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2010-11 ACC Preview

November 11, 2010 Conference Notes No Comments

For the second consecutive year, an ACC team will open the season as defending national champ. And Duke has a real shot at delivering back-to-back titles for the second time in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s illustrious career. At least, the Blue Devils have a far better chance than North Carolina did last season after the Tar Heels were overhyped and then overmatched en route to coach Roy Williams’ worst season in a couple of decades.

Although critics poke the ACC for lacking the quantity of elite teams that the Big East boasts, the ACC has once again proven that its best teams are legitimate title contenders every year. Duke managed to fly under the radar last season as the media fawned over veteran-laden Kansas and John Calipari’s freshmen sensations at Kentucky. But in the end, a ruthlessly balanced team stormed through the post-season and beat Cinderella, aka Butler, in a thrilling championship game. The two will reprise that battle in December when they meet in New Jersey.

This season, Duke will be on everyone’s radar. The Blue Devils return most of their key contributors, with the exception of Jon Scheyer, Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas. Scheyer was one of Duke’s Big Three last season, joining Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler to form the most potent threesome in the ACC. Coach K will look for the rest of the roster to make up for Scheyer’s production. Don’t underestimate the importance of Zoubek, who became a starter midway through last season and dominated the boards at both ends. His presence was a catalyst for Duke’s late-season boost in efficiency.

But if Duke falters, ACC haters will once again jump up and down and shout about how overrated the conference is. There’s not a clear No. 2 team, though Virginia Tech has an excellent chance to emerge as an elite squad. The Hokies return nearly everyone from last season’s team, including all five starters. This veteran squad is poised to make a serious run in the NCAA Tournament, especially if the Hokies figure out how to be more efficient on offense.

In recent years, the ACC has been marked by relative stability, especially among the coaches. That changed dramatically this past off-season with a couple of inexplicable moves. Clemson’s Oliver Purnell left the Tigers for DePaul. The man obviously likes renovation projects. Purnell successfully turned Clemson into a legitimate ACC heavyweight after the Tigers had been a doormat for most of the previous decade. He leaves for one of the Big East’s doormats.

While Purnell chose to leave Clemson, Wake Forest’s Dino Gaudio didn’t get to decide his fate. The school dismissed Gaudio after the Demon Deacons had a disappointing end to the regular season and post-season. A 30-point massacre at the hands of Kentucky in the second round of the NCAA Tournament left a bad taste in the mouths of Wake Forest’s power brokers, who lost confidence in Gaudio. No one doubted his recruiting prowess – and new Demon Deacons coach Jeff Bzdelik can thank Gaudio for another strong class – but the highly-ranked recruits rarely led to highly-ranked teams at the end of the season.

Like Gaudio, Boston College’s Al Skinner was shown the door for a mildly questionable reason. Skinner, a well-respected coach, was Gaudio’s opposite. He rarely brought top recruits to Chestnut Hill, but he coached his guys to play tough, efficient basketball and often sneaked into the top half of the ACC standings. But Skinner’s teams were never flashy, and pro sports-obsessed Boston fans didn’t pay the Eagles too much attention – or pay for many tickets.

Boston College executives want more fans in the stands, so they removed Skinner in favor of Cornell’s Steve Donahue. The Big Red’s main man led Cornell to startling success in the Ivy League, which had been dominated by Penn and Princeton for seemingly the entire existence of the league. Donahue’s teams launched bombs from three-point territory all day and night, and the team’s offensive efficiency led to upsets of Temple and Wisconsin in last season’s NCAA Tournament. Chicks dig the long ball, and Eagles execs hope Donahue’s style will fill Conte Forum.

Without further ado, here’s a rundown of preseason awards. After that, we dive head first into the team-by-team previews.

2010-11 ACC AWARDS

Coach of the Year: Seth Greenberg, Virginia Tech

Coach on the Hot Seat: Sidney Lowe, North Carolina State

Player of the Year: Kyle Singler, Duke

First-Team All-ACC:

Kyle Singler, Duke

Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech

Jordan Williams, Maryland

Jeff Allen, Virginia Tech

John Henson, North Carolina

Second-Team All-ACC:

Tracy Smith, North Carolina State

Chris Singleton, Florida State

Seth Curry, Duke

C.J. Leslie, North Carolina State

Joe Trapani, Boston College

Third-Team All-ACC:

Harrison Barnes, North Carolina

Dorenzo Hudson, Virginia Tech

Larry Drew II, North Carolina

Durand Scott, Miami

Iman Shumpert, Georgia Tech

Best NBA Prospect: Harrison Barnes, North Carolina

Newcomer of the Year: Seth Curry, Duke

Rookie of the Year: C.J. Leslie, North Carolina State

All-Rookie Team:

C.J. Leslie, North Carolina State

Harrison Barnes, North Carolina

Kyrie Irving, Duke

Ryan Harrow, North Carolina State

Reggie Bullock, North Carolina

Defense Player of the Year: Chris Singleton, Florida State

All-Defensive Team:

Chris Singleton, Florida State

Jeff Allen, Virginia Tech

Kyle Singler, Duke

Iman Shumpert, Georgia Tech

John Henson, North Carolina

Projected Finish:

1. Duke

2. Virginia Tech

3. Florida State

4. North Carolina

5. Clemson

6. North Carolina State

7. Maryland

8. Virginia

9. Georgia Tech

10. Miami

11. Boston College

12. Wake Forest

Duke Blue Devils (35-5, 13-3)

Glad to Have You Back:

The Cameron Crazies are first and foremost thrilled to have the national title back in Durham. For the fourth time in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s career, the Blue Devils enter the season trying to defend that title. Since they accomplished that feat in 1992, only Florida has managed to win back-to-back titles. This season, the Blue Devils have a legitimate shot at doing it again.

The Blue Devils return two-thirds of last season’s three-headed monster: Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith. In addition to those two, who each averaged more than 17 points per game last season, the Blue Devils return a trio of talented frontcourt weapons: the Plumlee brothers (Miles and Mason) and Ryan Kelly. They also have good depth in the backcourt with Andre Dawkins at point guard.

We’ll Miss You:

Despite the promising returning cast, Krzyzewski will need to find a way to win without Jon Scheyer, who engineered last season’s fantastic run as the team’s makeshift point guard. Although Scheyer had mostly played shooting guard during his first three seasons, Coach K asked him to run the offense last season. He responded by averaging 18.2 points and 4.9 assists per game.

Besides Scheyer, Duke loses some frontcourt beef in Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas. Zoubek saved his best action for the final two months of his collegiate career. After Krzyzewski inserted Zoubek into the starting lineup, Duke’s offense flourished. With more self-control, the former foul machine averaged 5.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game – in only 18.7 minutes per game. Thomas was far less proficient at grabbing rebounds and taking up space, but his effort at both ends made him valuable.

Duke also will be without the services of sparingly used big man Olek Czyz, who transferred to Nevada.

Welcome to the Program:

Entering last season, most observers – including me – figured that Duke would be strong and potentially an under-the-radar title contender. However, even the most optimistic Duke sympathizer figured that the lack of experienced backcourt depth would haunt the Blue Devils at some point. The team’s best title chances seemed to be in 2010-11 when point guard Kyrie Irving and sharpshooter Seth Curry arrived.

Well, Irving and Curry are ready to suit up for this Blue Devils squad, which already have one title under its belt. Irving is a candidate for ACC rookie of the year and will compete with Curry, a transfer from Liberty and brother of legendary Davidson guard Stephen, for the top newcomer in the ACC. Combined, Irving and Curry should more than make up for the loss in production from Scheyer’s graduation.

Joshua Hairston, a four-star power forward out of Spotsylvania, Va., and Tyler Thornton, a likely reserve point guard from Washington, D.C, join Irving in one of the top recruiting classes in the ACC.

Who They Play:

As usual, Coach K has the Blue Devils set to play several tough opponents during the non-conference slate, highlighted by a rematch of the national championship game against Butler in early December in New Jersey. Duke also gets Marquette, Michigan State, Oregon and either Gonzaga or Kansas State – with only the Spartans coming to Cameron Indoor Stadium.

In the ACC, the Blue Devils’ two-game match ups aren’t ridiculously daunting: Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Virginia. Duke will face Florida State, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest on the road without a return home game.

Keep Up the Good Work:

When you win a national championship, you’re obviously doing a lot right already. The Blue Devils need to remain balanced this season by playing a ruthlessly efficient offense and shutdown defense. In recent years, Duke has had one of the stingiest perimeter defenses in the country, which prevents teams that love the three-point shot from getting hot and stealing games. If Duke’s relatively young backcourt players can continue that tradition, this team should be as good on defense as last year’s team was.

Room for Improvement:

As we just mentioned, it’s hard to improve on being the best. Duke’s young guards will need to mature quickly or face the wrath of Krzyzewski and veterans like Singler and Smith.

Don’t Be Surprised:

Duke could win it all again. Most people assume that no one will repeat as national champions with the NBA Draft beckoning the best athletes. However, Smith and Singler hung around for one more season, and they have perhaps even more raw talent around them this season than they did last season.

Outlook:

The Blue Devils should be just as good as they were last season. The only question is whether any other team in the ACC – or the rest of the country – can step up to seriously threaten Duke’s drive to back-to-back titles. Coach K makes winning ACC titles and earning No. 1 seeds a seemingly unspectacular feat. This season should be no different as the Blue Devils figure to be spectacular in nearly every phase of the game en route to a conference title and maybe another national title.

Virginia Tech Hokies (25-9, 10-6)

Glad to Have You Back:

Quite simply – everyone is back. Virginia Tech returns its starting lineup and every player who logged at least eight minutes per game last season. The most critical players are in the Hokies’ outstanding backcourt: seniors Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson. The pair form one of the best guard combinations in the entire country and easily the most experienced in the ACC. Together, they averaged 35.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game last season.

We’ll Miss You:

Lewis Witcher is the only contributor the Hokies will miss this season. The senior graduated in May after scoring a total of 24 points in 237 minutes last season.

Welcome to the Program:

With five seniors in the starting lineup and plenty of experience on the bench, Virginia Tech didn’t need to add many players. But coach Seth Greenberg still nabbed a couple of players who could become important contributors. Freshman Jarrell Eddie is an athletic wing player who can play on the perimeter or in the post, and former Florida Gator Allan Chaney adds some serious muscle in the post at 235 pounds.

Who They Play:

Virginia Tech should be the favorite in the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif. The Hokies’ top competition out west will include Oklahoma State, Stanford and UNLV. In addition to that tournament, Virginia Tech will face a huge road game at Kansas State in the team’s second game of the season. The schedule-makers clearly consider Virginia Tech to be an ACC heavyweight because the Hokies draw Final Four-contender Purdue in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Virginia Tech gets a pretty favorable draw in the conference with two games against Boston College, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Virginia and Wake Forest. All of those teams have question marks to answer entering the season, which might make Virginia Tech the favorite at home and on the road against all five. The Hokies get road trips to Clemson, North Carolina and North Carolina State without the luxury of hosting those teams in Blacksburg. A home date in late February against Duke could be the game of the year in the ACC.

Keep Up the Good Work:

As usual, Greenberg’s teams played excellent defense last season, especially at home. Jeff Allen and Delaney are two of the best defenders in the ACC, and they will continue to make intense pressure their hallmark.

Room for Improvement:

The Hokies need to win the big games this season. At 23-8 after the ACC Tournament, Virginia Tech was one of the best teams that missed the NCAA Tournament. However, the Hokies simply lacked enough marquee victories. This season, the Hokies have the potential to make a deep NCAA Tournament run, but they must first prove their worth by winning big games against the likes of Purdue, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Duke.

Don’t Be Surprised:

By the season’s end, Delaney could be an All-American. The senior guard is one of the best players in the ACC, and that usually means he should be on the national radar as one of the best player in the nation. And it wouldn’t surprise me if three or four Hokie starters end up on the first or second All-ACC teams.

Outlook:

Virginia Tech is poised to return to the NCAA Tournament and make some noise. This team struggled on offense at times last season. But if they can gel on that side of the ball, the Hokies’ defense will carry them to at least a No. 2 finish in the ACC and a likely top four seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Florida State Seminoles (22-10, 10-6)

Glad to Have You Back:

Florida State returns a trio of players who could become stars this season: Chris Singleton, Michael Snaer and Derwin Kitchen. Singleton is an explosive athlete who is the team’s leading returning scorer and rebounder. Snaer struggled at times during his rookie campaign, but he has the tools needed to become a dominant wing player for the Seminoles. And Kitchen should be the engine that drives the offense. He had a respectable 1.8-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio last season.

We’ll Miss You:

The No. 1 defensive team in the ACC and one of the top defensive teams in the country will miss its centerpiece: Solomon Alabi. The sophomore 7-footer took his game to the NBA after swatting 75 shots last season and adding 11.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. The Seminoles also need to replace junior Jordan DeMercy, who transferred to Georgia State, and senior Ryan Reid, a veteran leader who contributed 6.8 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.

Welcome to the Program:

As usual, coach Leonard Hamilton has a solid recruiting class coming to campus. Point guard Ian Miller figures to be a critical piece of the puzzle for the Seminoles because he can lead the offense and create scoring opportunities for himself. Okaro White is a wiry, uber-athletic forward. And the Seminoles will finally get 7-footer Jon Kreft to suit up in Tallahassee. The center was scheduled to arrive in 2007, but academic eligibility issues forced him into the junior college circuit for a couple of seasons.

Who They Play:

For several years in a row, Florida State was a perennial bubble team, and critics often pointed to the Seminoles’ weak non-conference schedule. Once again, Florida State has only a handful of opportunities to notch marquee wins outside conference play. The Seminoles’ best shots come against Florida and Ohio State – both in Tallahassee – and a potential second-round game against Butler in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii.

In the ACC, Florida State gets two games against Clemson, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Wake Forest. The Seminoles’ lone games against Georgia Tech, Maryland and Virginia Tech will be on the road.

Keep Up the Good Work:

The Seminoles squashed opponents’ offenses last season, ending the year as the top-ranked team in defense efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency statistics. Even without Alabi, this team figures to remain a great defensive squad.

Room for Improvement:

Conversely, Florida State was borderline awful on offense at times last season. The Seminoles were often victimized by long scoring droughts. The veteran squad, led by Singleton, Snaer and Kitchen, need to achieve a balance of offensive discipline and pure athleticism. If they do, this team should be even better.

Don’t Be Surprised:

Chris Singleton could become a fixture of SportsCenter highlights reels this season. With Alabi gone, he will likely be the No. 1 option on offense, and his athletic talent will guarantee at least one or two jaw-dropping plays per game.

Outlook:

The Seminoles are starting to expect success on the hardwood these days. This season should deliver another NCAA Tournament trip if the offense can become a little more consistent. The defense will remain stout, which will keep the Seminoles competitive against almost any opponent.

North Carolina Tar Heels (20-17, 5-11)

Glad to Have You Back:

The Tar Heels look to flip the script on last season’s squad. Without a proven backcourt, North Carolina relied on its big men much of last season. However, this season, the guards figure to carry the team. Larry Drew II, Dexter Strickland and Leslie Strickland are three of the top six returning scorers. A couple of other newcomers will add to North Carolina’s strength, which could help the Tar Heels forget a turbulent 2009-10 season.

We’ll Miss You:

The Tar Heels must find a new frontcourt rotation after Deon Thompson graduated, Ed Davis went to the NBA, and Travis and David Wear transferred to UCLA. North Carolina also must replace the veteran leadership of Marcus Ginyard, who offered more as a defensive specialist and senior leader than his stat line suggests, and Will Graves, who was dismissed from the team. In sum, that’s about two-thirds of the team’s scoring, and North Carolina wasn’t exactly its usual offensive juggernaut last season.

Welcome to the Program:

The Tar Heels import one of the best recruiting classes in the country, including uber-athletic swingman Harrison Barnes, whom many experts consider to be the top recruit in the country. Kendall Marshall is likely the point guard of the future for North Carolina, and Reggie Bullock will join the rotation at shooting guard.

Although he’s not a freshman, transfer Justin Knox, a graduated senior from Alabama, could be one of the biggest additions. Physically, he is the biggest at 6-9 and 240 pounds. He will pair with Tyler Zeller in the frontcourt.

Who They Play:

As always, North Carolina plays a tough schedule that includes powerhouses such as Kentucky and Texas. The Tar Heels also draw Illinois and William & Mary, and they could play West Virginia, Vanderbilt or Minnesota in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

North Carolina will play two games apiece in conference action against Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State and North Carolina State. North Carolina’s lone games against Georgia Tech, Miami and Virginia are on the road.

Keep Up the Good Work:

North Carolina’s height last season made the Tar Heels one of the top rebounding teams in the country. It’s hard to imagine that happening again this season without Davis and Thompson, and Graves was a great rebounding wing player, but John Henson has beefed up to compete for more rebounds in the post. His gigantic wingspan and Vince Carter-esque athleticism should propel him from 4.4 rebounds per game to closer to eight.

Room for Improvement:

The offense was disjointed last season, often because the team lacked cohesion. Coach Roy Williams must find a rotation and stick with it. The roster befits a classic Williams-coached fast-tempo squad. If Williams can find roles for all his talented players and convince them to play within that role, this team should return to the upper half of the ACC.

Don’t Be Surprised:

The newcomers could become the biggest names on this team. NBA scouts are drooling over Barnes. But Knox might be the type of grinder who posts good but not spectacular stats like 10 points and six rebounds every night. More importantly, he can handle opponents’ beefiest big men. With Barnes’ flash and Knox’s fight, the new Heels could return North Carolina to its old dominant form.

Outlook:

After more than a half decade of consistency, North Carolina suffered through a rebuilding year last season. The roster for this season figures to be a better match for the Tar Heels’ style, and a strong recruiting class should make North Carolina a dominant team once again. The Tar Heels aren’t in Duke’s class, but they will compete in the second tier and return to the NCAA Tournament.

Clemson Tigers (21-11, 9-7)

Glad to Have You Back:

After the surprising departure of Oliver Purnell for DePaul, Clemson transitions to a new era under Brad Brownell. The new coach will benefit from a roster filled with talent. Seniors Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant will be the veteran leaders on a team that includes skilled wingmen like Tanner Smith and Milton Jennings and a blazingly fast guard in Andre Young. In sum, the team returns nearly 70 percent of its scoring from last season’s NCAA Tournament squad.

We’ll Miss You:

In recent years, Purnell transformed Clemson from a regular cellar dweller to a regular contender in the ACC. Fans will miss his up-tempo, pressure defense that generated memorable upsets against the likes of Duke – a couple of times.

On the court, the Tigers will miss their leader from the past few years: Trevor Booker. The senior graduated as one of the program’s most dominating players, and he had a great stat line in his final season with 15.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. The Tigers also will enter the season without David Potter, a key member of the frontcourt rotation who graduated in May.

Welcome to the Program:

Brownell will introduce a drastically different style based on lengthy possessions and tight defense. The former Wright State and UNC-Wilmington coach will likely decelerate the Tigers into one of the slowest-paced teams in the ACC.

As a new coach, Brownell’s lone new arrival is Cory Stanton, a point guard from Springfield, Tenn., who will be third on the depth chart behind Demontez Stitt and Andre Young.

Who They Play:

In his first season with the Tigers, Brownell has scheduled a soft non-conference slate, with the highlights coming against Michigan and South Carolina. Clemson could possibly face Xavier in the Paradise Jam, which would be a critical marquee win for the Tigers.

In conference action, the Tigers draw two games with Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina and North Carolina State. They also get Duke, Maryland and Virginia on the road without a return game.

Keep Up the Good Work:

Clemson’s defense last season was often spectacular, as Purnell’s pressure defense forced a ridiculous number of turnovers. Brownell won’t employ such pressure, but these Tigers know how to attack on defense. If they maintain that intensity in a new system, they should remain in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament bid.

Room for Improvement:

Live by the sword, die by the sword Рan apt cliché for the Tigers last season. Although they were adept at forcing turnovers, the Tigers too often gave the ball right back with turnovers of their own. Clemson finished the season with 27 more turnovers than assists, a number that must change in the new world order.

Don’t Be Surprised:

Look for Clemson to embrace Brownell’s slower pace on the court. The Tigers must find a way to move on from the Trevor Booker era, and a methodical offense could lead to greater efficiency. This team will score fewer points because they won’t be hustling up and down the court. But Clemson might post even more wins this season if the Tigers play smart, efficient ball at both ends of the court.

Outlook:

The Purnell administration left plenty of talent for Brownell to work with, and the outlook is promising. Although the Tigers will likely go through some growing pains as they adjust to a new system, an easy non-conference schedule should ease those frustrations. By ACC action, Clemson should be ready to roll toward the top of the standings.

North Carolina State Wolfpack (20-16, 5-11)

Glad to Have You Back:

After testing his NBA value, senior Tracy Smith decided to return to Raleigh for one final season with the Wolfpack. He will anchor North Carolina State’s offense after leading the team with 16.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last season. Smith has the potential to be one of the most dominant big men in the ACC this season, and he has a better supporting cast around him this season, which should lead to more open looks.

We’ll Miss You:

The Woflpack will miss forward Dennis Horner, who graduated after last season. He was a fan favorite because of his energy. Horner always gave 100 percent of his effort despite often being athletically overmatched.

The Wolfpack lose one other starter, Farnold Degand, who also graduated. Degand averaged 2.5 assists per game as one of coach Sidney Lowe’s two point guards. However, neither Degand nor Javier Gonzalez could keep the offense flowing smoothly. North Carolina State ranked near the bottom of the ACC in offensive efficiency in three of Degand’s four seasons.

Welcome to the Program:

There’s plenty of hope – and high expectations – in Raleigh this season as Lowe brings in a great recruiting class. C.J. Leslie, Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown will all play extensively as freshmen and need to contribute to help elevate the Wolfpack into the top half of the ACC standings. Leslie is an athletic forward who has the skills to score in multiple ways, making him a prime candidate to earn Rookie of the Year honors. Harrow and Brown give Lowe more explosive options at point guard than the Wolfpack have had in many years.

Who They Play:

North Carolina State will try to bring home the ACC’s third Charleston Classic title in the tournament’s three seasons when the Wolfpack take the court in November. The Wolfpack open the tournament against East Carolina and could face the likes of George Mason, Charlotte and Georgetown. Anything less than a trip to the tournament’s title game would be disappointing, and an early season victory against Georgetown would be a huge confidence builder. The Wolfpack have plenty of opportunities to pick up good wins with games against Wisconsin, Syracuse and Arizona, with the first two coming on the road.

The Wolfpack get two games against Clemson, Duke, Florida State, North Carolina and Wake Forest in ACC action, with road games without a return game against Boston College, Maryland and Virginia.

Keep Up the Good Work:

North Carolina State was good at defending the perimeter last season as most teams had to score within the arc against the Wolfpack. With more experience and size in the post this season, that will be harder to do. So if North Carolina State can maintain the stout outside defense, this team’s already-good defense will become even better.

Room for Improvement:

The perimeter will also be important on offense for the Wolfpack. The team shot only 33.3 percent from three-point range last season, which made it easier for opponents to double-team Smith. With the addition of Leslie and some better three-point shooting, North Carolina State should be able to free Smith for more open looks near the basket. If teams continue to center on Smith, the rest of the players must make them pay.

Don’t Be Surprised:

With Smith manning the post, Leslie should get plenty of opportunities to operate one-on-one. He’ll also get plenty of playing time. That’s a recipe for success for such a talented player, and don’t be surprised if the Rookie of the Year award comes to Raleigh this season.

Outlook:

Sidney Lowe’s job might be the least secure of any ACC coach. Team observers, especially in Raleigh, will be evaluating the Wolfpack nearly on a game-by-game basis. Look for Lowe and the Wolfpack to ignore that noise and deliver the team’s best season in several years. North Carolina State has a realistic chance to earn an NCAA Tournament bid, especially with the expanded field.

Maryland Terrapins (24-9, 13-3)

Glad to Have You Back:

Coach Gary Williams enjoyed Maryland’s resurgence last season as, for the first time in several years, no one whispered about whether his job was on the line. Entering this season, Maryland will look to follow up on last season’s share of the ACC regular-season title with a new trio of senior leaders: Adrian Bowie, Dino Gregory and Cliff Tucker. The seniors will likely step into starting positions and surround the cornerstone of Maryland’s offense: Jordan Williams. The sophomore big man promises to be a candidate for ACC player of the year after averaging 9.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game last season.

We’ll Miss You:

Greivis is gone. The ACC’s most fiery player, Greivis Vasquez, has graduated from Maryland and taken his 19.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game to the NBA. But Maryland needs to replace more than their top scorer and emotional leader; the Terrapins also need to replace their No. 2 and 3 scoring options: Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes. Collectively, the trio accounted for 55 percent of the team’s scoring.

Welcome to the Program:

Maryland has a large, five-player recruiting class arriving at College Park. Most of the class received solid but not outstanding reviews. Swingman Mychal Parker is the most heralded of the bunch. Gary Williams is usually reluctant to rely on freshmen, but he will probably need to tap the youth movement to help replace the production of Vasquez, Hayes and Milbourne.

Who They Play:

Maryland plays a bunch of soft opponents around potentially tough match ups from Pennsylvania schools: Villanova, Temple and Penn State. The Terrapins also play in the 2K Sports Classic and will get Pittsburgh for sure and either Illinois or Texas in the second game of the national rounds of the tournament. The team should be on high upset alert against the College of Charleston in the regional round of the 2K Sports Classic.

Keep Up the Good Work:

Although Maryland’s offense appeared unstoppable at times last season, the team’s defense fueled many of the Terrapins’ back-breaking runs. Without Vasquez and Hayes on offense, the Terrapins need to continue to play great defense to stay close until they can identify reliable scoring options.

Room for Improvement:

If you take out the long-range production of Vasquez, Milbourne and Hayes, the rest of the Terrapins made only 49 three-pointers. To prevent teams from constantly double-teaming Jordan Williams, Sean Mosely, Bowie and Tucker need to improve their shooting touch from behind the arc.

Don’t Be Surprised:

The Terrapins will frequently struggle on offense. It’s unclear whom Gary Williams will count on to run the offense and whether that guy can get the job done effectively. Jordan Williams is a stud in the post, but he needs someone to keep the offense flowing so he can get clean looks. Those good opportunities might be few and far between this season.

Outlook:

With the second-best home-court advantage in the ACC, Maryland will always be tough at home. However, long offensive droughts could turn the always-energetic crowed against the guys in white jerseys at times this season. Maryland will be going through a transition this year, and Bowie and Tucker will need to make significant leaps forward to keep Maryland near the top of the ACC standings. More likely, this team falls back to the middle of the pack.

Virginia Cavaliers (15-16, 5-11)

Glad to Have You Back:

Coach Tony Bennett Jr. enters his second year as the Cavaliers’ head man, and he is starting to shape this team. Seniors Mike Scott and Mustapha Farrakhan will likely be in charge of leading a young team this season. Scott, an athletic forward, is the leading returning scorer, after he averaged 12.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game last season. Junior Sammy Zeglinski is a tough-as-nails guard who also will likely need to step up to keep Virginia competitive this season.

We’ll Miss You:

The Cavaliers enter this season without a clear go-to scorer after sophomore stud Sylven Landesberg left the team in early March. He failed to meet academic standards and, by most accounts, was more interested in his NBA potential at that point in the season. The team’s leading scorer from last season is now playing for Maccabi Haifa in Israel.

Besides Landesberg and his 17.3 points per game, the Cavaliers will also miss Calvin Baker, Jerome Meyinsse and Soloman Tat, who all graduated. Tristan Spurlock transferred to Certral Florida, and Jeff Jones left the program for Rider. In sum, Virginia must replace about 60 percent of its scoring – and the team wasn’t exactly prolific last season.

Welcome to the Program:

Bennett’s first recruiting class in Charlottesville is huge – seven fresh faces will be making their debut at Virginia this season. Shooting guard K.T. Harrell, from Montgomery, Ala., is the biggest catch in this class, and he leads a balanced group that includes four guards and three forwards. Not surprisingly, Bennett continues to strongly recruit his former Pac-10 territory – he arrived in Charlottesville via Washington State – with two newcomers hailing from California and Washington.

Who They Play:

Give Bennett credit for scheduling one of the toughest non-conference slates of any ACC team. Despite significant roster changes, the Cavaliers face William & Mary, Stanford, Washington, either Kentucky or Oklahoma, Minnesota, Oregon and Iowa State all before New Year’s. If Virginia emerges with only three or four losses, the Cavaliers will be in great shape heading into conference play.

In the ACC, the Cavaliers draw two games against Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, Maryland and Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers will hit the road to play Florida State, Miami and Wake Forest without seeing those three back in Charlottesville.

Keep Up the Good Work:

As Bennett-coached teams tend to do, the Cavaliers played a slow-paced, ball control game last season. Virginia committed only 10.7 turnovers per game last season. Landesberg accounted for about 25 percent of those turnovers, so Virginia might be even stingier with the ball this season. However, Bennett will need to hope that his freshmen buy in to the system from Day One or else this team could regress.

Room for Improvement:

Despite the lack of turnovers, the Cavaliers’ inability to shoot dropped them to No. 10 in the conference in offensive efficiency, as measured by Ken Pomeroy’s statistics. A ball control offense requires players to shoot a high percentage or grab lots of offensive rebounds, and the Cavaliers did neither last season.

Don’t Be Surprised:

With a larger percentage of the roster on board for Bennett’s style of play this season, the Cavaliers might be surprisingly tough despite their youth. The team has a solid nucleus of veterans in Scott, Zeglinski and Farrakhan, and they must lead this offense to help the Cavaliers build on a respectable 5-11 conference record.

Outlook:

The Cavaliers have a legitimate chance to win six or seven games in the ACC. If they make it through a fairly tough non-conference schedule with only a handful of losses, the Cavaliers might remain relevant in the NCAA Tournament bubble conversation longer than many might expect. However, in the end, Virginia is probably headed to the NIT this season, which would provide great experience for a very young team.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (23-13, 7-9)

Glad to Have You Back:

The Yellow Jackets will shift from a frontcourt-dominant team to a guard-heavy lineup. And junior point guard Iman Shumpert will be the center of attention. Shumpert is the team’s leading returning scorer at 10.0 points per game, and he’s also the catalyst for an offense that needs to improve. For Georgia Tech to return to the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive trip, Shumpert must help Georgia Tech avoid scoring droughts. To do so, he needs to cut down on turnovers after averaging 4.0 assists and 3.1 turnovers per game last season. As a team, the Yellow Jackets gave away the ball more than 16 times per game.

We’ll Miss You:

With the departure of Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors, the Yellow Jackets can’t afford to be sloppy. Georgia Tech’s twin towers have moved on to the NBA, taking with them a combined 25.5 points and 16.9 rebounds per game. The duo blocked 123 shots last season, making the Yellow Jackets one of the toughest defensive squads in the conference last season. Georgia Tech doesn’t have a single returning player taller than 6-6, so frontcourt defense will be a huge liability this season.

Welcome to the Program:

The good news for coach Paul Hewitt and the Yellow Jackets is that the team is reloading in the frontcourt while leaning on veterans in the backcourt. A trio of freshmen big men will likely see significant playing time: Nate Hicks, Kammeon Holsey and Daniel Miller. Hosley and Miller were nationally ranked recruits entering the 2009-10 season who sat out on redshirt scholarships.

Although he’s not eligible this season, Georgia Tech can look forward to getting the services of Brandon Reed in 2011-12, a transfer from Arkansas State who won the Sun Belt Conference’s Freshman of the Year award after averaging 15.1 points per game.

Who They Play:

The Yellow Jackets play a fairly tough non-conference schedule even if they don’t have a guaranteed match up against an elite team. Georgia Tech will hit the boardwalk in November to play in the Legends Classic in Atlantic City, N.J., where the Yellow Jackets will play UTEP in the opener and either Michigan or Syracuse in the second game. Georgia Tech also gets Niagara, Richmond, Siena, Georgia and Charlotte – a bunch of strong but not spectacular opponents.

In the ACC, Georgia Tech gets two games against Clemson, Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, plus single games on the road against Boston College, Duke and North Carolina State.

Keep Up the Good Work:

Ideally, the Yellow Jackets will continue to be defensive stalwarts, ranking among the top teams in Division I in defensive efficiency. However, without the likes of Lawal, Favors and graduated senior D’Andre Bell, Georgia Tech’s defense will likely have occasional lapses.

Room for Improvement:

This team must shoot better. The three leading returning scorers – Shumpert, Brian Oliver and Mfon Udofia – shot 38.5, 39.4 and 36.8 percent from the field, respectively. That’s a recipe for disaster for a team that must rely on its guards, who often will be guarded by taller opponents.

Don’t Be Surprised:

Freshman Daniel Miller has a legitimate shot at becoming a major factor. He studied under Lawal and Favors last season as a redshirt scholarship player. He should know Hewitt’s system, and with little other experienced big men, he’ll be able to compete for significant minutes early in the season.

Outlook:

Georgia Tech’s defense covered up some major weaknesses on offense last season. With the key members of that defense gone, the Yellow Jackets will likely struggle this season, especially during the rugged conference slate. Yellow Jacket fans must hope that Georgia Tech’s guards have spent hours in the gym this off-season working on their shot from everywhere on the court. Georgia Tech’s strength must be its experienced backcourt, and Shumpert, Lance Storrs and Maurice Miller must set the pace for the younger guards, such as Oliver, Udofia and Glen Rice Jr.

Miami Hurricanes (20-13, 4-12)

Glad to Have You Back:

In past years, the backcourt has been Miami’s strength. This season will continue that tradition with Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott. Swingman Adrian Thomas will add to that pair to give the Hurricanes a solid three-point shooting threat. Scott and Grant can run the offense and averaged more than three assists per game last season. Meanwhile, Grant and Thomas can stretch opposing defenses as they shot better than 41 percent from behind the arc.

We’ll Miss You:

The Hurricanes had one of the most underrated players in the ACC last season in senior forward Dwayne Collins. He averaged 12.0 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting better than 60 percent from the field. Although Miami prefers a guard-oriented lineup, the Hurricanes need Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble to hold their own in the post.

Miami will also miss its second-leading scorer, James Dews, who graduated after averaging 11.5 points per game last season. Although Dews was capable of scoring in bunches, he struggled with consistency.

Welcome to the Program:

The Hurricanes don’t have one of the strongest recruiting classes in the ACC, but they do have a couple of potentially key players. Donnavan Kirk returns from an injury-shortened freshman season with four years of remaining eligibility. He will probably factor into coach Frank Haith’s frontcourt rotation. In addition, new arrival shooting guard Rion Brown will be another long-range threat for the Hurricanes.

Who They Play:

Miami does not have too many opportunities to collect big wins during the non-conference slate, so games against Memphis, Mississippi and West Virginia will be huge. In the ACC, the Hurricanes will get two games against Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State and Georgia Tech.

Keep Up the Good Work:

Miami was surprisingly efficient on offense last season, averaging a respectable 72 points per game. Collins’ 60 percent shooting significantly contributed to that efficiency, so Miami will need to be sure that his replacements continue to take good shots and work for post position as the guards stretch the court.

Room for Improvement:

To make that happen, Grant and Thomas need to be selective with their shots. Those perimeter players shot better from three-point range than they did inside the arc. If they can elevate their mid-range game or get to the rim more often, the Hurricanes’ offense could become very difficult for opponents to stop.

Don’t Be Surprised:

Reggie Johnson is poised to have a huge season. The center is a 6-10 300-pounder, which is a load for any team to defend. Johnson flashed moments of brilliance last season in averaging 6.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in only 13.6 minutes per game. He must cut down on the fouls – he also had 2.2 fouls per game in those limited minutes – to maximize his potential.

Outlook:

Miami won’t be an easy win for anyone in the ACC. The talented backcourt and beef in the post present defensive match up problems. However, the lack of a consistent go-to scorer will hurt the Hurricanes, especially in crunch time. The Hurricanes likely will finish in the bottom third but will be a dangerous team in the ACC Tournament and could make a surprising push for an automatic bid.

Boston College Eagles (15-16, 6-10)

Glad to Have You Back:

Donahue arrives at Chestnut Hill with some talented players who can help make his first season with the Eagles at least competitive. Forward Joe Trapani is the team’s senior leader, and he was tops on the team in scoring and rebounding last season. Three other returning starters will join Trapani: Reggie Jackson, Corey Raji and Biko Paris.

We’ll Miss You:

After Skinner’s departure, Evan Ravenel and Rakim Sanders opted to transfer rather than stick it out under Donahue. Ravenel, primarily a reserve forward, left for Ohio State, while Sanders, a regular starter, chose to follow former Boston College assistant Ed Cooley to Fairfield. Sanders averaged 11.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game last season. However, he frequently struggled with his shot.

The lone graduating senior from last year’s squad was Tyler Roche, who was an active albeit unspectacular member of the frontcourt rotation.

Welcome to the Program:

Donahue’s arrival in April cost Boston College a couple of Skinner’s recruits. However, the new coach imported Danny Rubin, a decent three-point shooter from Chevy Chase, Md., and Gabriel Moton, an energetic point guard who averaged 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game last season in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Who They Play:

Boston College’s best non-conference match ups will likely come in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla., during the Thanksgiving break. The Eagles draw Texas A&M in the first round of the eight-team tournament and could also face Wisconsin, Temple, Notre Dame, California or Georgia. Besides that tournament, the Eagles face several familiar New England foes: Providence, Rhode Island, Harvard and Massachusetts. The Eagles play only two true road games during non-conference action.

In conference play, the Eagles face a few tough teams twice: Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech. And the team’s lone match ups against Clemson, Duke and Florida State are all on the road.

Keep Up the Good Work:

Like several other ACC teams, Boston College worked hard last season to extend possessions. The Eagles were one of the most proficient teams in the country at collecting offensive rebounds, and Raji was usually in the thick of everything. He led the team with 90 offensive rebounds, which is 12 more rebounds than he grabbed at the defensive end. Jackson and Trapani were no slouches either; each grabbed more than 50 offensive rebounds last season.

Room for Improvement:

Guess which team was No. 3 in the country last season in effective field goal percentage, based on Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency metrics? No, not Boston College. Cornell. Under Donahue, the Big Red were ruthless marksmen, shooting nearly 43 percent from long range. They weren’t too shabby overall either, shooting better than 48 percent from the field and 73 percent from the free throw line.

On the other hand, the Eagles were far less proficient on offense, shooting 44.7 percent from the field and only 32.6 percent from three-point range. That’s more than 10 percentage points worse than Cornell. If Donahue hopes to enact a similar offensive strategy, this team could deliver some ugly results. However, Donahue will likely mold his approach to the team’s strengths, which is Raji’s ability to get to the basket and Trapani and Jackson’s skills at working inside out to stretch the court with well-timed three-point attempts.

Don’t Be Surprised:

Although the Eagles will likely be overmatched in many ACC games, don’t bet against the Eagles winning two out of three home games against North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Maryland in early February. As the Eagles adjust to Donahue’s system, the seniors will settle in and lead this team into some hard-fought ACC battles. One of the reasons for Skinner’s ouster was a perceived – and observed – lack of home court support. Donahue would be well advised to take that to heart and make sure the Eagles find a way to protect their nest by late in the season.

Outlook:

With Donahue leading the flock, the Eagles have a bright future. Cornell was one of the darlings of the NCAA Tournament as Donahue’s sharpshooters captivated the upset-minded imaginations of fans throughout the Northeast and across the country. After Donahue brings in some of his recruits, Boston College should be able to build a larger-scale version of the Big Red.

But for this season, the growing pains will likely result in double-digit losses in the ACC and a bottom-third finish. Anything better than that should propel Donahue into the conversation for ACC coach of the year.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (20-11 9-7)

Glad to Have You Back:

The Jeff Bzdelik era will begin with a roster in flux. After losing four starters from last season’s team, Wake Forest will turn to sophomores C.J. Harris and Ari Stewart to lead a team that has only one junior or senior who averaged more than 10 minutes per game last season. Harris and Stewart also are the team’s leading returning scorers, after combining for a modest 17.2 points per game last season.

We’ll Miss You:

The biggest off-season departure is coach Dino Gaudio, whom the university dismissed after a disappointing end to last season. The Demon Deacons stumbled past Texas in the NCAA Tournament’s first round before losing in an utter blowout to Kentucky in the second round. The embarrassing season finale was the team’s sixth loss in eight games.

In addition, the Demon Deacons will need to adjust to life without NBA Draft pick Al-Farouq Aminu and electric point guard Ishmael Smith. The pair led the team in scoring and fueled the team’s offense last season. In addition, seniors L.D. Williams, David Weaver and Chas McFarland graduated after last season, and Tony Woods left the school after an off-court incident.

Welcome to the Program:

Bzdelik is obviously the biggest new arrival in Winston-Salem. The new coach has said that he won’t necessarily install the ridiculously slow-paced game he led at Air Force and Colorado. But don’t expect the Demon Deacons to return to the high-octane game of the Chris Paul years either.

Bzdelik won’t be the only new man on campus. Gaudio’s parting gift to Wake Forest was a sensational 2010 recruiting class that includes shooting guard J.T. Terrell, swingman Travis McKie, and big men Melvin Tabb and Carson Desrosiers. Point guard Tony Chenault is not as highly rated, but he’s no slouch and could work into the rotation behind Harris and senior Gary Clark. With so much roster turnover, the freshmen will see plenty of minutes right from the opening tip of the season.

Who They Play:

Wake Forest has a few huge non-conference games on its schedule, notably games against Xavier and Gonzaga. The Demon Deacons also will likely get either VCU or Winthrop in the second round of the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament. That’s no gimme en route to the tournament’s finals in New York, where UCLA, Tennessee or Villanova could await.

In conference play, Wake Forest will play two games apiece against Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech. The team’s lone games against Boston College, Clemson and North Carolina come on the road.

Keep Up the Good Work:

In the first 23 games last season, Wake Forest’s defense only let six opponents score 70 points or more. During the meltdown during the final eight games, opponents reached that mark five times. Under new coach Bzdelik, the Demon Deacons need to remain defensively sound while focusing on peaking late in the season, rather than in January. That cost Gaudio his job.

Room for Improvement:

Wake Forest’s offense was often stagnant, and the team’s inability to stretch the court was a major factor. The team shot 30.8 percent from three-point range. The good news is that the team’s best shooters – Harris, Stewart and Clark – all return this season. All three must approach 40 percent from beyond the arc to force opponents to step out and open space in the middle for Ty Walker and some of the younger post players.

Don’t Be Surprised:

Wake Forest likely will struggle early in the season as returning players adjust to Bzdelik’s style of play and a bunch of freshmen learn on the fly. Although the Demon Deacons play the NIT Season Tip-Off opening rounds in Winston-Salem, don’t be shocked if VCU is the team that ends up playing in the tournament finals in New York City.

Outlook:

Wake Forest is entering a rebuilding year. The team has plenty of reason to be optimistic with only one senior likely to contribute major minutes. But this season will likely feature quite a few rough patches as the Demon Deacons fall toward the bottom third of the ACC standings.

Conference Outlook

The ACC will deliver yet another intense season filled with thrilling games and outstanding players. In past years, the ACC has taken a back seat to the Big East and Big 12. That could happen again this season as the conference lacks more than one or two elite teams that will remain in the top 15 of the polls throughout the season.

However, the ACC’s greatest strength is its parity. The bottom teams in the ACC are usually much stronger than the bottom teams in other power conferences. That won’t change this season, as rebuilding teams such as Boston College and Wake Forest will still be capable of knocking off teams that finish in the top third of the standings.

Come March 13, here’s where various ACC teams can expect to play in the post-season.

NCAA Tournament-bound:

Duke: If the Blue Devils aren’t a No. 1 or 2 seed, something went horribly wrong along the way this season.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies have the makings of a dangerous No. 4 or 5 seed. Their peak potential is likely a No. 3 seed.

Florida State: The Seminoles are on pace to reach the NCAA Tournament for a third consecutive season, likely as a No. 7 or 8 seed.

North Carolina: After last season’s disaster, a No. 7 or 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament won’t seem like a complete disaster as it might in other seasons. This team’s potential to earn a No. 4 or 5 seed is fairly high, but so is its bust potential.

Clemson: The Tigers won’t likely be highly ranked much of the season, but they will pull off enough ugly, big wins to earn a No. 10 or 11 seed.

North Carolina State: With Lowe’s job on the line, the Wolfpack are in position to be among the final 10 teams to earn an at-large bid. Only time will tell if that’s enough to keep Lowe around for 2011-12.

NIT-bound:

Virginia: Coach Tony Bennett has the Cavaliers heading in the right direction, but they’ll need a tour in the NIT before they’re close to ready for the Big Dance.

Maryland: This is a pretty sharp decline after renowned success during the Greivis Vasquez era.

Georgia Tech: Coach Paul Hewitt’s job isn’t 100 percent safe, so the Yellow Jackets will need to produce some wins when they land in the NIT.

Miami: The Hurricanes will upset a couple of the ACC’s better teams, which will earn this young, talented team enough national cred to warrant a trip to the NIT.

No post-season play:

Boston College: The Eagles won’t be awful, but they’re not going to be good enough for the post-season this year. Get to Boston College while you can, because Donahue will bring in some sharpshooters soon to make this a dangerous team.

Wake Forest: Young talent and a new coach will lead to trouble in Winston-Salem this year, but Jeff Bzdelik gets a free pass this season as long as Wake Forest can stay close in most of its games, especially against Duke and North Carolina.

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College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

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