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ACC Week In Review: Nov. 16-23

Posted by Tommy on November 25, 2008

Boston College- Record: 3-1 (2-1 last week) The Eagles looked great after opening their season with three double-digit victories including a 12 point win over Saint John’s. Newcomer Joe Trapani is proving to be a key addition to this Eagles squad with 14.5 PPG to go along with 5.3 RPG. Rice looked like his old self in last week’s wins over Loyola (MD) and St. John’s. But when BC ran into the tight defense of Rick Majerus’ Billikens, Rice struggled mightly from the field in their 53-50 loss to Saint Louis.

Eagles Player of the Week: Joe Trapani- 15 PPG, 5.25 RPG

This Week’s Slate: 11/26 vs. Purdue

Clemson- Record: 5-0 (3-0 last week) Oliver Purnell and the Tigers have shown that they can really put points on the board during the first few games of this young season. They had a 93-40 dismantling of Wofford, but their other two games weren’t so lopsided. On the 16th, they beat Temple by a score of 76-72, a pretty nice neutral floor win over a talented Temple team led by Dionte Christmas. Later in the week, they traveled to Charlotte for a road test against the 49ers. Charlotte gave Clemson a scare, but Rivers and the Tigers showed composure in their nailbiting 71-70 win.

Tigers Player of the Week: K.C. Rivers- 12.3 PPG, 7 RPG and 2 SPG

This Week’s Slate: 11/25 vs. Savannah State, 11/28 vs. Presbyterian

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Duke- Record: 6-0 (4-0 last week) The Dukies have been one of the most impressive teams in the early going. They had a bit of a hiccup at home against Rhode Island but came out unscathed. Duke then went on to win the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic with convincing victories over Southern Illinois and Michigan. Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas look much better than they did last season and Kyle Singler’s added muscle mass is making him a force to be reckoned with down low. Nolan Smith is doing a great job starting at point guard both offensively and defensively.

Blue Devils Player of the Week: Kyle Singler- 15.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 3.8 APG

This Week’s Slate: 11/28 vs. Duquesne

Florida State- Record: 4-0 (3-0 last week) The Noles first week has shown that Toney Douglas needs more support. He’s averaging 22.5 PPG and almost four assists and rebounds per contest. Freshman Chris Singleton is the only other player averaging double figures with 11.3 PPG. This lack of balance has caused Florida State to struggle against teams like La Salle and Stetson. Their first real test is next week at Cincinnati. If Douglas doesn’t get support, the Bearcats have a good chance of downing the Seminoles.

Seminoles Player of the Week: Toney Douglas- 24.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG and 3.3 APG

This Week’s Slate: 11/24 vs. Western Illinois, 11/28 @ Cincinatti

Georgia Tech- Record: 2-0 (1-0 last week) Tech’s lone game this week was an overtime win against Mercer. The Jackets found themselves down by 18 midway through the second half after a 16-0 Mercer run. You can look at this in two ways. The bad side is the fact that this team was losing by 18 to Mercer. The good side is that they used their pressure defense to battle back and force overtime, where they dominated. Every team will face its fair share of adversity over the course of a season and teams are defined by how they deal with this adversity, but should Georgia Tech be down by 18 to Mercer?

Yellow Jackets Player of the Week: Gani Lawal- 27 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks

This Week’s Slate: 11/25 vs. Arkansas Pine-Bluff, 11/28 vs. Jacksonville

Maryland- Record: 3-0 (2-0 last week) Maryland started off the week with a blowout win over Youngstown State. Later in the week, they had a little more trouble with Vermont. Greivis Vasquez hit a fall-away three pointer with six seconds in regulation to send the game into overtime. The Terps hit the ground running in the overtime period, scoring the first 17 points in the extra session. They held on 89-74 to give Gary Williams his 400th victory as a coach at Maryland.

Terrapins Player of the Week: Greivis Vasquez- 27 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 4.5 APG

This Week’s Slate: 11/27 vs. Michigan State, 11/28 vs. Oklahoma State/Gonzaga.

Miami- Record: 2-1 (1-1 last week) Jack McClinton and Dwayne Collins have been running the show so far for the Hurricanes. They’ve combined for 35.3 PPG and Collins has corraled 13 RPG. In their first loss of the season, Frank Haith and the Canes just didn’t have an answer for UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet. He was 8-11 from the field and had seven blocks in their contest. McClinton compiled 27 points while Collins grabbed 14 rebounds, but the Huskies never looked back after they opened a 24-7 lead in the early going.

Hurricanes Player of the Week: Dwayne Collins- 15 PPG and 11.5 RPG

This Week’s Slate: 11/24 vs. San Diego, 11/29 vs. Stetson

North Carolina- Record: 3-0 (2-0 last week) The Heels have played like the best team in the land. They dismantled Kentucky on ESPN without Hansbrough, who had 13 points and seven boards in his first game back. Deon Thompson and Ed Davis have both looked great in the opening three games of the season. UNC sustained another injury after Tyler Zeller broke his wrist, which will likely prevent him from playing at all this season.

Tar Heels Player of the Week: Deon Thompson- 16 PPG and 9.5 PRG

This Week’s Slate: 11/24 @ Chaminade, 11/30 vs. UNC Asheville

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North Carolina State- Record: 2-0 (1-0 last week) The Fells-McCauley-Costner trio is showing what they’re capable of. They’ve combined for 44.5 PPG – over two thirds of NC State’s points – 17 RPG and 5.5 APG in the Wolfpack’s two games this season. NC State’s only game this week was a 69-56 victory over High Point. Their first real test isn’t until they face Davidson in early December.

Wolfpack Player of the Week: Courtney Fells, 23 points

This Week’s Slate: 11/25 vs. Winthrop, 11/30 vs. UNC Greensboro

Virginia- Record 3-0 (3-0 last week) The most surprising player in the ACC thus far has been Cavalier freshman guard Sylven Landesberg. He’s averaging 23.7 PPG and 5.3 RPG after three contests. After downing VMI 107-97, the Cavs have played two games that have come down to two points, a 77-75 victory over South Florida and a 68-66 win over Radford. VMI and South Florida are two decent wins for the consensus bottom team in the ACC. The Cavs have five players in double figures in scoring and forward Mike Scott is almost averaging a double-double.

Cavaliers Player of the Week: Sylven Landesberg- 23.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 2.7 APG

This Week’s Slate: 11/25 vs. Liberty, 11/28 @ Syracuse

Virginia Tech- Record: 3-2 (2-2 last week) I expected the Hokies to surprise a lot of people in the ACC, but Tech’s first couple haven’t been very impressive. They beat Gardner-Webb and Mount Saint Mary’s by a combined eight points and lost to Seton Hall, one of the bottom teams in the Big East. They did lose to a strong Xavier team by way of a half court shot as time expired, giving Tech fans flashbacks to Sean Dockery’s game-winner. Jeff Allen, Malcolm Delaney and A.D Vassallo all have over 16 PPG, but the next highest scorer is Cheick Diakite with 4.8 PPG. Somebody needs to step up for Seth Greenberg or the Hokies will have a tough time living up to their expectations.

Hokies Player of the Week: Jeff Allen- 17.5 PPG and 11.3 RPG

This Week’s Slate: 11/26 vs. Elon

Wake Forest- Record: 3-0 (2-0 last week) Wake has yet to be tested this season, but they have three blowout wins to start the year. They won 94-48 over North Carolina Central, 120-88 over UNC-Wilmington and 62-31 over Winston-Salem. Jeff Teague and Jeff Johnson have been very impressive in the early going and Chas McFarland has made great strides in his game. Freshman Al-Farouq Aminu is averaging a double-double. The Demon Deacons have certainly put their explosiveness on display so far.

Demon Deacons Player of the Week: Jeff Teague- 22.5 PPG 4 APG and 3.5 SPG

This Week’s Slate: 11/27 @ Cal State Fullerton

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Posted in ACC Report | 5 Comments »

ACC Preview Roundup

Posted by Tommy on November 10, 2008

Here are my preseason rankings and the links to the preview articles for each team. 1. North 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. Florida State 12. Virginia

First Team
G- Tyrese Rice, Boston College
G- Jack McClinton, Miami
G/F- K.C Rivers, Clemson
F- Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina
F- Kyle Singler, Duke

Second Team
G- Ty Lawson, North Carolina
G- Greivis Vasquez, Maryland
G- Wayne Ellington, North Carolina
F- James Johnson, Wake Forest
F- Jeff Allen, Virginia Tech

Third Team
G- Toney Douglas, Florida State
G- Jeff Teague, Wake Forest
G/F- A.D Vassallo, Virginia Tech
F- Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech
F- Brandon Costner, North Caolina State

Honorable Mention
G- Nolan Smith, Duke
G/F- Jon Scheyer, Duke
F- Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest
F- Trevor Booker, Clemson

All-Freshman Team
G- Iman Shumpert, Georgia Tech
G- DeQuan Jones, Miami
F- Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest
F- Miles Plumlee, Duke
C- Ty Walker, Wake Forest

Player of the Year: 1) Tyler Hansbrough 2) Tyrese Rice 3) Jack McClinton
Defensive Player of the Year: Toney Douglas
Breakthrough Player: Gani Lawal
Freshman of the Year: Al-Farouq Aminu
Coach of the Year: Dino Gaudio, Wake Forest
NCAA Teams: 6
NIT Teams: 4
CBI Teams: 1

Top Five Games:
1) North Carolina @ Duke: 2/11
2) North Carolina @ Wake: 1/11
3) Duke @ North Carolina: 3/8
4) Miami @ Duke: 2/7
5) Duke @ Wake: 1/28

That’s all folks. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Should be a exciting year in the ACC! Stay tuned for up-to-date ACC Reports all season long.

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ACC Preview: #1 North Carolina

Posted by Tommy on November 10, 2008

Coach- Roy Williams (6th season)

PG- Ty Lawson (JR): Lawson, commonly known as the Roadrunner, is the motor that makes this North Carolina team go. Roy Williams loves to have his guards break out after a defensive rebound in order to get a quick numbers advantage on the other end, and the speedy Lawson is the perfect guard to execute this strategy. He’s a great decision maker in the open floor, he can shoot from beyond the arc and is really good at finding the slightest holes in opposing defenses. As an underclassman for the Tar Heels, Lawson shot above 50% and had an assist to turnover ratio around 2.5. Not only does he excel with the ball in his hand, but he generates tons of steals with his constant pressure on the defensive end. North Carolina is a completely different team with Lawson at 100% and if he stays healthy all season it’ll be hard to pick against UNC as the national champion.

SG- Wayne Ellington (JR): Smooth. The first word that comes to my head when I watch Ellington. I know ACC basketball fans are probably tired of hearing Dick Vitale rave about how “smooth” Ellington’s game is, but there’s no denying it. He isn’t as quick as Lawson or as athletic as Danny Green, but he has great technique and is deceptive. Ellington is a cold-blooded shooter from beyond the arc and has a fine mid-range game as well. He makes it tough from opponents to double down on Hansbrough because of his shooting ability. He has good size for a guard at 6-4, allowing him to get a nice look at the rim over his defenders. While Hansbrough is out, the Heels are going to look to Ellington to be the primary option on offense. If Williams needs a clutch 3-pointer, Ellington has shown that he’s capable of knocking down big shots.

SF- Marcus Ginyard (SR): What David McClure is to Duke, Marcus Ginyard is to North Carolina, although Ginyard is a bit better. He played the third most minutes for the Tar Heels last season despite contributing only 6.9 PPG. He’s a great defender who does all the little things that don’t show up in the stat sheet and can play four positions. He’s not the most outspoken senior leader, but leads by example with his hustle and hard-working mentality. The Heels have no shortage of scoring options, so Williams just needs Ginyard to do what he does best: defend. Unfortunately, Ginyard is out for eight weeks after undergoing foot surgery meaning the Heels won’t have one of their senior leaders for most – if not all – of their non-conference schedule. Losing a player like Ginyard would be a pretty big hit for most teams, but Danny Green will suit the Tar Heels just fine until December.

PF- Tyler Hansbrough (SR): Nothing comes easy in college basketball, something the Heels are learning as they prepare for the season. In addition to the loss of Ginyard, Hansbrough is out indefinitely is a stress reaction in his leg. Hansbrough should miss only a couple weeks of the season but we’ll see if the possible nagging effects of the injury affect his play. I can’t really say anything else that even the most casual college basketball fans don’t already know about Hansbrough. I’m sure you’re sick and tired of hearing Jay Bilas ball wash Hansbrough, but it’s impossible not to admire somebody who’s undersized and not as athletic as his opponents, but is the best player in the country purely because of his work ethic.

PF- Deon Thompson (JR): The lanky 6-8 junior from California really came along for the Heels last season. He’s got plenty of raw talent but has some work to do technique-wise. Thompson gives North Carolina a shot-blocking presence down low, the only thing that Hansbrough doesn’t provide in the paint. Thompson is an average scorer and rebounder but is very athletic and runs the floor well. I think Thompson will be the most improved player on this North Carolina team when it’s all said and done.

Bench: Last year’s ACC Sixth Man of the Year Danny Green is a starter on any other team in the country. He’s a much better scoring option than Ginyard and is actually a solid shot blocker for a G/F. The Heels really could have used point guard Bobby Frasor last season when Lawson went down. Frasor can come in for Lawson at the point and run the offense with little drop-off. UNC brings in three McDonald’s All-Americans in Tyler Zeller, Ed Davis and Larry Drew Jr. Zeller and Davis will be the first two guys off the bench for the frontcourt while Drew Jr. is the 3rd guard behind Frasor and Green. These five players off the bench would probably be a competitive team in the ACC, which goes to show just how stacked UNC is this season.

Backcourt: A+
Frontcourt: A+
Bench: A+
Coaching: A

Bottom Line: I’ve been a firm believer that no team is capable of going undefeated in college basketball, but looking at this roster gives me second thoughts. They have the best big man in the country, one of the top backcourts in the country and go ten deep. One thing that UNC really needs to improve on from last season if they want to go undefeated is their defense. If they let a team like Michigan State, Duke or even Wake catch fire, they’ll could find themselves in some trouble. This team will get tested early with a very strong Spartan team and will face Notre Dame in the final of the Maui barring a pretty big upset. It’ll be a very tough road especially playing away from home where every crowd fired up to see their team beat the best team in the land.

Key Non-Conference Games: 11/18 vs. Kentucky, 11/24-26 Maui Invitational, 12/3 @ Michigan State,
Key Conference Games: 1/11 @ Wake Forest, 1/17 vs. Miami, 2/11 @ Duke, 3/8 vs. Duke.
Most Valuable Player: Tyler Hansbrough
Projected Postseason: NCAA (National Champion)

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ACC Preview: #2 Duke

Posted by Tommy on November 7, 2008

Coach- Mike Krzyzewski (29th season)

PG- Nolan Smith (SO): Greg Paulus has occupied the point guard spot for the last two seasons for Coach K, but Smith’s improvement over the summer has propelled him into the starting lineup. Smith put himself through a rigorous off-season conditioning regiment to improve his explosiveness and it has apparently paid off. Smith doesn’t have as good of a shot from deep as Paulus but has a good mid-range game and is very dangerous when he drives to the basket. Smith’s athleticism will allow Duke to play at a faster pace and spread the floor a bit more. The part of Smith’s game that really puts him in front of Paulus is his defense.

SG- Jon Scheyer (JR): Scheyer impressed a lot of fans as a freshman starter for the Dukies two years ago, but became the first man off of the bench for Coach K last season. His scoring numbers took a slight hit due to the decrease in minutes, but Scheyer seemed more comfortable off the bench. It’s tough to tell if Scheyer’s numbers improved just because he got better between his sophomore and freshman season or if he was truly more comfortable coming off the bench. Scheyer has a number of tools and can hurt defenses in plenty of ways. He has a good shot from beyond the arc and is excellent at finding lanes in the paint to score.

G/F- Gerald Henderson (JR): Henderson has the potential to be a NBA Lottery pick in the near future. Henderson is far and away the most athletic player on the team, but needs to polish his game if he wants to play like a lottery pick. He has an improving mid-range game, but his outside shot is sporadic. This may have been due to a torn ligament in his shooting wrist he played with during the second half of last year. Henderson improved on his numbers from his freshman year and nothing is holding him back from improving on last season’s solid totals. I think Henderson is going to thrive in a more fast-paced spread offense with Smith at the point because of the increased amount of touches in the open court and more room to beat his defenders off the dribble.

PF- Kyle Singler (SO): Singler lived up to all the hype surrounding him as an incoming freshman for the Dukies. His versatility is second to none in all of college basketball. He has all the dribbling and court vision of a guard and the size of an average power forward. It’s really tough for opposing forwards to guard Singler on the perimeter because he’s so good off the dribble and guys Singler’s size aren’t used to defending out on the perimeter. Singler put on about 20 pounds over the course of the offseason which will help his scoring ability on the low block as well as his rebounding. Singler has to play big this season because Duke doesn’t have a center that has proven himself in the post.

PF/C- Miles Plumlee (FR): Plumlee is another young player who has impressed coaches over the offseason. The 6-10 freshman is more mobile and athletic, making him a better fit for Duke’s style of play than clumsy 7-footer Brian Zoubek. Plumlee is a pretty good scorer when facing the basket and has a variety of scoring moves on the block. Plumlee is a solid shot blocker, something Duke hasn’t had since Shelden Williams. Since the departure of the Landlord, Duke has been exposed in the paint which has made for a couple of early exits from the dance. It would be a huge bonus for the Dukies if Plumlee could solidify himself as a reliable scorer and rebounder down low.

Bench: Coach K pretty much has six starters with Greg Paulus as the first man off the bench. Don’t be surprised to see Paulus starting at the two guard and Scheyer being the sixth man, where he played so well last season. Like many Duke teams during Coach K’s reign, this year’s team has a plethora of guards that can come in and do different things. Freshman Elliot Williams has looked impressive in the preseason and will get his fair share of minutes. Lithuanian junior Martynas Pocius has shown flashes of his potential but has been bothered by injuries during his entire career; this may be the year him to showcase his skills. David McClure is Coach K’s glue guy off the bench. Coach K loves the scrappy game that McClure brings to the table. Brian Zoubek hasn’t earned significant playing time and I suspect the high level of Plumlee will keep him riding the pine a lot this season. Junior Lance Thomas was a highly touted freshman when he arrived on campus two seasons ago but hasn’t performed anywhere near the expectations of the Duke faithful.

Backcourt: A
Frontcourt: B+
Bench: A
Coaching: A+

Bottom Line: Preseason polls have the Dukies in the top 10 (ESPN/USA today has them at 5) so there are high expectations going into the season. DeMarcus Nelson was the lone senior from last year’s team so many of the same faces are back playing in Cameron Indoor in 2008-09. Singler, Henderson and Scheyer will be the nucleus for this team while Smith, Paulus, McClure and Plumlee combine to make up a really nice supporting cast. Duke will be a completely different team in 2008-09 with Smith at the point. They can push the tempo and won’t rely as heavily on the three this season, which is a plus now that the arc is moved back. Like I said before, if Plumlee plays well in the post it gives this squad an added dimension and legitimizes them as a Final Four team.

Key Non-Conference Games: 2K Sports Classic (likely to play UCLA in finals), 12/2 @ Purdue 1/7 vs. Davidson, 1/17 vs. Georgetown
Key Conference Games: 1/28 @ Wake Forest, 2/7 vs. Miami, 2/11 vs. North Carolina, 3/8 @ North Carolina
Most Valuable Player: Kyle Singler
Projected Postseason: NCAA (Elite Eight)

Posted in ACC Report, Conference Previews | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

ACC Preview: #3 Wake Forest

Posted by Tommy on November 5, 2008

Coach- Dino Gaudio (2nd season)

PG- Ishmael Smith (JR): This six foot guard is lightning in a bottle. Everybody raves about Ty Lawson being the fastest player up and down the court with the ball, but I’d pay a lot of money to see a race between Smith and Lawson. Being fast with the ball is nice and all, but I’m sure Dino Gaudio would like to see Ish slow the game down just a notch because he committed almost 3 turnovers per game as a sophomore. Turnovers are a minuscule problem compared to Ish’s woes at the free throw stripe. He shot 29% at the line last season. Yes 29%, it’s not a misprint. It’s mind-boggling because Smith does everything else so well but for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to click at the line. Smith will provide around 10 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 5 APG, shoot 43% from the field and will probably get his assist-to-turnover ratio up around 2, all pretty good stats for a point guard. With all that upside, Gaudio is forced to take his starting point guard out of the lineup in end-game situations where Wake is getting fouled, which is extremely unfortunate because Smith knocked down two game-winning shots in ACC play last season.

SG- Jeff Teague (SO): Teague was Wake’s second leading scorer last year as a freshman. He and Smith combine to make one of the quickest backcourts in the country. Teague’s athleticism and quickness is similar to Smith’s but Teague has a more polished jumper and a little more size. He’s very good at getting his hands on the ball on defense and is always in the hip pocket of his counterpart. As a freshman, Teague seemed to step up in the big games and played like an experienced leader during ACC play. He scored 26 vs. BYU, 27 vs. Miami, 26 vs. Duke, 18 @ UNC and 25 @ Va. Tech. Now that he has a full year under his belt, Teague is going to have to be one of the leaders of this young Demon Deacon squad. In my opinion, he’s on the verge of a breakout season and will flourish with all of the athleticism round him.

SF- Al-Farouq Aminu (FR): Gaudio landed a Top-five incoming freshman class overall and the best small forward of the 2008 class. He made his high school opponents look like preteens with his size, jumping ability and skills. This kid has nice length for his 6-8 frame and can jump out of the gym. He has a rare ability to create offense on his own whether he pulls up from deep or takes it all the way to the rack, both of which he’s very capable of. He has good size for the three spot so I’d like to see him be post defenders up as well as beat them off the dribble from the perimeter. If Aminu does prove he can score on the block, he would feature a three-pronged offensive game similar to that of former freshman phenom Kevin Durant.

PF- James Johnson (SO): At 6-9, 245, Johnson is built like a power forward but has the skill set to play both the three and four. He was Wake’s leading scorer and rebounder last season with 14.6 PPG and 8.1 RPG and like the rest of this Demon Deacon team has great athletic ability. Johnson reeks havoc on defense with his combination of size, athleticism and length and averaged 1.4 STL per game and 1.3 BLK per game last season. Johnson has tremendous upside and deserves to be thrown into the conversation as one of the best up and coming players in the conference.

C- Ty Walker (FR): As a coach, if you have an incoming class of freshmen in which a player like Tony Woods isn’t the headline guy, you know you’ve got some young talent. One thing about Woods that turns me off is his string bean-like frame at 7′, 215. I’m sure he’ll put on some muscle mass under college strength coaches, but strong post players will be able to use their body on the block to negate Wood’s shot-blocking ability. He’ll provide the Deacs with a great shot blocking presence for when guards penetrate or when another player is being posted up, but adding weight would really help Woods. His size and ability to run the floor will prove a nice addition for Wake.

Bench: Wake is returning their top nine scorers from last season and brings in one of the best recruiting classes in the country which consists of three stud freshmen, two of whom are starting. The only player who averaged more than 30 minutes per game last year was Ish Smith and I expect much of the same liberal substituting this year from Gaudio. The frontcourt will be bolstered by junior Chas McFarland and freshman Tony Woods, two very capable post players. Junior L.D Williams gives Gaudio a guard that is solid at both ends of the floor and has a little more size than Teague and Smith. Senior Harvey Hale is a capable backup guard and will come in for Smith when Wake needs a good free throw shooting lineup. Junior Jamie Skeen will come off the bench and give the Demon Deacons a strong rebounder and defender.

Backcourt: A-
Frontcourt: A-
Bench: A-
Coaching: A-

Bottom Line: Words cannot even begin to describe how much upside Wake Forest has this season. Each starter is very talented and very athletic and for the most part, young. Smith, Teague and Johnson, three of their go-to guys, combined for 7.9 turnovers per game last season, far too many for two guards and a talented player like Johnson. If Wake cuts down on turnovers, their athleticism alone will keep them in games. Wake has the talent to surpass Duke at number two in the ACC, but if they continue to turn the ball over they could fall behind Miami and perhaps Virginia Tech. A pretty favorable ACC schedule in which they only have to play North Carolina and Miami once apiece certainly helps. With that said, all the pieces are in place for Wake to make a run at the ACC title in 2008-09.

Key Non-Conference Games: 11/27-30 2008 76 Classic, 1/03 @ BYU
Key Conference Games: 1/11 vs. North Carolina, 1/28 vs. Duke, 2/4 @ Miami, 2/22 @ Duke
Most Valuable Player: James Johnson
Projected Postseason: NCAA (Sweet 16)

Posted in ACC Report, Conference Previews | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

ACC Preview #5 Virginia Tech

Posted by Tommy on November 3, 2008

Coach- Seth Greenberg (6th season)

PG- Malcolm Delaney (SO): Last year the Hokies really missed the play of an experienced point guard. Delaney split the duty of running the offense with fellow freshman Hank Thorns. Now that both of these players are acclimated to college basketball, Greenberg will rely heavily on them to run the team. The reason I give the nod to Delaney over Thorns is his scoring ability. Delaney has a better shot and more size than the 5-9 Thorns and found his stroke during the ACC Tournament and NIT. Delaney does have a tendency to turn the ball over a bit more but Greenberg will live with that as long as Delaney keeps up his scoring numbers. Nevertheless, Delaney is a budding star in the ACC and could be poised for a bust-out sophomore season at the helm of the Hokies.

SG- A.D. Vassallo (SR): The young Hokies are really going to look to Vassallo to provide leadership. He doesn’t have a game with a lot of flare but he’ll do just about anything to help out his team. Vassallo gets it done on both ends of the floor. He can score in a number of ways, is a good rebounder and a tough defender and plays with his head as well as his heart. His size and versatility will allow him to play the two and the three this season. Vassallo is in a nice situation in which he’ll be relied on to take plenty of the shots, but can’t acquire too much of the opposition’s attention because he has quality young players around him. Vassallo could flirt with 20 PPG this season.

SF- J.T. Thompson (SO): Thompson, who played the four spot for the most part last season, has slimmed down over the offseason. His slimmer frame has improved his athleticism and will enable him to play the wing. Thompson has shown that he isn’t a threat from outside after only shooting one three-pointer last season, but he’s strong and athletic and will get to the rim. The departure of Deron Washington leaves some pretty big shoes to fill for Thompson at the wing, but as he gets more and more playing time, I think he’ll really come on strong for the Hokies. He may not have the greatest of offensive games, but he’ll provide hustle, defense and a strong rebounding presence for Greenberg.

PF- Jeff Allen (SO): The third starting sophomore for the Hokies is without question their best. Allen opened a lot of ACC fans’ eyes with his play down low. He’s one of those guys that fills most every column in the stat sheet. He’ll put up around 13 PPG, grab 8 RPG, and will cause about five or six turnovers each game through blocked shots and steals. Allen has a nice set of soft hands and good touch around the rim. Like Thompson, Allen has lost a significant amount of weight, meaning he’ll give the Hokies more athleticism and will be able to stay in the game longer, block more shots and run the floor better. Like the other two sophomores in the starting lineup, Allen is blossoming and I think can establish himself as one of the best big men in the ACC.

PF- Lewis Witcher (JR): Although Witcher is an undersized post player, he makes up for it with hustle and toughness down low. He won’t impress anybody with his athleticism or his skill set on offense, but Witcher is willing to put his body on the line for the sake of his team. Greenberg will look for him to provide the club with good defense and make the shots he’s given, knowing he shouldn’t expect any more or less out of the junior. Witcher reached double digits in the scoring column only twice last season, and any improvement on his 2.7 PPG would be a nice bonus for Greenberg and the Hokies.

Bench: Greenberg has a lot of interchangeable parts for this year’s roster. Senior Chuck Diakite will come off the bench and provide an energetic game similar to that of Witcher. As I said before Thorns will get some time at the point, but he has to improve on his 34 percent from the field from last season if he wants to get a chance at significant minutes. Sophomore guards Dorenzo Hudson and Terrell Bell give the Hokies some flexibility and athleticism in their backcourt. There has been a lot of talk in Blacksburg about 6-8 245 lb incoming freshman Victor Davila. His size and athleticism will bolster the frontcourt that will probably need some help because of their lack of size.

Backcourt: B+
Frontcourt: B
Bench: A-
Coaching: B+

Bottom Line: I would imagine Seth and the Hokies would be pretty motivated going into this season after having their bubble burst at the 11th hour last year. With three sophomore starters and three more playing significant roles off the bench, this “Sophomore Six-Pack” will have to mature over the course of the season. There is plenty of talent in that class, but if the Hokies want to solidify a spot in the dance, guys like Delaney and Allen will have to play a big part in taking them there. Nobody on Virginia Tech will blow opponents away with their natural talent, but they all play great defense and run an efficient offense.

Key Non-Conference Games: O’Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-off 11/20-11/23, 12/1 vs. Wisconsin
Key Conference Games: 1/17 vs. Boston College, 1/25 @ Miami, 1/29 vs. Clemson, 2/28 vs. Duke
Most Valuable Player: A.D. Vassallo
Postseason Tournament: NCAA (one and done)

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ACC Preview: #6 Clemson

Posted by Tommy on October 29, 2008

CoachOliver Purnell (5th season)

PG- Demontez Stitt (SO): Stitt experienced his fair share of growing pains during his first year at the point but this kid has a nice upside. He’s a pretty athletic guard and has some nice moves, enabling him to fly right by his defender. In addition, he’s a good defender which really helps Purnell execute his pressure. His 1.09 assist-to-turnover ratio from last season needs to improve and probably will with a full year under his belt. Stitt also needs to improve his 3-point shot after shooting just 27.6% from deep last season. If Stitt solidifies himself as a reliable point guard by making better decisions, it would be a huge addition for Purnell and the Tigers.

SG- K.C. Rivers (SR): Rivers has been the quiet leader for the Tigers for the past couple of seasons. He’s the Tigers’ best player on both the offensive and defensive ends. He can has plenty of size to get to the rim, he has a nice mid-range jumper and he shoots above 40 percent from beyond the arc. I expect him to put up around 15 or 16 PPG and is one of the best rebounders for his size in the country, grabbing 6.3 RPG last season. He also averaged just under 2 steals per game last season and will shut down the opposition’s best backcourt player. Rivers will have to make up for the loss of his long time backcourt-mate Cliff Hammonds and will get plenty of shot opportunities.

SF- David Potter (JR): Although Potter is a junior, he’s not too experienced. I expect Potter to get the starting job at the three instead of putting Oglesby at the two and bumping Rivers down because the combination of Rivers and Potter provides the best defensive lineup possible for Purnell. Potter is a hard-nosed defender and works hard on the boards but will not impress on the offensive end. Clemson has enough weapons in its arsenal to sacrifice the minimal firepower Potter provides to bolster the defense.

PF- Trevor Booker (JR): Booker may be listed at 6-7 but plays much bigger than that. He’s a physical presence in the paint and likes to lower his shoulder into defenders to give him room to get off shots and often give his defender a foul. He uses his great combination of strength and athleticism to out-muscle opponents for rebounds and provides a nice shot-blocking presence (1.9 BPG as a sophomore). Now that he’s an upperclassman, he needs to become a consistent force down low. He has the potential to become one of the best big men in the conference.

C- Raymond Sykes (SR): Like Potter, Sykes found himself coming off the bench last season and isn’t as experienced as most starting seniors are. Sykes is the ideal man to replace the lengthy James Mays who harassed the inbounder for Purnell’s press. He’s long and athletic just like Mays and will certainly give inbounders trouble if Purnell institutes his press again this season. Sykes hasn’t shown that he can fill the scoring column very well, but who knows what can happen with increased playing time.

Bench: One of the best features of last year’s squad was the impeccable depth they had. Purnell was able to substitute liberally and give his guys much needed rest after playing full court basketball and saw little to no drop off in his team’s performance. Unfortunately, Purnell isn’t going to have that luxury this season. Sharpshooting sophomore Terrence Oglesby gives the Tigers a possible lineup with more fire power in case they’re down. After that there really isn’t much. Jerai Grant is a sophomore forward that saw 8.3 MPG last season and will have to step in for either Booker or Sykes if they get into foul trouble. Freshman guard Andre Young and 7-2 freshman Catalin Baciu may be the next options for the backcourt and frontcourt, respectively.

Backcourt: B-
Frontcourt: B
Bench: C-
Coaching: A-

Bottom Line: Purnell seemed to pull all the right strings last season with plenty of substitutions and a press that frustrated their opponents. Purnell is going to have a tougher time pressing after every made basket this season because the starters are going to have to play much of the game. Their starting lineup is a very athletic one, but Stitt, Sykes and Potter have to provide more scoring this season. The Tigers are going to use hard-nosed defense to frustrate their opponents and keep the games within reach. I think they still have enough talent to get into the NCAA tournament but will probably ride the bubble for the entire season.

Key Non-Conference Games: 12/2 @ Illinois, 12/30 @ South Carolina, 1/6 vs. Alabama
Key Conference Games: 1/29 @ Virginia Tech, 2/4 vs. Duke, 2/17 vs. Maryland, 2/25 vs Virginia Tech
Most Valuable Player: K.C. Rivers
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA (one and done)

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ACC Preview #7 & #8

Posted by Tommy on October 27, 2008

8. Boston College Eagles- Coach: Al Skinner (12th season)

PG- Tyrese Rice (SR): There is no question that Rice is the cornerstone of this Boston College team. The lone senior on the Eagles is the best guard in the ACC, perhaps in the country. He’s very good at finding ways to the rim and if defenders over-commit to him, he’ll find the open man. He has a deadly jumper from mid-range as well as beyond the arc. If I had to choose one point guard in the country to run a fast break, it would be Tyrese Rice because he is quick, smart and can hurt opponents in so many ways. He reminds me a lot of Chris Paul, he takes what defenders give him and often makes them pay for their mistakes.

SG- Biko Paris (SO):Paris had a solid freshman campaign and saw significant playing time throughout the year. This year Paris needs to make defenses respect his jump shot to open up space for Rice and Rakim Sanders to penetrate. He shot a dismal 26.1% from beyond the arc last season. Unless Paris improves his jumper, his one dimensional offense makes him a minimal threat. He’ll be the 4th or 5th scoring option for the Eagles, but his improvement would help BC a lot.

SF- Rakim Sanders (SO): Sanders had a pretty good rookie year but underachieved the high expectations put on him as an incoming freshman. What I like most about Sanders is his strong 6-5, 225 lb. frame. He’s a good inside scorer and is the leading returning rebounder. He also has a solid jumper from about 15 feet and is slightly above average from beyond the arc. I’d like to see Sanders not settle for a long range jumper as often as he did last season. He needs to slash to the rim more often and either score, dish or draw the foul. With a small team this season, Sanders is going to need to play big for Al Skinner.

PF- Corey Raji (SO): The four spot is going to be the weakness for BC. Usually the four is a strong player who can rebound and bang bodies down low, but BC doesn’t have anybody like that. Raji is undersized at 6-6, 214 lbs but is the second leading rebounder returning this year behind Sanders. It’s going to be tough for Raji to out-jump his opponents for rebounds because of his size and he doesn’t have the frame to box out the likes of Tyler Hansbrough. Raji does provide a viable scoring option and will give other power forwards a tough time guarding him out on the perimeter.

C- Josh Southern (SO): Southern is a solid big man who really came on the second half of last year. He averaged 7.7 PPG and 4.4 RPG in the last 13 games of last year. He only saw less than 15 Min/G last season, but found himself getting more minutes toward the end of last year. He’s going to be the anchor of this frontline and will have to be a strong rebounder and defender down low because BC lost its two leading rebounders from last season.

Bench:Tyler Roche is the only player with major experience coming off of the bench. Vermont transfer Joe Trapani will give the Eagles an option with more size at the power forward and will get significant minutes along with sophomore Courtney Dunn at the four spot. Freshman Reggie Jackson will give Skinner another option at the two guard. Other than that there aren’t too many more options off of the bench.

Backcourt: B+
Frontcourt: C-
Bench: C
Coach: B

Bottom Line: Rice is going to have to carry the Eagles wherever they may go. It’s never a good indicator if a team is starting four sophomores, but Sanders has a lot of potential and the other three are solid players. The lack of size and depth is going to give Skinner a tough time managing his team.

Key Non-Conference Games: 12/2 vs. Iowa, 12/6 @ UMass
Key Conference Games: 1/17 @ Virginia Tech, 1/27 @ Maryland, 2/24 vs. Florida State, 3/7 vs. Georgia Tech
Most Valuable Player: Tyrese Rice
Projected Postseason: NIT (2nd or 3rd round)

7. Maryland Terrapins- Coach: Gary Williams (20th season)

PG- Greivis Vasquez (JR):Vasquez has been the emotional spark for the Terps during his tenure at the point, but now that he’s the leader of this team he needs to learn how to control his emotions as well as the basketball. He’s always played with his heart but needs to start playing with his head a bit more now that a lot of Maryland’s success rests squarely on his shoulders. Vasquez’s 6-6 frame has always helped him get to the rim and shoot a mid-range jumper over his small defenders but he’s inconsistent from beyond the arc. How Greivis plays is the biggest barometer for the Terps. If he starts turning the ball over, which he has a tendency to do in bunches, they’ll have a pretty tough time finding a way to win. If Vasquez is handling the ball well and finding ways to score, the Terps can beat a good amount of teams in the ACC. The bottom line for Grievis is that he needs to be a consistent leader for Gary Williams.

SG- Eric Hayes (JR): Hayes, who is naturally a point guard, transitioned to the two guard last year for Williams. The transition seemed to be a rough one for Hayes. He drastically improved his shot from beyond the arc last season but his offense is pretty one-dimensional with virtually no ability to beat his defender off the dribble. If he does get into the lane, he’s very good at finding cutters or putting up a floater if a defender doesn’t commit to him. After Vasquez, Hayes is going to be the second scoring option for Maryland.

SF- Landon Milbourne (JR): The junior out of Oak Hill has a great combination of size and leaping ability for the three spot, but his athleticism hasn’t translated into the scoring or rebounding numbers he should put up. When I watch Milbourne, he seems uncomfortable with the ball in his hands. If Milbourne improves his ability to handle the ball, he’ll have the size and athleticism to get to the rim. Like Vasquez, Milbourne is a so-so shooter from beyond the arc, but when he’s on he’ll sink them in bunches. Williams is going to need a lot of production out of Milbourne because of the weak frontcourt.

PF- Jerome Burney (SO): Burney is a prototypical Gary Williams big man: long-armed and athletic. He’ll step in and provide a similar shot-blocking presence to that of James Gist or Bambale Osby, but Burney’s lack of offensive skills could be a liability for the Terps. Burney will have to stay out of foul trouble for Maryland because of the lack of reserves for the frontcourt, so Gary may have to pull on the reins when it comes to Burney’s shot-blocking aggressiveness. If Burney provides around 6 PPG and is a strong rebounder and defender, I’m sure Williams would consider that a successful year for Burney.

C- Braxton Dupree (SO):I consider Dupree to be the poor man’s Sean May. He provides a big body down low and has a pretty good set of post moves, but he just doesn’t have the athleticism to be a quality post player in the ACC. He’s an undersized center at 6-8 and has poor jumping ability, so he’s not going to go above the rim for any rebounds. Dupree does have a combination of a soft touch around the rim and a wide body. While he may not shoot straight over opponents, he uses his skills and his frame to shoot around them.

Bench: The backcourt has a number of fill-ins that can come in and produce. Sophomores Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker are a couple of athletic guards that are dangerous in the open court and are very good slashers. Freshman Sean Mosley is another good athlete to fill in at the two spot, giving Gary three viable options off of the bench. As for the frontcourt, it’s a different story. The two starters are sophomores, one who will probably get into foul trouble and another who has trouble running the court. One of the two subs for the frontcourt is senior Dave Neal who would have no business playing significant minutes in the ACC if it wasn’t for his hard-working attitude. Neal will provide solid minutes, but won’t do much on the offensive end. The other sub is sophomore Dino Gregory, another long-armed post man for Gary. Gregory has very little experience but will certainly be thrown into the fire this season. Jin Soo Kim, whose eligibility status is still up in the air, would a be a nice addition to bolster a frontline that needs all the help they can get.

Backcourt: B+
Frontcourt: D+
Bench: B-
Coaching: B-

Bottom Line: Maryland has one of the better backcourts in the ACC, but their frontcourt will be a liability all season unless one of the sophomores step up. Neal is the only senior on this team so Williams is going to have to look to his juniors, two of whom have started their entire carreer at Maryland, to lead this team. There have been murmurs around College Park that this may be Gary’s last season. Those murmurs could escalate if the Terps have another disappointing year and wind up in the NIT. Unfortunately, that’s the likely destination for these Terps, especially when you consider their ACC schedule: three of the five teams they play twice are Miami, UNC and Duke.

Key Non-Conference Games: Old Spice Classic: 11/27 vs. Michigan State, 11/28 vs. Gonzaga/Ok. State, 12/03 vs. Michigan
Key Conference Games: 1/10 vs. Georgia Tech, 1/27 vs. Boston College, 2/17 @ Clemson, 2/25 vs. Duke
Most Valuable Player: Greivis Vasquez
Projected Postseason: NIT (3rd or 4th round)

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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 Scout.com) 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.

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Summer ACC Report: Part 2

Posted by Patrick on August 7, 2008

Last week I previewed six of the twelve ACC teams. Now here is a look at the rest of the ACC and what they will have going for them this upcoming season:

North Carolina- Of course, they are everybody’s preseason #1 (I’d like to meet the man that picks against them). The Tar Heels return reigning Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough, a solid 20 PPG and 10 RPG player next season. They also return star point guard Ty Lawson, great shooters/scorers in Wayne Ellington and Danny Green, and gain two new freshman phenoms at the forward positions. There is certainly no question that UNC is the frontrunner in the ACC, but they will have some competition because no conference game comes easy (like we saw last year when they dropped a game to Maryland on their home court).

Duke- Whenever you mention North Carolina, you next have to mention the Duke Blue Devils. Led by senior point guard Greg Paulus and returning sophomore forward Kyle Singler, the Dukies are poised to make a run at a chance for the ACC title. Other key performers will be freshman Nolan Smith, junior John Scheyer, and center Brian Zoubek. Zoubek will be the X-Factor for Duke this season; if he can play well on the inside, it will be easier to kick it out to the shooters, (Singler, Paulus, and Scheyer) but if he plays like he did last season, Duke could have trouble making it out of the second round of the NCAA tournament for the third straight year. Duke will always play great defense, which could lead to a potential upset at Cameron over the Tar Heels.

Clemson- This team’s future seems up in the air even though they’ve had a great start to the last two seasons. In 2006 they did not make the NCAA tournament, and last season they lost in the first round to a team that most people felt should have been left out of the field. Losing James Mays and Cliff Hammonds will certainly hurt the Tigers, but they do return key players like K.C. Rivers, Trevor Booker, and shooting specialist Terrence Oglesby. Recruit Catalin Baciu (7-1 center) may be able to pick up some of the rebounding slack left by Mays, but he is only a freshman and a pretty low rated recruit at that. I expect Clemson to make the tournament this year, probably as an eight or nine seed, but I don’t see them making too much noise in the ACC other than a probable top five finish.

Virginia Tech- According to Hokies coach Seth Greenberg, everyone on the NCAA selection committee was clinically insane for not putting Va Tech in the field of 65. Virginia Tech brings back three of its top four scorers in A.D. Vassallo, Jeff Allen, and Malcolm Delaney.  This is the year for this team to make the NCAA tournament. Not only do they have the talent to make the field, but they also have the motivation after last year’s “snub”. I like Virginia Tech to end up somewhere in the top six of the ACC which will probably be good enough to make the tournament as a ten seed.

Virginia- We’ll see how Virginia deals with the loss of Sean Singletary and if they can get back to where they were in the 2006-07 season. Mamadi Diane will be the leading scorer for this team in 2008, and behind him will be Calvin Baker and Laurynas Mikalauskas. It should be a tough year for fans in Charlottesville as the chances of making a post-season tournament are pretty slim even if its the CBI. Even though Dave Leitao was 2007 ACC Coach of the Year his job may be in jeopardy this season.

Boston College- Get ready to watch the Tyrese Rice show all season long as he will be wheeling and dealing his way to another first-team All ACC finish and contend for ACC player of the year. Rakim Sanders will be a great compliment to Rice, as well as Cory Raji. Probably the worst news of the offseason was Shamari Spears transferring to Charlotte. He was a key man in the paint for Boston College and his departure took this team from a Top 20 contender to a team that will have to fight its way into the NCAA tournament. Rice will get his points, but the keys for this team to win are defense and rebounding (we all saw them blow a huge halftime lead against North Carolina on their home court last season). I think they will make the tournament but it won’t be easy and they will have to do some work in the ACC tournament to get off the bubble in March.

Predicted ACC Finish:

1. North Carolina

2. Duke

3. Miami

4. Wake Forest

5. Clemson

6. Virginia Tech

7. Boston College

8. Maryland

9. Florida State

10. NC State

11. Georgia Tech

12. Virginia

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