Monday, November 7, 2005

ACC Preview


Player of the Year: J.J. Redick, SG, Duke

Newcomer of the Year: Tyler Hansbrough, PF, North Carolina

All-Conference Team:
G- JJ Redick, Duke
G- Justin Gray, Wake Forest
F- Craig Smith, Boston College
F- Eric Williams, Wake Forest
C- Shelden Williams, Duke

Second Team:
G- Zabian Dowdell, Virginia Tech
G- Guillermo Diaz, Miami
G- Chris McCray, Maryland
F- Nick Caner-Medley, Maryland
F- Jared Dudley, Boston College

Third Team:
G- Robert Hite, Miami
G- Jamon Gordon, Virginia Tech
G- Sean Singletary, Virginia
F- Ilian Evtimov, North Carolina State
F- Coleman Collins, Virginia Tech

1. Duke- Duke has to be considered the favorite in the ACC, given that they are the near-consensus preseason #1 in the country. They have depth and skill at each position, and one of the best coaches in the game in Mike Krzyzewski. The Blue Devils have very solid perimeter play. JJ Redick is the premier shooting guard in the country. He can carry the Blue Devils, and is one of the best pure shooters around. Redick is a sure-fire All-American and a candidate for national player of the year. Sean Dockery is a defensive pest, yet might not start at the point. Freshman Greg Paulus was the top point guard recruit in the country, and might be starting by the time conference play starts. Wing DeMarcus Nelson plays bigger than his 6-3 size would indicate, and will have to pick up some of the scoring slack left by the departure of Daniel Ewing. The Dukies are also stacked up front. However, they are going to need excellent production from a frontcourt that includes two freshmen. Shelden Williams is the best post player in the country,offensively and defensively. He gets a double double every time out, and could be the best shot blocker in the nation. Along with Redick, he is the leading candidate for National Player of the Year. Josh McRoberts is a candidate for national freshman of the year. He is an inside-outside threat that could develop into a start by March. Lee Melchionni stepped up in conference play a year ago, giving the Blue Devils a frontcourt player that could hit the three consistently. Freshman Eric Boateng will give Williams a few minutes of rest each game, something he didn't get a year ago. If the freshmen live up to their potential and either Dockery or Paulus step up at the point, Duke could be cutting down the nets in Indianapolis. Prediction: NCAA

2. Boston College- Boston College is the newcomer to the ACC. After sharing the regular season title last year in the Big East, the Eagles were upset in both the Big East Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. They are the main contender to Duke's ACC title hopes. BC has the frontcourt to compete for a league championship. Craig Smith is the best power forward in the country. He is extremely strong, and bulls his way to buckets everytime he gets the ball. He is very tough to stop once he gets the ball. Jared Dudley is one of the more underrated players in the nation. He is one of the best forwards in the country, but doesn't get the accolades. Dudley always finds ways to score, and his versatility makes him difficult to defend. Sean Williams is expected to become eligible as early as December, after a suspension for an off-the-court situation. If and when he returns, he gives BC an outstanding shot blocker. Akida McLain and Evan Neisler will provide depth and will have to play more than expected until Williams comes back. The backcourt needs to provide the offense with balance so defenses can't focus all their attention on the frontcourt. Wing Sean Marshall is the best shooter on the team, and is a good scorer. However, he needs to work on his defense. Returning to start at the point is Louis Hinnant. He is a four-year starter that is an excellent distributor but not much of a scorer. Freshman Marquez Haynes has impressed in practice, and will see extensive time on the perimeter. Fellow freshman Tyrese Rice will also get minutes in the backcourt. BC has an excellent frontcourt, and a quality perimeter group. While not yet on Duke's level, BC will compete in the ACC and should make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Prediction: NCAA

3. Maryland- Maryland may have been the biggest underachievers last season, as well as one of the most inconsistent. They beat Duke, but lost to Clemson three times. The Terrapins will need more consistency if they are to contend in the ACC. The loss of go-to-guy John Gilchrist may be a blessing in disguise. He was a chemistry killer and was never the leader that the young Terps needed him to be. The point guard spot will now go to either JC transfer Parrish Brown, Sterling Ledbetter, or D.J. Strawberry. Strawberry missed the latter half of last season due to an ACL injury. He is more of a combo guard, but can play the point if needed. He is very quick and is the best defender on the team. Even if he doesn't start, he will be one of team's leading minute-getters. Brown is a good playmaker and a quick on-the-ball defender. He is also a very good shooter. Ledbetter started during the NIT last season at the point, and wasn't overly impressive. He should see minutes, though. Also starting in the backcourt will be Chris McCray. He is one of the better all-around guards in the ACC, and is an especially good defender. McCray can hit the open three at times, although it would benefit him to become more consistent with his shot. Coming off the bench on the wing is Mike Jones. He makes the most of his minutes on the floor ( 7.2 ppg in 13.7 mpg), and is a streaky shooter. The frontcourt could be one of the best in the country if several key guys play to their potential. Nik Caner-Medley is an excellent scorer that can shoot the jumper and post up smaller forwards. He is one of the best forwards in the conference. Travis Garrison stepped his game up in the NIT, and needs to continue that this season. Ekene Ibekwe is extremely athletic but needs to improve his consistency in order to utilize his full potential. James Gist is an extraordinary athlete that makes the most of his minutes off the bench, and could be a breakout player this season. Will Bowers was a part-time starter that provided solid defense and rebounding. If Maryland plays like some of their performances last season would suggest, they can erase memories of last year's NIT bunch, and make a run in this season's NCAA Tournament. Prediction: NCAA

4. Wake Forest- Wake Forest, after being the Preseason #1 a year ago, now is in somewhat of a reloading season after losing lottery pick Chris Paul, as well as seniors Taron Downey, Vytas Danelius, and Jamaal Levy. However, two All-American candidates return in guard Justin Gray and post player Eric Williams. Gray has been on the wing the past couple of seasons with Paul at the point, but he is going to have to move to the lead guard role this year. He is an excellent three-point shooter and scorer that will have to become more of a distributor. In addition, Gray will need to keep his turnovers down. Williams is the main man down low. He is very efficient once he gets the ball on the low block, and is a good shot blocker and rebounder. He is overshadowed within the league by Duke's Shelden Williams, but he is every bit as good as him. They should have some good match-ups this season. The Demon Deacons are going to have break in a trio of new starters, but they have several players ready to take on bigger roles this year. Trent Strickland has started in the past, and will have to become a dependable scorer on the wing. He is very athletic but will have to become more of an all-around threat this season. Chris Ellis is a decent inside scorer that shot an unbelievable 61 percent from beyond the arc, albeit with only 18 attempts. Kyle Visser is another solid player in the paint that is expected to have improved numbers in the paint this season for the Demon Deacons. Forward Cameron Stanley is expected to provide depth in the frontcourt. Two freshman are going to see plenty of time and may even start. Guard Harvey Hale is an excellent defender who can also score on the perimeter, while forward Kevin Swinton is a good all-around player who is an excellent scorer. If Gray makes a seamless transition to the point guard position, and the role players step up to handle heavy minutes, the Demon Deacons will go as far as last year's team did. Prediction: NCAA

5. North Carolina State- North Carolina State looked like it was going to become one of the bigger disappointments of last season until they got hot down the stretch and made a run to the Sweet 16 after upsetting Connecticut in the second round. However, they lost All-ACC, do-everything wing Julius Hodge. He had been the face of Wolfpack basketball for four years, and now needs to be replaced. NC State has a bevy of talented players that all could challenge for starting jobs. The perimeter group is deep with several options. Guard Engin Atsur is an underrated player. He can do nearly everything on the floor--score, shoot the three, play defense, distribute, even play the point if needed. He is returning for his third year as a starter. Cameron Bennerman really came on during the postseason a year ago, and should have a big year on the wing. He is extremely athletic and is one of the best defenders in the country. Point guard Tony Bethel had an injury-plagued first season at NC State after transferring from Georgetown. He is a very good defender and a good leader for the Wolfpack. Also on the perimeter is wing Gavin Grant, who could have a huge season. He is 6-7 and a very versatile, talented performer. Grant can do a little bit of everything, although his long-range shooting is a little lackluster. Freshman Courtney Fells is expected to come in and make an immediate impact. He is an excellent shooter that was a highly-touted recruit. The frontcourt is equally as deep and versatile. Ilian Evtimov leads the way. He can play any of the frontcourt spots, and is a good scorer, both inside and out. He is a 43 percent three-point shooter and is a very good passer. Andrew Brackman could have a big season up front. The future MLB pitcher is an outstanding shot blocker and a good rebounder who can also hit the outside shot. Cedric Simmons will be the main man off the bench. He is a potentially dominant player on the inside that can block shots, rebound, and score in the paint. Freshmen Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley will also see time off the bench. Costner was a McDonald's All-American that can do a variety of things on the floor, while McCauley is a solid inside-outside scorer. If NC State can successfully replace Hodge, the Wolfpack will be a tough team to beat in the postseason. Prediction: NCAA

6. Miami- Miami (Fl.) was right in the mix for an NCAA Tournament bid, until they lost a few key games down the stretch to put them on the wrong side off the bubble. They shouldn't have to sweat on Selection Sunday this season. One of the top backcourts in the country returns for the Hurricanes. Guillermo Diaz is a high-flying scorer that can do it all on the offensive end. He is one of the best guards in the conference. He can play solid defense and looks like he can carry Miami. Robert Hite gets somewhat overshadowed by Diaz, but was still fourth in the ACC in scoring. He is not much of a passer, but is a good point producer that takes some of the pressure off of Diaz. Anthony Harris starts at the point and is solid all-around. He is one of the most underrated players in the conference, and is also a very good distributor. Denis Clemente was a highly-touted point guard recruit who is extremely quick. The frontcourt needs to do their part in order for Miami to make the Tournament. Anthony King is an excellent rebounder and one of the best shot blockers in the country. Seeing minutes beside him will be Gary Hamilton. Coming off the bench last season, Hamilton was a very good rebounder who makes the most of his minutes. He should see more this year. Freshmen Adrian Thomas and Brian Asbury will also see extensive minutes for Miami. Asbury is more of a wing, while Thomas can play both forward spots. If the frontcourt can provide consistent production and the perimeter can still carry most of the load, the Hurricanes will be in the field. Prediction: NCAA

7. Virginia Tech- Virginia Tech should be the last ACC team into the NCAA Tournament. Last year's surprise ACC team should again surprise some people with another good season. The Hokies came out of nowhere to post a very good season and nearly make the NCAA Tournament. Zabian Dowdell and Jamon Gordon form an excellent backcourt, with both being able to play the point and the wing. Dowdell is one of the top guards in the conference, and is very clutch on the offensive end late in games. Gordon is one of the best defenders in the ACC that is also an excellent passer, as well as a good rebounder for his size. Coleman Collins is one of the more underrated players in the conference, but can hold his own down low with the best of them. He should be an all-conference performer this season. Collins just finds ways to make plays. Deron Washington and Wynton Witherspoon are very slender for the power forward position, but they handle it well. Washington is an outstanding athlete, while Witherspoon could also fight for a starting spot opposite Washington. The return of Markus Sailes from injury should provide a boost to the backcourt. J.D. Vassallo will also see time on the perimeter. If the Hokies can become more efficient on offense, and win some games on the road, they will be on the right side of the bubble this season. Prediction: NCAA

8. North Carolina- North Carolina loses their top seven scorers from last season, including all five starters and four lottery picks in the past NBA Draft. The defending national champions bring in one of the best recruiting classes in the country, but need them to mesh quickly with the returnees in order to make a run in the ACC. The leader of the newcomer pack is Tyler Hansbrough, the favorite for the ACC Freshman of the Year. He is an excellent low-post scorer, and at 6-9, is the tallest player on the team. He is going to have to be the go-to-guy immediately for the Tar Heels. The other freshman expected to play are perimeter players Bobby Frasor, Marcus Ginyard, and Danny Green. Frasor, a McDonald's All-American from Chicago, could start right away in the backcourt, and might even see time at the point. He is a solid all-around player. Ginyard is an excellent defender who will also see immediate playing time. A third McDonald's All-American, Green, will also get extensive playing time early. He is a very good scorer from Long Island that can do a variety of things on the floor. The returnees will have to step up and take on major roles this season. David Noel is the leading scorer at 3.9 ppg, but isn't much of a go-to-scorer. He is a very good defender that is excellent in transition. Point guard Quentin Thomas saw time backing up Raymond Felton last season, but wasn't overly impressive. He turned the ball over too much and played out of control. If he could run the Tar Heels with efficiency, that would be ideal. Reyshawn Terry has the potential to be a big-time scorer. In his very limited time last season, he demonstrated the ability to get to the basket and also shoot the ball from the field. If he can give UNC consistent scoring up front, they would be that much better. A lot of pieces have to come together for North Carolina if they are to repeat even an NCAA Tournament bid. If Hansbrough comes in and dominates and the rest of the freshmen provide consistent production, the Tar Heels will be on the bubble come March. Prediction: NIT

9. Georgia Tech- Georgia Tech is in the same boat as North Carolina. They lose all five starters and their top bench player. However, unlike the Tar Heels, the Yellow Jackets have a group of returnees that saw quality minutes last season and could fill the starting roles. The low post should be in good hands with sophomores Jeremis Smith and Ra'Sean Dickey. Dickey has the potential to be a go-to-guy down low and showed flashes of that ceiling last season. He is also a very good rebounder. Smith is a very physical forward that could be one of the better rebounders in the conference. The lone senior on the team, Theodis Tarver, is a good defender who will play major minutes down low. The perimeter has the potential to be very good. Sophomore Anthony Morrow will start on one wing. He is an excellent long-range shooter and could be the main man for the Yellow Jackets on the outside. Lewis Clinch could start on the other wing. He is a super scorer that will make an immediate impact in the backcourt for Tech. Another wing, Mario West, is the best defender on the team and can lock-up the opposition's top scorer. At the point, Zam Frederick II will likely start. He is a very good scorer who is not a natural point guard. He wanted to transfer after the season, but that didn't work out so he returned to the Yellow Jackets to run the team. If the role players from a season ago develop into go-to-players and consistent producers, Georgia Tech will reach the postseason, likely the NIT. Prediction: NIT

10. Florida State- Florida State didn't live up to expectations a year ago, and limped to a 12-19 record. They lose second-round pick Von Wafer, who was extremely inconsistent and disappeared way too often. If you look at the Seminoles' roster, there is a lot of talent that just needs to be mixed right to improve their record. In the backcourt, returning starter Todd Galloway will run the point. Galloway is a decent lead guard who does not really stand out. He will be joined by a slew of talented wings. JC transfer Jerel Allen is expected to be a big-time scorer, while Andrew Wilson and Jason Rich are the projected starters. Wilson was hindered by an injury the entire season, but can be an athletic player this season. Rich was turnover-prone a season ago, and could lose his starting job this year. Isaiah Swann and Jason Mims are combo guards that are also fighting for time. Swann is a good scorer that also needs to cut down on his turnovers, while Mims will compete with Galloway for the starting PG spot. That perimeter sextet is going to create problems for many teams in the ACC. Inside, Al Thornton could develop into an all-conference type of player. He is ready for a big season. Alexander Johnson, who has yet to live up to his potential, will start next to him. He is a decent scorer and rebounder, that can become a solid 10-6 guy. Diego Romero and freshman Uche Echefu will provide depth. Echefu is expected to have an immediate impact in the low post, while Romero is a nice option off the bench. If the Seminoles can mesh all the talent and depth that they have, they can win some games they shouldn't in the ACC, and contend for an NIT berth. Prediction: NIT

11. Clemson- Clemson was a competitive team at teams last season, defeating Maryland three times and making it to the NIT. They return three starters and several key players from that team. The perimeter is where it starts for the Tigers. Wings Cliff Hammonds and Shawan Robinson are both double-figure scorers who will start. Hammonds has the potential to become a breakout player in the ACC, while Robinson is a very good shooter, hitting threes at a near 40-percent clip. At the point is Vernon Hamilton. He is quick and a good defender, but turns the ball over too often. Off the bench will be wing Sam Perry. He is the best defender on the team and should improve his scoring and rebounding numbers this season. Troy Mathis, a newcomer, will compete with Hamilton for the point guard spot. Up front, senior Akin Akingbala and sophomore James Mays will see the most minutes. Akingbala is an inconsistent post player that needs to step up and become a dependable option down low. Mays played well last season in minutes off the bench and is a solid inside-outside scorer. Returnee Steve Allen and freshmen Raymond Sykes and Julius Powell will also see minutes in the frontcourt. A lot of talent returns for Clemson, especially on the perimeter. If they can get some production from the interior players, the Tigers may make a return appearance in the NIT. Prediction: NIT

12. Virginia- Virginia started out with a very good non-conference record and looked as if they could have been a contender in the ACC. They then went 4-12 in the ACC and finished in last place. The Cavaliers are going to be breaking in a new coach, former DePaul lead man Dave Leitao. His rebuilding job will start with a solid perimeter trio. Sean Singletary is one of the lesser known ACC point guards, but he is also one of the best. He is a very good distributor and defender. He is also a decent rebounder for a point guard. T.J. Bannister is a 5-10 guard that is a quick player that can score and pass well. Wing J.R. Reynolds is an excellent scorer who came off the bench last season but should start this year for the Cavaliers. Up front, the main returnees are Jason Cain and Adrian Joseph. Cain is a tough player and a hard-worker who will bang bodies with the best in the ACC down low. Joseph is a versatile forward that can score and rebound well. Several newcomers are going to have to step up in both the frontcourt and the backcourt in order for Virginia to get out of the cellar. Virginia is far and away the worst team in the ACC. Other than a few perimeter players, the Cavaliers are severely lacking in ACC-caliber performers. They finished last in the ACC a season ago, and the same should be expected this year. Prediction: No postseason

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