Part I: UNC, Duke, Wake
Part II: Clemson, Miami, Va. Tech
Part III: Ga. Tech, BC, Maryland
Part IV: N.C. State, FSU, UVa
The ACC lost one underclassman to the NBA Draft. That's the fewest since the parade of juniors started to leave the college ranks 25 years ago.
Theoretically, that means the ACC is poised for a great season with, at the very least, a chance to send more than four teams to the NCAA Tournament, which it did in 2008 despite being the No. 1-rated conference by the RPI.
The league will certainly have a national power to fly the flag in UNC, the prohibitive favorite to win the national title in Detroit on April 6, 2009. And the face of college basketball in UNC senior Tyler Hansbrough, who'll become the conference's all-time leading scorer and UNC's leading rebounder before the tournament begins.
But will there be depth behind the Tar Heels? Can Duke recover from another March swoon? Will Miami and Virginia Tech take the next step? Will Wake balance the combustible egos of 18- and 19-year-olds — and handle the weight of expectations — better than N.C. State did in 2008?
We have five months to wait for the answers to those questions. We kickoff the Summer Hoops Preview today with UNC, Duke and Wake Forest.
Dave Telep of Scout.com provides analysis of the incoming freshman.
|TUDOR'S PICKS|| GIGLIO'S PICKS
|1. UNC||1. UNC|
|2. Duke||2. Duke|
|3. Wake||3. Wake|
|4. Va. Tech||4. Clemson|
|5. Miami||5. Miami|
|6. Clemson||6. Va. Tech|
|7. Boston College||7. Ga. Tech|
|8. N.C. State||8. Boston College|
|9. Ga. Tech||9. Maryland|
|10. Maryland||10. N.C. State|
|11. FSU||11. FSU|
|12. Virginia||12. Virginia|
2007-08 record: 36-3, 14-2 ACC (first)
Postseason: NCAA Tournament (4-1), Final Four, lost to Kansas 84-66
Projected starting lineup: G Ty Lawson, G Wayne Ellington, F Marcus Ginyard, F Deon Thompson, F Tyler Hansbrough
New additions: F Ed Davis, F Tyler Zeller, G Larry Drew, G Justin Watts
Dave Telep's recruiting analysis: "Davis is a smaller, post player with a big motor and great instincts around the rim. He really runs the floor. ... Zeller is a face-up forward and he probably runs the floor better than any other post player in the Class of 2008. Both Davis and Zeller fit exactly what Roy Williams wants to do on the break. ... Drew's solid. He can make an open shot but mostly, he gets the right guy the basketball. He's different than Ty Lawson or Raymond Felton in that he enables other players, as opposed to being a star. ... Watts is an excellent student and a great kid but it's an uphill battle for him to become a mainstream ACC player."
Outlook: The Tar Heels could have won the ACC without Lawson, Ellington and/or Green. With all three back, plus Hansbrough — who'll finish his senior season as the all-time leading scorer in UNC and ACC history — the question becomes will UNC run the table in the ACC?
At 14-2, the Heels came pretty close last season. A year older, wiser and with the addition of three McDonald's All-Americans, perfection — at least in the conference — is not out of the question.
The ACC hasn't been the problem for the Heels in the past two years, as they've won the conference title each time and finished first during the regular season. What has been a problem is beating elite teams in the NCAA Tournament. Georgetown got them in the Round of Eight in 2007 and Kansas in the Final Four in April.
Louisville was a nice team, but limited so UNC wasn't pushed in the NCAA Tournament until it met Kansas, and the Heels weakly pushed back. Once the Heels cleared all the pre-grame Ol' Roy-KU hype, they were completely unprepared for the bigger, faster, stronger, deeper Jayhawks.
The addition of Davis and Zeller should add reinforcements to this year's team. That's if both players can contribute in the roles they'll be assigned — i.e. off the bench and not the star for the first time in their basketball existence. Given Williams' preferred pace, and the fact that they were recruited to fit specific roles — kinda like every Williams' team has the same parts — that should be a minor problem.
The bigger problem— if you want to call not winning the national championship a problem — that will have to be amended if Williams is going to win his second title is finding the balance between offense and defense.
Ellington's a limited defensive player. Ginyard's a limited offensive player. Williams prefers to play both at the same time, his own yin-yang version of basketball.
But, when Ellington's on the floor without Green — or Bobby Frasor if he can stay healthy for the first time since his freshman season — then he's the only viable perimeter shooting threat. Title teams need more than one outside option (they usually have three).
Lawson, who was awful against Kansas, hasn't been a consistent second choice. Unless he develops that part of his game, Williams is going to need both Ellington and Green on the floor at the same time.
And both need to be hitting their shots for UNC to clear the final hurdle. That means something will have to give, likely Ginyard's minutes (but only in those big games).
That's a lot of words with only a drive-by mention of the national player of the year and that's because Psycho T's not a concern. He's a given. Write in his 24 points and 12 rebounds for every game. It's what everyone else around him does that will determine if UNC's just another Final Four team— not a bad tag, by the way — or championship gold.
|G Ty Lawson||Jr.||12.7||2.7||5.2|
|G Wayne Ellington||Jr.||16.6||4.5||2.0|
|F Marcus Ginyard||Sr.||6.9||4.5||2.2|
|F Deon Thompson||Jr.||8.4||4.8||1.1|
|F Tyler Hansbrough||Sr.||22.6||10.2||0.9|
|G/F Danny Green||Sr.||11.5||4.9||2.0|
|G Bobby Frasor||Sr.||3.2||1.8||2.1|
|F Will Graves||So.||2.2||1.4||0.3|
|F Mike Copeland||Sr.||1.2||0.8||0.|
|G Quentin Thomas||3.1||1.4||3.1|
|F Alex Stepheson (transfer)||4.3||4.5||0.2|
|F Ed Davis||Fr.||6-8||215||10|
|F Tyler Zeller||Fr.||6-11||220||21|
|G Larry Drew||Fr.||6-0||170||67|
|G Justin Watts||Fr.||6-4||185||NR|
2007-08 record: 28-6, 13-3 ACC (second)
Postseason: NCAA Tournament (1-1), Second Round, lost to West Virginia 73-67
Projected starting lineup: G Greg Paulus, G Jon Scheyer, F Gerald Henderson, F Kyle Singler, F Brian Zoubek
New additions: G Elliot Williams, F Miles Plumlee, F Olek Czyz
Dave Telep's recruiting analysis: "Plumlee and Czyz are not traditional post players. Czyz is really a leaper and an athlete. Plumlee has developed his perimeter game so he can play at the rim and he can face and shoot. He's going to be a good college baskeball player. ... Williams has a herky-jerky game. He's unorthodox but he's a perfect fit for Duke because you don't have to tag him with a position."
Outlook: A 2-3 finish soured what was otherwise a superb season for Duke. The Blue Devils jumped from 8-8 to 13-3 in the ACC and reinvented their program with the help of Mike Krzyzewski's USA Basketball connections.
The Devils spread the floor, shot 3-pointers and took advantage of perimeter mismatches to attack the rim and create points. They rode that combination to a 10-0 ACC start, including a 89-78 win at UNC.
But as the 3s stopped falling, and Kyle Singler's frame got stretched too thin, Duke's season fell apart. The Devils almost lost in a 2-vs.-15 NCAA opener to Belmont, eliminating the scrappy Bruins in the final seconds.
West Virginia ended Duke's season two days later in DC in a game typical of Duke's losses. The Devils shot 22 percent (5 of 22) from 3 against WVU. In the ACC Tournament semifinals, a 6-of-26 performance doomed them against Clemson.
I wrote last summer, Duke could be a lot like Herb Sendek's last N.C. State team. When they hit 3s, look out. When they miss 3s, look out — for rebounds.
Duke's season peaked with a 13-of-29 3-point barrage at the Smith Center on Feb. 6. The Devils looked like the real deal that night but it was a mirage.
They have to find a way to diversify their offense this season — more drives from Henderson, a post game from Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas or Miles Plumlee — some way to consistently add some 2s to all the 3s.
Coach K managed the minutes of his guards, or everyone but Singler, adeptly. That was the freshest Duke's starters looked in March since 1999 because K used more than six or seven players.
The problem was there was no relief for Singler, who reprised the J.J. Redick/Chris Carrawell/Jason Williams rock-til-you-drop role. Singler, who admirably played out of position the whole season, finally dropped before the second Carolina game.
Employing the same Phoenix Suns' strategy — with Gerald Henderson emerging as an even bigger offensive force — Duke can win 12 or 13 ACC games again this season. Can Zoubek stay healthy or will freshman Plumlee or Czyz offer any relief for Singler?
That's the first step in Duke's recovery and back into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The second step is their perimeter defense. As long as Greg Paulus and Jon Scheyer are starting, teams are going to be able to take them off the dribble, especially athletic teams. Especially teams that Duke will see in March.
How do you fix that? More minutes for Nolan Smith, who'll be a sophomore and presumably healthy. Maybe freshman Elliot Williams will be an upgrade.
Either way, Duke's been lapped by UNC since the Blue Devils' last trip to the Final Four in 2004. At the rate Roy Williams is recruiting — and Coach K is missing on marquee recruits — that trend doesn't show any signs of letting up, which is the worst possible news in the world to a Duke fan.
|G Greg Paulus||Sr.||11.4||2.1||3.2|
|G Jon Scheyer||Jr.||11.7||3.9||2.4|
|F Gerald Henderson||Jr.||12.7||4.7||1.6|
|F Kyle Singler||So.||13.1||5.8||1.4|
|F Lance Thomas||Jr.||4.2||3.3||0.3|
|F Brian Zoubek||Jr.||3.8||3.4||0.5|
|F David McClure||Sr.||1.0||1.9||0.4|
|G Nolan Smith||So.||5.9||1.5||1.3|
|G Marty Pocius||Jr.||4.0||2.2||1.0|
|F DeMarcus Nelson||14.5||5.8||2.9|
|F Taylor King||5.5||2.0||0.4|
|G Elliot Williams||Fr.||6-4||170||16|
|F Miles Plumlee||Fr.||6-10||225||40|
|F Olek Czyz||Fr.||6-7||235||92|
2007-08 record: 17-13, 7-9 ACC (eighth)
Projected starting lineup: G Ish Smith, G Jeff Teague, F Al-Farouq Aminu, F James Johnson, F Chas McFarland
New additions: F Al-Farouq Aminu, F Ty Walker, F Tony Woods
Dave Telep's recruiting analysis: "Aminu has as high as a ceiling as anyone in the league. What will he do consistently? He has flashes of brilliance but he has to put a polish on his game. He has the skills of a 3 but the size of a 4. ... Walker needs to get stronger and get tougher. He has unlimited natural tools but he needs to develop his offensive games. On defense, he brings immediate help with his ability to block shots. ... Woods is the perfect No. 2 post guy — he can hunt the dunk, run the floor and rebound."
Outlook: Wake's loaded. Period. The parts are there, with more coming in this strong freshmen class, to challenge Duke and even UNC.
We all said the same thing about N.C. State last season. Of course, N.C. State went 15-16 and finished last in the ACC. That's not going to happen to Wake this season but there are some similarities.
• Wake added freshmen post players who could help immediately, like State did with J.J. Hickson, and could potentially reduce the production of the returning players.
• Little was expected of Wake last season, like State in 2007, and they overachieved. The expectations will be considerable this season.
• Coach Dino Gaudio, like Sidney Lowe, is in his second ACC season.
And the differences:
• State didn't have a point guard like Ish Smith.
• State didn't have a perimeter scorer like Jeff Teague, who was outright spectacular for stretches of the ACC season.
If Gaudio can fit all the right pieces together — what does he do with small forwards L.D. Williams, James Johnson and Al-Farouq Aminu — and Wake can learn from last season's disappointing finish (they played their way out of the NCAA Tournament after beating Duke) then the Deacs can return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since Chris Paul left.
If not, if the minutes can't be solved, egos are bruised and expectations are too much to handle, it can go downhill quickly as State learned last season.
With Teague and Johnson, a collapse seems unlikely. Maybe I should have learned from last year's preview but I'm picking Wake to finish in front of the more experienced Miami and Virginia Tech teams.
|G Ish Smith||Jr.||8.6||3.4||4.7|
|G Jeff Teague||So.||13.9||2.7||2.5|
|F James Johnson||So.||14.6||8.1||1.2|
|F L.D. Williams||Jr.||8.9||3.8||1.1|
|G Harvey Hale||Sr.||8.1||2.1||0.9|
|F Chas McFarland||Jr.||8.4||5.8||0.4|
|F Jamie Skeen||Jr.||5.6||4.1||0.5|
|F David Weaver||Jr.||2.7||2.6||0.3|
|G Gary Clark||So.||2.6||0.8||0.4|
|F Cameron Stanley||1.0||1.3||0.2|
|F Al-Farouq Aminu||Fr.||6-8||195||13|
|F Ty Walker||Fr.||7-0||220||25|
|F Tony Woods||Fr.||6-10||230||47|