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Nov. 24, 2007

ACC Men's Basketball Preview 07-08

by Jenny Williams, Online Weekend Editor

Boston College

Boston College, the newest member of the ACC, has proven to be a team to watch in recent years. However, their previous winning seasons were led largely by Jared Dudley, who is now in the NBA. Head coach Al Skinner has always been a reputable coach who produces solid teams with solid records, and his biggest challenge this year will be to incorporate five fresh faces with only six returners from last year's team.



Back Court
Junior guard Tyrese Rice averaged 17.6 points per game last season, despite the presence of Dudley and Sean Marshall. Although a terrific player, Rice lacks a solid supporting cast this season, a luxury afforded by last year's team. Freshmen Cory Raji and Rakim Sanders will provide Rice with some depth, providing solid perimeter shooting, but nothing like the support he had in seasons past.



Front Court
A deep run into the NCAA tournament this year will rely on breakout performances from Boston College's big men. John Oates, one of the two seniors of this year's team, showed off his shooting abilities from the three-point range. If the Eagles want to have any chance of following in the footsteps of last year's team, which made it to the semifinals of the ACC tournament and appeared in the NCAA tournament, Oates will have to establish himself more as an offensive threat. Tyrell Blair, Boston College's final senior, is a 6'11" center who showed off his shot blocking talents when Sean Williams was removed from last year's team. These two inside players need to produce more in the paint in order for the Eagles to fly this season.



Final Analysis
After the loss of one of the nation's best players of last year, Jared Dudley, and Boston College's most powerful inside force, Sean Marshall, the 2007-2008 Eagles have some big shoes to fill this upcoming season. This team probably will not make as much noise across the nation as they did last year, but they will certainly be a squad to watch out for. With one of the nation's best point guards in Rice, Boston College has a fighting chance to pave a path to a memorable season.



Clemson

Clemson was the laughingstock of the ACC for many years until head coach Oliver Purnell's arrival in 2004. In four short years, under Purnell's authority, the team has steadily progressed. Last yearâ<99>s team started the season off 17-0 before a wicked disaster mi way into the year. Clemson made the NIT for the past two seasons, with a trip to the final round last year. The biggest goal for this year's squad is to make it to the NCAA tournament, a feat that has eluded the Tigers since 1998.



Back Court
It is vital to Clemson's success that Demontez Stitt and Cliff Hammonds replace the loss of one of the nation's best guards, Vernon Hamilton. Stitt was one of the most outstanding high school players in North Carolina while Hammonds averaged 11.6 points per game last season. Their play this year will make or break the Tigers' back court.



Front Court
Clemson's front court was up in the air as of last season until sophomore Trever Booker displayed his offensive capabilities. Booker averaged 10.4 points per game, serving as one of the team's most outstanding players, and will be relied on heavily again this year. If Booker, Stitt and Hammonds can work together as a team without egos getting in the way, Clemson could be looking at an NCAA tournament position. Other front court players for Clemson include Raymond Sykes, who showed off impressive skills at the end of last season's run, and Julius Powell, who is finally healthy after recovering from a knee injury.



Final Analysis
Clemson will undoubtedly go to the NCAA tournament this season. With a strong starting lineup and a powerful combo of inside men, the Tigers can string together a memorable run if they can stay strong for the entire season. The team fell apart unexpectedly midway through last year after a 17-0 start, but if the Tigers can consistently perform well throughout the course of this season, they will prevail.



Duke

The Dukies are back without their star player from last year's team: Josh McRoberts. This setback will not hold them back as Durham boasts possibly the best program pedigree in the nation, including seven ACC tournament championships between 1999 and 2006. Last season was uncharacteristic of the winning Duke team, as the squad missed the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1997. Team issues and lack of experience hindered the Devils' ability to perform. Duke has always been considered one of the best teams in the nation since coach Mike Krzyzewski took over 27 years ago, and this season the Dukies are most likely to rekindle their winning traditions.



Back Court
Without a strong inside presence after McRoberts's decision to go pro, Duke will have to win games through their guards. Last season, point guard Greg Paulus was slowed by an injury to his left foot, but still served as Duke's most prolific player and established himself as a scoring threat. His leadership ability and his offensive play will be key this season. Senior Demarcus Nelson also stepped it up last season, averaging 14.1 points per game. His feisty offensive play and his nitty-gritty style are tremendous assets for Coach K's squad. The addition of freshman Nolan Smith, straight out of one the nation's best high school teams in Oak Hill Academy, will give Duke the extra "umph" in their back court line up. This will also allow Paulus to play more two-guard, resulting in greater offensive production.



Front Court
Let's not play around, Duke's front court this year will not be the same without McRoberts. Although cocky and quite self-assured, his inside presence was key to the Blue Devil offense. Duke's 2007-2008 season will lack an overpowering inside presence with only raw players like Brian Zoubek and David McClure to choose from. McClure is too weak to replace McRoberts, as he does not have a mid-range jumper and struggles against inside threats bigger than him. Zoubek, in his sophomore year, displayed some talent last year, but is still far from a polished player on either end of the court. With a 7'1" frame and an improving game though, Zoubek will probably prevail as the main inside threat.



Final Analysis
Experience is what Duke has been lacking for the past several years. Regardless, the Blue Devils are undoubtedly coached by the best in Mike Krzyzewski and his assistant coaches, including many previous Duke players. The Dukies are simply not used to losing and will end their mediocre streak in the upcoming season.



Florida State

Like Clemson, the Florida State Seminoles have not made an NCAA appearance in years. Under head coach Leonard Hamilton, the Seminoles have improved significantly, but have yet to make a showing in the Big Dance. Filled with veterans, the Seminoles have a chance to finally appear in the NCAA tournament after so many close runs. Florida State has a strong back court, but the team needs to come together immediately to make up for the loss of last year's star Al Thornton, now with the Los Angeles Clippers.



Back Court
The injury to junior guard Toney Douglas last year is why the Seminoles failed to make an NCAA appearance, as the 'Noles lost four of the five games he missed. If Douglas remains healthy this year, Florida State will most likely place somewhere on an NCAA bracket card. Freshman Chris Blake along with senior Ralph Mims are most likely to be Douglas' backups, providing the Seminoles with some depth off the bench.



Front Court
Uche Echefu, coming from local basketball powerhouse Montrose Christian, has been yearning for his turn to have a breakout season. His first two years were somewhat silent, but he displayed enough talent to let Hamilton know that he means business. With a 6'9\" frame, Echefu will be able to break through this season in his natural position at forward. Echefu has an excellent outside range jumper and with a bit more confidence, his presence will be felt inside the paint.



Final Analysis
When March Madness approaches in the spring, each college basketball fan across the nation will see the Florida State Seminoles listed somewhere on their bracket. The 'Noles have solid depth on the bench. If the guards stay healthy and Isaiah Swan and Douglas have breakout seasons, Florida can be a force in the conference.



Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech's loss of star players Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton is the reason why the Jackets have little to look forward to this season. Lewis Clinch could have filled the hole as the go-to guy had he not been dismissed for violating the honor code. Even though Clinch is back, his display of immaturity and irresponsibility will hinder his ability to take over a leadership role, another component the Yellow Jackets are severely lacking. Coupled with the number of new faces to integrate into the program, the upcoming season does not look promising for the Jackets.



Back Court
The loss of Crittenton will be crucial this season for the Yellow Jackets, as his talent was undeniable and his scoring capabilities extraordinary. Freshmen Maurice Miller and Matt Causey will be competing against each other for the point guard position, but Crittenton's impressive r©sum© may be too much for them to replace. Clinch is back this season and should be beneficial to Georgia Tech ihe can keep his head on straight. Before his departure from the team last season, he averaged 13.2 points per game, which will come in handy this year without other proven scoring options.



Front Court
This is where the confusion starts for the Yellow Jackets. The team's starting lineup in the front court is unpredictable. Mouhammad Faye has a wingspan the size of a pick-up truck. With this in mind, head coach Paul Hewitt may move his last year's shooting guard to a small forward position. Jeremis Smith is a tough player always willing to get the rebound, but his lack of offensive versatility hinders his superstardom capabilities. The Yellow Jackets' center, senior Ra'Sean Dickey has consistently shown that he is not ready to take on a starting lineup responsibility.



Final Analysis
Plain and simple, the Yellow Jackets season will consist of strange mishaps and nothing above a .500 record. The team will face too many chemistry issues, having to incorporate six new players including Clinch into the lineup. The team does not have a go-to guy and lacks veteran leadership, and will not be able to withstand the wrath of other ACC teams like North Carolina and Duke.



Maryland

It's easy to forget that the University of Maryland men's basketball team won the NCAA national championship merely five years ago. Since then, this basketball team has not been able to return to the Promised Land. This year's core players include national talent James Gist and cocky but self-sustaining sophomore point guard Greivis Vasquez. This Terrapin team is young and inexperienced though, a problem that may hinder the team's ability to carry out a successful season.



Back Court
Vasquez and sophomore Eric Hayes proved to be one of the nation's best freshmen point guard combos last season. Filled with cockiness and confidence, Vasquez thrives on pressure and enthusiasm, and has lived up to all of head coach Gary Williams' expectations, establishing himself as not only a floor general on the Maryland squad, but as a leader as well. Hayes on the other hand is more calm and relaxed, lacking the intensity and personality of Vasquez. However, this Steve Blake look-alike proved himself as an outstanding three-point shooter from all sides of the arc.



Front Court
James Gist, the Terps' authoritative forward, was recently announced as a candidate for the John R. Wooden award, a prestigious award only given to the nation's best. Gist is by far one of the most talented on this young Terrapin team, and as one of only two seniors, Gist knows the pressure is on. Scoring double figures almost every game last year, Gist is sure to prove himself as one of the nation's best forwards. He is armed with a decent mid-range jumper, but lacks aggressiveness in the post. Gist's continued offensive development will be vital to the Terrapins' success.



Here comes the "BOOM." Bambale Osby a.k.a. "boom," is Maryland's most powerful player. He is well known for his spectacular shot blocking capabilities and his scrappy play, always being the first one up for the rebound and the first one to put in an easy basket.



Final Analysis
This year's Maryland team will lack the luster of previous teams. Although not as talented as the NCAA championship team that featured the likes of Juan Dixon and Steve Blake, last year's squad made it to the NCAA tournament, an accomplishment that this year's team may not be able to repeat. The inexperience and the lack of proven talent may keep the Terrapins out of their dancing shoes come March.



Miami

The Miami men's basketball team has lived up to their mascot, the Hurricanes, or in other words, a natural disaster. The Canes ended last year's season with a 12-20 record, and though this Miami team has a couple of solid players, it has nothing special to set them apart from any other middling team in the nation.



Back Court
The Hurricanes lost point guard Anthony Harris and his 10.2 points and 3.4 assists per game. Harris' spot may be replaced with a surprisingly decent candidate: junior Lance Hurdle. This transfer from San Bernardino Valley Community College has a vicious vertical leap, drives to the basket proficiently and has a fine mid-range jumper. Junior shooting guard Jack McClinton averaged 16.7 points per game last season and is arguably Miami's best player, but will have to flaunt his team leadership skills along with his remarkable scoring capabilities if the Hurricanes want to stand a chance in the ACC, let alone with the rest of college basketball.



Front Court
Sophomore power forward Dwayne Collins emerged as a freshman, leading the ACC in offensive rebounding. Late in the season, Collins showed off his skills to the nation, averaging 10.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. A part of Miami's struggles was center Anthony King's injury last season, as he missed the final 24 games with a wrist injury. When he was healthy, King averaged 7.9 points and an impressive 9.3 rebounds per game. Leadership from King in the paint and reliable performances each game will give Miami an extra push.



Final Analysis
The Hurricanes' 12-20 record will most likely follow them into this season. At best, they will go .500, but that looks to be highly improbable. Although Hurdle will be taking over the point guard position, there is no telling how well this community college player will play with the big boys of the NCAA. King missed a good portion of his junior year, which may have resulted in rust and low confidence.



NC State

The Wolfpack, coming off a season that consisted of a run to the championship of the ACC tournament and an NIT appearance, are very optimistic this year. Their resumefrom last season seems impressive at first, but in reality, is only mediocre. North Carolina lost to the worst team in the ACC, the Miami Hurricanes, and desperately had to fight for easy wins against supposed cupcakes like UNC-Greensboro last season. Head coach Sidney Lowe is tough on his players, but this may not be enough for the Wolfpack to pull together a respectable season.



Back Court
The loss of Engin Atsur says enough about North Carolina' back court; they have no one who can successfully lead the team at the point guard position. Iowa State transfer Farnold Degand's only capability is pushing the ball up court quickly. His cadence is undeniable, but his skills as a point guard are not enough to replace Atsur. Tennessee transfer Marques Johnson displays more skill at setting up the offense, but will not be eligible until second semester. The rest of the Wolfpack back court consists of Courtney Fells, by far the team's best defender, who averages an impressive 3.8 rebounds per game at the guard position. As for the rest of the guards, they will only contribute to the team if they can average more than zero points a game.



Front Court
Brandon Costner is one the nation's most talented forwards. Only a sophomore, he will most likely continue his 16.8 points per game into this season and will be expected to strap the other 15 Wolves on his back. His superior play in the paint and his scoring capabilities will result in individual achievement for Costner, but may not do much for the rest of the team. Like Costner, junior Ben McCauley had a colossal season last year, averaging 14.4 points per game. If McCauley transfers his stellar performance from last year into this season, then North Carolina has a fighting chance.



Final Analysis
It's plain and simple, without a solid point guard, there is no real leadership on the floor. Costner is a spectacular player, but he can only do so much without a distributor. This may very well be the downfall of this season. If Costner and the rest of the big men can work together, the Wolfpack may have a successful run in the NIT tournament, but a NCAA berth is too much to ask.



North Carolina

North Carolina is arguably the best team in the nation. With All-American Tyler Hansbrough returning, the Tar Heels' presence will surely be felt by every single one of their opponents. The Heels have been successful ever since head coach Roy Williams took over, leading the Heels to an NCAA championship. This year the Tar Heels have three of the best players in the country who have the letters NBA written all over them after this season: Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington. The Tar Heels have a solid starting lineup and will rule as one of the nation's best this upcoming season.



Back Court
Last season, the Tar Heels' back court was dominated by two amazing freshmen in Lawson and Ellington. Lawson is known for his bursts of speed and his ability to drive through the line while Ellington can provide the outside scoring. This one-two combination will only produce a positive outcome. Bobby Frasor and Wes Miller will also be role players in this already nicely-blended mix. Miller will chip in points with his well known outside shot and Frasor will provide depth to the point guard position with his terrific ball-handling abilities.



Front Court
The Tar Heels' offense will be centered around Tyler Hansbrough, a talented and aggressive inside player. His 18.9 points per game last season will certainly carry into this year, thanks to his abilities to get to the basket and convert on difficult plays. Small forward Danny Green proved to be a key component in last year's squad as well, and his long range shooting abilities and arm span will only provide more key components for the Heels.



Final Analysis
The Tar Heels were ranked as number one in the nation by Athlon Sports prior to the season, but it is up to them to live up to their expectations. With three of the nation's most talented players who are all lottery-bound after this year, the skills are in place, if not the personalities. If egos and confidence do not get in the way of the team's goals, this Tar Heel team may see another NCAA championship in their future.



Virginia Tech

The Virginia Tech Hokies have one of the nation's best recruiting classes this season, but inexperience will be the barrier to this team's success. Last year, the team made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament and came close to finishing first in the ACC. But losing two senior guards in Jamon Gordon and Zabian Dowdell severely hinders the Hokies, and a repeat performance is up in the air.



Back Court
The Hokies' biggest problem is their deficiencies at the point guard position. Last year's backcourt duo of Gordon and Dowdell is irreplaceable. Nigel Munson, an undecided returning guard, is the Hokies' only chance of a solid point guard and leader on the team. A.D. Vasallo is the team's most proficient guard, with the size and the dangerous outside shooting that the team needs to succeed, but the incoming freshman will have to help out tremendously off of the bench. Hank Thorns and Malcolm Delaney will make the most noticeable impact, as Delaney is an amazing scorer with an unforgettable outside jumper, and Thorns, though not as talented as Delaney, should be a solid producer coming off the bench.



Front Court
The Hokies' front court is nothing special. Sophomore Lewis Witcher and junior Cheick Diakite are the probable starters for this year. Witcher is not known for his scoring, but does not mind getting his hands dirty. His inconsistency will not help the already weak front court situation. Diakite too is nothing opponents will lose sleep over. He lacks power, and barring a breakthrough year, will not be vital to the team's success. The Hokies seriously lack an inside threat.



Final Analysis
Virginia Tech's inexperience will lead to constant mistakes. With no true leader and no scoring threat, the Hokies are going to face serious trouble this season.



Virginia

The Cavaliers made it to the second round of last year's NCAA tournament before falling to Tennessee. Virginia's back court was one of the strongest in the nation, consisting of Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds. This year, Reynolds is out of the equation and Singletary is riding under all of the pressure. Head coach Dave Leitao is expecting Singletary to lead this team back to the NCAA tournament once again.



Back Court
The big question for this season is who will replace Reynolds. As a senior, he averaged 18.4 points per game last season as one of the top guards in the nation. Mamadi Diane will most likely fill the vacancy, but he does not have nearly as much talent as Reynolds. Singletary was the team's leading scorer last season, racking up 19.0 points per game. His feisty play and his impressive scoring capabilities are vital to the Cavaliers' success this season. With the pressure on, Singletary, the unquestioned leader of this team, will only impress the basketball nation even more. Mustapha Farrakhan and Jeff Jones are the Cavaliers' wing players this season. Both players will provide energy and enthusiasm off of the bench, and their fine shooting will be of significant value to this team.



Front Court
Jason Cain is now gone from the Cavaliers' lineup. He averaged a team high 6.3 rebounds per game, and his inside presence played an important role in Virginia's appearance in the NCAA tournament last year. Without this rebounding threat, the Cavaliers' inside game will be nearly invisible. Now that Cain is gone, Tunji Soroye will slide in and take the starting job. Soroye's strength and frame will serve justice inside the paint, and though he may not be as talented as Cain, with a bit more confidence and work, there is no telling of Soroye's capabilities.



Final Analysis
The Cavaliers are undoubtedly going to miss the Singletary/Reynolds combo. Diane will not be able to completely fill these shoes, but will at least provide some spark. Virginia's glaring weakness though is their lack of a dynamic inside man. With a leader like Singletary however, the Cavaliers may make another NCAA appearance.



Wake Forest

The Demon Deacons are still mourning the loss of head coach Skip Prosser, who tragically passed away last season. This distraction has set the Deacons back tremendously, who were struggling even before his sudden death. Now with a fresh season ahead, head Coach Dino Gaudio hopes to move on and begin the rebuilding process.



Back Court
None of Wake Forest's three main guards have superior scoring capabilities. Sophomore point guard Ishmael Smith is not a great scorer, but is excellent at getting to the basket. Alongside Smith is sophomore guard L.D. Williams, who is not an exemplarily shooter either. This is where the Deacons' problems start; without quality scorers, the Deacons stand no chance against high-profile teams in their conference.



Front court
The loss of Kyle Visser will tremendously show this season, especially on the offensive end. Visser averaged 17.0 points per game and 7.4 rebounds. David Weaver will most likely replace Visser, but Weaver only averaged 2.5 points per game and 1.7 boards last season. The Deacons' lack of an inside man will be one of the main reasons why this Wake Forest team will have an unsuccessful season.



Final Analysis
With Visser out of the Demon Deacons' lineup, this team will be unable to stand after their first regular season ACC game. If they are lucky, they may squeeze by Miami and some non-conference teams, but no one else. Wake Forest lacks a true point guard and a solid scorer, and without a proven leader or a scoring threat, will have a rude awakening once their ACC schedule begins.




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  • TYLER WILCHEK on March 17, 2008 at 2:24 AM
    HAHA
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