Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

ACC Preview #9-#12

Posted by Tommy on October 23, 2008

The ACC has been the heart of East Coast basketball for as long as any of us can remember. Until recently, that is. The ACC has taken a slight back seat in terms of overall strength to the new and improved Big East after its expansion in 2005. It still has college basketball’s best team as well as the sports best rivalry and is probably the deepest conference in the land. Most of the teams like to play a fast-paced, explosive style and have the athletes to do so.

There are three or four teams that have separated themselves from the pack, but below them is a group of teams with pretty even talent levels. Just like Zach is doing for the Big East and Pat will do for the Pac-10, I’ll do an in-depth preview of each team, starting with the bottom and eventually ending with the best team in the conference. Here are the bottom four teams of the ACC:

12. Virginia Cavaliers– Coach: Dave Leitao (4th season)

Backcourt: The Cavs have been driven by their backcourt play over the past couple of years with players like J.R. Reynolds and Sean Singletary. Now that they’re gone, Leitao is going to have to find production from other guards. The primary threats from this year’s backcourt are versatile G/F Mamadi Diane and athletic junior guard Calvin Baker. Diane has several tools to beat defenders but needs to become more consistent if he truly wants to be the leader of this squad. Baker really came on towards the end of last season as a two guard but will probably end up running the point this season. Even though the loss of Singletary was a big blow to the backcourt, they’re probably going to have to provide most of the scoring again this season. Grade: C-

Frontcourt: As I said before, the backcourt is going to have to make up for the lack of productivity from the frontcourt. Well that was an understatement. The leading returning scorer for the frontcourt is 6-9 forward Jamil Tucker who averaged 5.2 PPG last season. After him the next leading scorer is 6-9 F/C Jerome Meyinesse with 1.9 PPG last year. Other than these two, nobody from last year’s frontcourt averaged more than 1 PPG. 6-11 freshman John Brandenburg (#16 Center according to is going to have to step in right away and contribute, perhaps even start for Leitao. Overall, there is minimal game experience in this frontcourt but Brandenburg is a promising freshman. Grade: D-

Bottom Line: UVA has been in the basement of the ACC the past couple of seasons and things aren’t looking too bright in Charlottesville in 08-09. Diane is the only senior with major game experience on the roster and is going to have to shoulder the load the entire year. It’s a shame for Leitao, the winner of the 2007 ACC Coach of the Year, to keep going downhill. He certainly has some rebuilding to do to bring the Cavaliers back to the top of the ACC.

Starting Lineup:
G- Calvin Baker (JR)
G- Mamadi Diane (SR)
F- Mike Scott (SO)
F- Jamil Tucker (JR)
C- John Brandenburg (FR)

Key Non-Conference Games: 11/28 @ Syracuse, 12/2 @ Minnesota, 1/3 vs. Xavier
Key Conference Games: 1/10 @ Va. Tech, @ Maryland 1/20, 2/18 Va. Tech, 2/26 Miami
Most Valuable Player: Mamadi Diane
Projected Postseason Tournament: none

11. Florida State Seminoles– Coach: Leonard Hamilton (7th season)

Backcourt: Guard Toney Douglas is one of the most dangerous guards in the conference. He averaged 15.4 PPG and 2.6 SPG last season, showing that he not only has the ability to score but takes pride in his defense and knows how to put his hands on the ball. Douglas is going to be a one-man show in the backcourt considering the other five guards on the roster consist of four underclassmen and a rarely used senior. JUCO transfer Derwin Kitchen is the likely candidate to start alongside Douglas but until somebody proves themselves capable of playing a large part of the game there will probably be somewhat of a rotation at the two guard. Grade: C

Frontcourt: Although young, this frontcourt is going to be quite explosive. 6-11 F/C Xavier Gibson and 6-9 F Chris Singleton, both incoming freshmen, are going to get big chunks of playing time whether they’re starting or coming off the bench. They’ll experience some growing pains when going up against the stronger frontcourts of teams like North Carolina and Wake Forest, but once these two get experience in ACC play they’ll be one of the better frontcourt tandems in the ACC over the next couple of years. Last year’s leading rebounder (7.3 RPG) Uche Echefu along with junior Ryan Reid, who shot 53.1% from the field last year, will be the experienced leaders of this frontcourt. Grade: C+

Bottom Line: Hamilton and the Seminoles are in a period of rebuilding and have some nice freshmen to do so. As for this year, seniors Douglas and Echefu are the only returning double-digit scorers from 07-08 and are going to have to carry Florida State until these freshmen acclimate themselves. This team will be explosive with their abundance of athleticism, making them an upset threat in the ACC, but they lost a lot of talent from a team that went 7-9 in the ACC last year.

Starting Lineup:
G- Toney Douglas (SR)
G- Derwin Kitchen (SO)
F- Ryan Reid (JR)
F- Uche Echefu (SR)
F/C- Xavier Gibson (FR)

Key Non-Conference Games: 12/7 vs. Florida, 12/21 vs. Pittsburgh
Key Conference Games: 1/10 vs. Duke, 1/21 @ Miami, 2/28 vs. Clemson
Most Valuable Player: Tony Douglas
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI

10. North Carolina State Wolfpack- Coach: Sidney Lowe (3rd Season)

Backcourt: In December of last season, point guard Farnold Degand went down with an injury and the whole Wolfpack team seemed to go down with him, losing their last nine games. Degand will be back running the point this season as a junior and will likely get some help from sophomore Javier Gonzalez, who was sparatic during his time at the point as a frosh. There is plenty of hype on campus around the incoming freshmen for Sidney Lowe. Although they’re not overly heralded, guard Julius Mays, who could potentially run the point, and forward C.J. Williams look to get significant minutes. G/F Courtney Fells will be playing either in the two or three spot for Lowe. No matter where he is, this team is going to look for him to provide much of the offense. Grade: C-

Frontcourt: Last season there was an interesting dynamic amongst the big men of NC State. Brandon Costner looked like he was going to be one of the ACC’s premier big men after his phenomenal freshman campaign. However, the arrival of stud freshman J.J. Hickson not only hurt Costner’s numbers, but it seemed as though he just wasn’t emotionally in the game on every possession. Now that Hickson is gone, it’s going to be interesting to see how Costner plays. If he improves on the numbers he put up freshman year, which I think he will, he could be the explosive ACC forward most thought he was going to be. As for the other big men, Ben McCauley has always been a tough but undersized post player. He put up decent numbers last season, but will have to improve on those numbers to solidify this frontcourt. The tallest players on the roster are 6-9 and none of them have much shot-blocking ability at all. This lack of a big presence in the paint will definitely hurt them on the defensive end, but both McCauley and Costner can step out and hit the jumper, making them pretty tough to guard. Grade: C+

Bottom Line: If the Wolfpack gets good play from their point guard and if Costner improves on his numbers from his freshman season, they’ll probably be better than a tenth place team. With that said, the Wolfpack’s lack of size, depth and a proven point guard are going to hinder them all season. It’s going to take a couple of years for Lowe and the Wolfpack to become a quality ACC team.

Starting Lineup:
G- Farnold Degand (JR)
G- Courtney Fells (SR)
G- Tracy Smith (SO)
F- Brandon Costner (JR)
F- Ben McCauley (SR)

Key Non-Conference Games: 12/6 @ Davidson, 12/22 vs. Marquette, 1/3 @ Florida
Key Conference Games: 1/17 vs. Ga. Tech, 1/24 @ Boston College, 1/8 @ Va. Tech
Most Valuable Player: Courtney Fells
Projected Postseason: CBI

9. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets- Coach: Paul Hewitt (9th season)

Backcourt: I really like the structure of the Ramblin’ Wreck’s backcourt this season. They have three guards who all specialize in different facets of the the game. D’Andre Bell is the epitome of a lock-down defender and is arguably the best perimeter defender in the country. Lewis Clinch has a well-rounded offensive game and can score in many different ways. Maurice Miller is a solid young point guard and will improve on his run of the mill numbers from his freshman year at the point. Then there’s the emotional spark from Matt Causey off of the bench. Causey has a knack for the big shots and is scrappy guard who isn’t afraid of anybody. He’ll provide a change of pace at the point from the quiet Mo Miller. If Miller doesn’t hold up at the point, look for Causey to take control of Hewitt’s offense. In addition to these returning players, incoming freshman Iman Shumpert gives this backcourt plenty of depth. Grade: B

Frontcourt: The losses of Jeremis Smith and Ra’Sean Dickey from a team that already struggles rebounding is really going to hurt Georgia Tech’s frontline. However, the Yellow Jackets still have plenty of solid big men. Sophomore Gani Lawal is an athletic specimen with a huge wingspan and enormous leaping ability who should get increased playing time, increasing his numbers. He just needs to add some muscle and get tougher down low in order to become a better rebounder, and if he realizes his potential he can be a First Team All-ACC player. Another key player on Hewitt’s frontline is Zack Peacock. Although somewhat less talented than Lawal, Peacock will do all of the little things correctly and has a versatile offensive game. If either of these two get into foul trouble, which is a very likely scenario, Alade Aminu is a very capable post player off of the bench. Sophomore 7-footer Brad Sheehan provides a big presence in the paint for this frontline. No matter who is in there, this unit needs to rebound better and block some more shots than they did last season. Grade: B-

Bottom Line: The Yellow Jackets always seem to have a great squad on paper but underperform their expectations. This roster has plenty of talent in their starters and first couple of reserves, but after that there isn’t much. It’ll be interesting to see how Hewitt’s squad does this season. They have the potential to reach as high as fifth or sixth place, but if this team gets in a hole early in the season, they’re not likely to climb themselves out. Also, they have to learn how to win on the road. The Yellow Jackets are a dangerous team on their homecourt, but until they learn to play on the road it’ll be tough to succeed in the ACC.

Starting Lineup:
G- Maurice Miller (SO)
G- D’Andre Bell (SR)
G- Lewis Clinch (SR)
F- Zach Peacock (JR)
F/C- Gani Lawal (SO)

Key Non-Conference Games: 12/6 vs. Vanderbilt, 12/22 @ USC, 1/3 @ Alabama
Key Conference Games: 1/10 @ Maryland, 1/20 vs. Boston College, 2/22 vs. Clemson, 3/4 vs. Miami
Most Valuable Player: D’Andre Bell
Projected Postseason: NIT (2nd or 3rd round)

Numbers 7 and 8 should be up on Saturday afternoon.

One Response to “ACC Preview #9-#12”

  1. […] Carolina 2. Duke 3. Wake Forest 4. Miami 5. Virginia Tech 6. Clemson 7. Maryland 8. Boston College 9. Georgia Tech 10. North Carolina State 11. Flordia State 12. […]

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