stellar recruits Chris Singleton and Xavier Gibson. The Seminoles are a dark horse to make the NCAA tournament, but they have to have consistent play in the ACC. For instance, they took UNC to overtime, but also lost to NC State on their home court. If FSU plays with more consistency you could see a top six finish in the ACC.