In preparation for another thrilling season of college basketball, we at Silver Chips have taken a gander at the ACC and put together previews for the league's 12 teams. Tyler Hansbrough and the Tarheels will seek to set the pace, but other strong squads, like perennial powerhouse Duke and a completely intact starting lineup at Wake Forest, promise to make the season interesting.
Boston College didn't have the best run last season and there is not much left for the Eagles this season with the graduation of their leading rebounder, Shamari Spears, along with other post player, Tyrelle Blair. The Eagles have no inside force prevalent whatsoever this season and will struggle against all ACC teams. The Eagles will surround their entire team around point guard and leading scorer Tyrese Rice, who returned for his senior season and is considered to be one of the best point guards in the nation.
Coach Oliver Purnell, back for his sixth season as the Tiger's head coach, has turned this team around in the past few years as he broke a nine-year tradition of Clemson not being in the NCAA tourney. However, Clemson lost star players Cliff Hammonds, powerhouse James Mays and Sam Perry. On the upside, guard and forward K.C. Rivers will be returning for his senior season on the Tiger squad. Rivers led the Tigers in scoring last season and will undoubtedly do the same this year. But, Clemson has no inside force this year, and little depth. Clemson has been impressive in the past couple of years, but the loss of Mays is going to be devastating for the Tigers as there will be almost no way to match up against the bigger teams.
The Dukies are back as a top contender for this season. Senior point guard Greg Paulus will rule Duke's backcourt along with sophomore guard Nolan Smith, a fierce and competitive combination. Kyle Singler will run Duke's frontcourt and is expected to drain mid-range jumpers and also take it to the hole. Duke's inside presence may lack a little this year, as they don't have a dominant center. Brian Zoubek will attempt to provide aggressiveness in the paint, but is a question mark. Even so, Duke will have a stellar squad that will intimidate every team in the nation.
Florida Sate, without a doubt, will be one of the worst teams in the ACC. They lost too many key players, including Isaiah Swann. Even with multiple McDonald's All-Americans coming in, none are likely to fill a leadership position. The Seminoles are too young to even think of competing against a team like UNC or Duke. The Seminoles' only hope is senior frontcourt man Uche Echefu, who averaged 10 points last season along with senior point guard Toney Douglas. However this will not be enough to make Florida State a promising contender in the ACC or in any division whatsoever. This will be a tough year for head coach Leonard Hamilton.
Georgia Tech's two top scorers, Anthony Morrow and Jeremis Smith, have departed. Of those returning, junior forward Zach Peacock defaults as the highest leading scorer, putting in just under 10 points a game. Since he came off the bench last year he may be primed for a breakout year as a starter. But guards Lewis Clinch, Maurice Miller and D'Andre Bell need to work something special in order for the Yellow Jackets to get off the ground.
Greivis Vasquez makes a return from a convincing sophomore campaign and will be the heart of Maryland. The Terps will have no inside presence this season as they lost James Gist and Bambale Osby. For Maryland to be able to compete this season, other players need to step up to take the pressure off Vasquez. Eric Hayes will need to kick it into gear as well as Landon Milbourne. The Terps will have another long season and probably won't receive an invitation to the NCAA tournament – again.
The Hurricanes earned a respectable seven seed at the Big Dance last year, made possible with their impressive 12-0 opening to the season and tacking on solid wins over Duke and Clemson. Miami sees their leading scorer return in senior guard Jack McClinton, whose supporting cast is almost entirely intact, only missing graduated center Anthony King, who started every game last year. The Hurricanes will look to return to the NCAA Tournament and spoil someone else's season, as they almost did last year to number-two Texas.
A last place finish in the ACC last year, capped by a 0-9, gives NC State just one place to go: up. Despite losing starting forward Gavin Grant to graduation and all-star center J.J. Hickson to an early departure for the NBA, the Wolfpack may be in a good position to be the surprise of the ACC. Senior Ben McCauley, who started at center two years ago before the arrival of Hickson, will need to regain the scoring touch he shared with Brandon Costner when they averaged over 31 points a game together. The biggest hole the pack needs to fill is at point guard. Farnold Degand started last year, but it's hard to judge how effective he'll be this year as he recovers from a torn ACL.
North Carolina is by far the best team in the ACC. There are no faults in this team's roster as they are fully stocked in every position. Ty Lawson will be making no friends this season as he will bolt by every point guard who attempts to defend him. Danny Green will be a promising threat by draining three pointers on cue. Marcus Ginyard, one of the nation's best defenders, will pressure the nation's bests, after recovering from an injured foot. Big-man-on-campus Tyler Hansbrough will pound the ball inside as he makes his last stand as a Tar Heel. His versatile game play will make it hard for opposing teams to come up with a sufficient defensive strategy. Coach Roy Williams should be expecting a shot at another national title this season.
After a brief invitation into the AP Top 25 near the beginning of last year, the Cavaliers have been on the downfall. Virginia dropped 11 of 16 conference games last season and will struggle to improve this year in the absence of all-star point guard Sean Singletary, center Ryan Pettinella and forward Adrian Joseph. In fact, the Cavs return just two starters this year – guard Mamadi Diane and forward Mike Scott. Diane, who knocked down over 40 percent of three-point attempts last year, and junior Calvin Baker will be expected to fill the backcourt and lead Virginia through what may turn out to be a rebuilding year.
Returning three starters, the Hokies and coach Seth Greenberg will look to earn a trip to March Madness, something their respectable 19-13 record last year did not. Fueled by the disappointment of being referred to the National Invitation Tournament instead, returning leading scorer A.D. Vassallo will lead a familiar Tech squad, only missing forward Deron Washington, who graduated after posting 13.1 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last year. The Hokies expect some important support from two skilled sophomores, forward J.T. Thompson and point guard Hank Thorns.
While most of the ACC seems to be picking up the pieces and filling gaping holes for the upcoming season, Wake Forest couldn't be more set. The Demon Deacons return all five starters from last year and retain most of their depth as well. Sophomore guard Jeff Teague will look to build upon the dominating 26-point performance he had as he orchestrated a memorable NCAA upset of Duke. Teague will need to work with senior point guard Ishmael Smith to fill the backcourt and lead the Demon Deacons through what should be a promising year. In addition, Wake Forest adds three highly ranked freshmen to the roster. Ty Walker and Tony Woods bring size and strength to Wake's paint game, and McDonald's All-American Al-Farouq Aminu possesses the rare combination of height and agility.
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