Tuesday, October 30, 2007

ACC Preview


Player of the Year: Tyler Hansbrough, PF/C, North Carolina

Newcomer of the Year: Kyle Singler, F, Duke

All-Conference Team:
G- Sean Singletary, Virginia
G- Tyrese Rice, Boston College
G- Ty Lawson, North Carolina
F- Brandon Costner, North Carolina State
C- Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina

Second Team:
G- Wayne Ellington, North Carolina
G/F- DeMarcus Nelson, Duke
F- Gavin Grant, North Carolina State
F- James Mays, Clemson
F- James Gist, Maryland

Third Team:
G- K.C. Rivers, Clemson
G- Greivis Vasquez, Maryland
G- Jack McClinton, Miami (Fl.)
G- Toney Douglas, Florida State
F- Ben McCauley, North Carolina State

1. North Carolina: The Tar Heels were my preseason number one last season, and enter the year number two in my rankings. UNC reached the Elite Eight last season before blowing a lead in the second half and eventually falling to Georgetown. It will try to get over the hump this season. It all starts in the backcourt with sophomores Tywon Lawson and Wayne Ellington. With one year under their respective belts, Lawson and Ellington are primed to develop into one of the best combos in the country. Lawson is an absolute blur with the ball, making him perfect for North Carolina’s up-tempo offense. He is terrific at finding teammates for easy baskets and improved greatly as the season went on. Ellington was inconsistent at times last season, but is one of the best pure shooters in the country. Now that he is no longer a freshman, expect his confidence and shot numbers to increase. He has the talent to become one of the best at his position. Bobby Frasor started two years ago and early last year before a foot injury forced him to the bench. He provides good depth at both guard spots, while Quentin Thomas will also see bench minutes. Up front, All-America Tyler Hansbrough leads the way. He is one of the best players in the country, and is a player of the year candidate. He’s extremely productive around the basket, and he is a solid finisher. If he expands his offensive game, he will be unstoppable. However, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the frontcourt group performs now that Brandan Wright and Reyshawn Terry are no longer in the fold. Deon Thompson played well last season when given the opportunity, and is primed for a big year. Marcus Ginyard and Danny Green will split time on the wing. Ginyard is the team’s best defender, while Green is a solid two-way player. Alex Stepheson provides depth down low. Projected Finish: NCAA

2. Duke: The Blue Devils had a relatively disappointing season last year, finishing only 8-8 in the ACC and losing to VCU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. With the addition of several talented newcomers and the loss of only one starter, expect Coach K to have this team back in the Final Four hunt in no time. The perimeter group is one of the best and deepest in the country, and will have to carry the Devils in many games. Point guard Greg Paulus was a very solid performer down the stretch last year, and is one of the best three-point shooters in the conference. He needs to improve his defense and playmaking abilities, though. All-conference wing DeMarcus Nelson showed the ability to do a little of everything last year, and needs to become a go-to-guy on the perimeter. Most of all, Nelson needs to improve his paltry 59% free-throw shooting since he is tough to stop when going to the basket. Jon Scheyer is a very good shooter who has the ability to score in bunches from beyond the arc, and Gerald Henderson is a strong wing capable of muscling up inside the arc. If given more time, Henderson could be a star. Freshman Nolan Smith will see time at both guard spots due to his quickness and athleticism. Two more freshmen, Kyle Singler and Taylor King, will get minutes in the frontcourt despite their propensity to play on the perimeter. Singler is one of the best freshmen in the country and will become a go-to-guy for the Blue Devils as the season goes on. King has deep range on his three-point shot, but might need to play inside due to Duke’s lack of size. Down low, sophomores Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas will have to man the post. The 7-1 Zoubek is a decent rebounder and finisher around the basket who needs to stay healthy, while Thomas is very athletic and can run the floor—but is not a true post player. He is a solid rebounder and defender, though. Martynas Pocius and David McClure will also see time off the bench on the perimeter and in the frontcourt, respectively. Projected Finish: NCAA

3. North Carolina State: The Wolfpack finished only 5-11 in ACC play last season, tying for next-to-last in the standings. However, Sidney Lowe and co. made a nice run in the ACC Tournament before falling in the title game to North Carolina, and then won two games in the NIT before losing to eventual champion West Virginia. This year, they will hope to carry some of that momentum over from last season. It starts in the frontcourt, where arguably the nation’s best frontline resides. Yes, it’s odd to hear that said, but it’s even more difficult to find a team that has a better combination at the wing, combo forward, and post positions. Swingman Gavin Grant is a versatile performer who can do a little bit of everything. He is not a great shooter, but he gets to the basket well and he crashes the offensive glass. Brandon Costner is one of the best forwards in the country that no one talks about. He can play both inside and outside, scoring in a variety of ways and rebounding well. Expect him to become a household name this year. Ben McCauley is one of the most efficient shooters in the country, and finishes well around the basket. Furthermore, he is a good rebounder and a solid passer. Freshman J.J. Hickson was one of the highest-ranked big men recruits, and will enable Lowe to come up with several different line-ups as the season goes on. Another highly-touted frosh, Tracy Smith, and sophomore forward Dennis Horner, provide more depth. The backcourt will be the key to this team. Courtney Fells is fine on the wing. He was a double-figure scorer last year and also showed the ability to rebound the ball well and run the point if necessary. The point guard position needs to be addressed. Without Engin Atsur on the team anymore, there are three players fighting to take his place. The only problem is, only one of the three is eligible to play right now. Iowa State transfer Farnold Degand is a very quick lead guard who can run the team. Tennessee transfer Marques Johnson could be the frontrunner to be the starter by the end of the year with his size and versatility, but he can’t play until the second semester. Freshman Javi Gonzalez is still recovering from an injured thumb, but he is a solid passer. Projected Finish: NCAA

4. Clemson: The Tigers started off last season with a bang, winning their first 17 games en route to a national ranking and a likely lock for the NCAA Tournament. However, they finished the season on a 4-10 stretch, and did not reach the Big Dance, settling for a bid to the NIT where they ended up falling in the title game to West Virginia. Expect an NCAA invitation this season. The Tigers are led by one of the best quartets in the conference. James Mays is an all-conference candidate up front. He is one of the best defenders in the country, and leads the way for the Tigers’ press. He is very athletic and can finish around the basket, and is also a good passer and rebounder. Trevor Booker lines up next to him down low. Booker is a very good shot-blocker and is also a good rebounder. Furthermore, he came on strong towards the end of the year with his offensive game. The backcourt will be Cliff Hammonds and K.C. Rivers. Hammonds can do nearly everything on the court for Clemson. He is a double-figure scorer, a very solid distributor and defender, and a decent rebounder for his 6-3 size. Hammonds can also knock down three-pointers with consistency. Rivers was the best sixth man in the country last year, leading the Tigers in scoring despite coming off the bench for much of the season. He is a very good three-point shooter and a solid defender and rebounder. The fifth starting spot will likely go to freshman Demontez Stitt, a point guard, or senior Sam Perry, a returning starter on the wing. Stitt would provide a true point guard and very solid passing and penetrating ability, while Perry is a very good perimeter defender. Providing depth on the perimeter are freshman Terrence Oglesby and wing David Potter, while returnees Raymond Sykes and Julius Powell are important bench pieces up front. Projected Finish: NCAA

5. Georgia Tech: Even though the Yellow Jackets finished tied for sixth last season and lose first-round draft picks Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young, they could be better this season. Paul Hewitt has a variety of talented options all over the roster, and could have the most quality depth in the conference. It starts in the frontcourt, where the Jackets return five guys who averaged at least 12 minutes per game last season, and also bring in two very solid newcomers. The returnees are led by Jeremis Smith and Ra’Sean Dickey. However, the latter will be academically ineligible until at least the middle of December. When he returns, he provides solid scoring and rebounding. Smith is an active rebounder and efficient finisher who will be the senior leader for Tech. Zack Peacock and Alade Aminu both should have bigger seasons this year. They are solid scorers and rebounders down low, with Aminu finishing last year strong. Mouhammed Faye is a 6-10 wing who can score both inside and out, and is adept at running the floor. The best forward on the team could be freshman Gani Lawal. He is always around the ball and never stops working. Lawal is very athletic and can score and rebound in the paint. Brad Sheehan will provide depth. The wing also returns two very solid scorers in Lewis Clinch, who missed the final 18 games of last year due to academics, and Anthony Morrow, a very good three-point shooter. Clinch is the team’s best perimeter scorer and could be its go-to-guy, while Morrow needs to regain his sophomore year form when he put up 16 points per game. D’Andre Bell is a good defender on the wing. The point guard position will be key. Freshman Maurice Miller is the most highly-touted of the options, and will be solid at running the team. Transfer Matt Causey is a good shooter and has experience. Projected Finish: NCAA

6. Virginia: The Cavaliers had a very surprising season last year, winning 21 games and finishing in a tie for first in the conference with North Carolina. However, they lose star guard J.R. Reynolds and rugged big man Jason Cain, meaning they will likely take a step back from last season. One of the best players in the country, senior guard Sean Singletary, does return, though. The All-American is a terrific scorer who has the ability to get hot at any time and carry the Cavaliers to a win. He is also a good rebounder and distributor who can pick up steals as well. Also returning on the perimeter are wings Mamadi Diane and Adrian Joseph. Diane came out of nowhere last season to start every game and average close to double-figures in scoring, while Joseph is a versatile forward who can knock down the three. Newcomers will likely push for time, though. Jeff Jones is a big-time scorer on the wing, while William & Mary transfer Calvin Baker averaged double-figures in the CAA. Solomon Tat returns as a bench player in the backcourt. Up front, a long list of returnees will compete for time, as well as freshman Mike Scott, a good inside-outside scorer and rebounder. Forwards Will Harris and Jamil Tucker are both versatile options who can score in a variety of ways. Laurynas Mikalauskas is an efficient finisher around the basket, while Tunji Soroye is a very good defender and rebounder. Ryan Pettinella comes off the bench as well. Projected Finish: NCAA

7. Maryland: The Terrapins looked like they were headed for another February and early March spent on the bubble, but then won their last seven league games and ended up as a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament. However, they lose three starters from a year ago, and will be back on their familiar perch on the Selection Sunday bubble come March. The top two players on the team will be guard Greivis Vasquez and forward James Gist, both all-conference candidates expected to improve this season. Vasquez is one of the best all-around point guards in the country, with the ability to create for himself and his teammates due to his athleticism and quickness. Gist has explosive athleticism, but needs to take the next step offensively this year. He has to become a go-to-guy in the post. We already know he is one of the best rebounders and shot-blockers in the conference. Also returning are Eric Hayes, who played the point last year with Vasquez, and Bambale Osby. Hayes can knock down three-pointers and is a solid floor leader, while Osby is a beast around the basket. He is a relentless big man who can score and rebound. Also starting will likely be Landon Milbourne, an athletic forward who has nice potential. Coming off the bench in the frontcourt will be freshmen Jerome Burney, Braxton Dupree, Dino Gregory, and Shane Walker. The perimeter also has newcomers to back them up. Adrian Bowie is a good scorer, while Cliff Tucker is versatile and could push for time. Projected Finish: NCAA

8. Florida State: The Seminoles have been one of the last teams left out of the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons, and will likely be right on the bubble again this season. However, FSU won 22 games last year led by star Al Thornton, one of the best players in the country, and he ran out of eligibility. As a result, Leonard Hamilton will have to find a replacement if he hopes to make the Big Dance. The strength of this team is on the perimeter, though. Toney Douglas is one of the top point guards in the conference, but has the ability to score the ball very well, as evidenced by his outstanding freshman season at Auburn two years ago. Isaiah Swann and Jason Rich are double-figure scorers on the wings. Swann is a very good three-point shooter and defender who can also finish around the basket, while Rich is a good penetrator and a decent rebounder. Ralph Mims provides depth. Up front, two freshmen will the key for the ‘Noles. 7-1 Solomon Alabi and 6-10 Julian Vaughn were both highly-touted high school big men—Alabi was a top five center—and will need to make an immediate impact. Alabi is a good defender and rebounder but is somewhat raw offensively, while Vaughn could be more prepared to play right away. Uche Echefu will be able to move to power forward with the new additions; he is a good inside-outside scorer who can hit the jumpshot and also finish near the rim. Ryan Reid and Cassan Breedon provide depth. Projected Finish: NIT

9. Boston College: The Eagles could finally take a step back this season without ACC Player of the Year Jared Dudley and Sean Marshall, a veteran starter. However, it is always tough to bet against Al Skinner and the Eagles, who seem to find a way to get wins no matter what the talent level on the team is. This year’s team will be led by Tyrese Rice, a junior guard who could develop into one of the premier guards in the country. He is an all-conference performer who can really light up the scoreboard with his driving and, more importantly, shooting abilities. He can also distribute the ball fairly well. Joining Rice in the backcourt will be a trio of inexperienced freshmen. Rakim Sanders is a very good perimeter shooter who is ready to contribute right away. Biko Paris is a solid combo guard and Corey Raji provides athleticism. Up front, John Oates returns as a starter. He is not really much more than a role player, but he provides good rebounding and defense. Tyrelle Blair is a very good shot-blocker who needs to improve his offensive game. Shamari Spears could be ready to take the next step for the Eagles. He is a tough match-up at forward, and will have another year of experience under his belt. Freshmen Josh Southern and Courtney Dunn will provide depth. Projected Finish: NIT

10. Miami (Fl.): The Hurricanes are hoping their surprising play in the ACC Tournament bodes well for this season, and that their 4-12, last-place finish in the ACC does not carry-over to this year. They certainly have the depth and talent to pull off a few upsets. Jack McClinton leads the way in the backcourt as one of the conference’s top scorers. He is one of the country’s best three-point shooters and will look to expand his offensive game this season. Junior wing Brian Asbury can do a variety of things at both ends of the floor. He is a good scorer and a solid rebounder who is also a decent defender. Adrian Thomas will likely back up Asbury. James Drews will provide depth on the wing as well. Inside, Anthony King is one of the best rebounders and shot-blockers in the conference, and is also a serviceable scorer around the basket. Dwayne Collins, Jimmy Graham, and Raymond Hicks form a solid trio at the post positions. Collins is a good scorer and rebounder, but needs to be more consistent; Graham has good potential but needs to stay healthy as he can score and rebound well; and Hicks also needs to become more consistent. Freshman Julian Gamble will also see time. With all the talent on the wings and up front, the key may be the play of newcomers Edwin Rios and Lance Hurdle at the point guard position. Rios was a highly-touted high school player and is a good scorer, while Hurdle is a JC transfer who has more experience than Rios. Projected Finish: No postseason

11. Wake Forest: : Prior to the tragic passing of coach Skip Prosser, there was much optimism in Demon Deacon country. The Deacons lost big man Kyle Visser, but Wake has several quality players and could surprise some people in the ACC. The backcourt is going to have to lead the way for them. Ishmael Smith was one of the nation's leading assist men early last season before fading a little bit during ACC play. He needs to become more of a scoring option next year in order for Wake Forest to improve. Harvey Hale showed potential as a scoring option last year, but has to become more consistent. In his last six games, he scored 20 against Miami and 22 against Georgia Tech, but averaged only five points per game in the other four. L.D. Williams came on strong towards the end of the year, but also needs to develop consistency. The athletic wing scored in double-figures 13 times, but also scored five points or less nine times. Freshman guard Jeff Teague could make an immediate impact with his ability to create opportunities for both himself and his teammates. Fellow frosh Gary Clark will add depth. Up front, Wake Forest has problems. Jamie Skeen is a versatile power forward who can score both inside and outside. He played well towards the end of the season, and needs to improve his numbers this year. Freshman James Johnson, who became eligible over the summer, can play both forward spots and has a chance to make a big impact right away. Finding a replacement for the departed Visser will be the key. He was the only Demon Deacon to average double-figures, and gave Wake a legitimate post option down low. 6-10 sophomore David Weaver is going to need to step up in order for Wake Forest to match-up with bigger teams. If not, Gaudio will have to go small with Skeen and Johnson up front. Projected Finish: No postseason

12. Virginia Tech: Going from a team that defeated North Carolina twice, finished third in the ACC, and received a top-five seed in the NCAA Tournament to last place in the ACC? It could happen this year for the Hokies, who lose three starters and do not have much experience outside of their four returnees. The two starters that do return are forwards Deron Washington and Lewis Witcher, while sixth man A.D. Vassallo also comes back. Washington is a very athletic performer is a natural wing but has played out of position the last few years. He can run the floor very well and has developed his offensive game over his career. Witcher is a solid rebounder and scorer near the basket, but needs to expand his game this year. Vassallo was a double-figure scorer last year, mostly off the bench. He is one of the top shooters in the ACC but will need to become more of a go-to-guy this season to make up for the loss of guards Zabian Dowdell and Jamon Gordon, both four-year starters. Cheick Diakite is a good shot-blocker inside and will likely see more playing time this season. Luckily for VT, Seth Greenberg brought in a very solid recruiting class with several pieces that will make an immediate impact. Chief among those is forward Jeff Allen, who will start right away. He is a very good scorer around the basket and is tough to stop despite his 6-7 size. Terrell Bell and J.T. Thompson will also see time up front. In the backcourt, point guard Malcolm Delaney has a chance to start right away, and will fight with classmate Hank Thorns for that spot. Wing guards Dorenzo Hudson and Darrion Pellum will also look to start in the backcourt. Projected Finish: No postseason


  1. I read your article , this is really a good work keep it up

  2. If not, Prosser will have to go small with Skeen and Johnson up front.


  3. Wow, big mistake on my part.

    I was reviewing what I wrote for the Wake Forest Rivals.com site in the summer, when I did a preview for them.

    Unfortunately, that was before the tragic passing of Skip, and that was one of the things I forgot to change.

    I apologize.