I always find it interesting that anyone would choose to publish a poll or prediction about next season before all the NBA Draft/high school recruits/coaching changes have shaken out. Now they have, let's discuss.
ACC Now has their first post-draft version of how they think the ACC will go next season. Here is what I think each team is looking at:
The Eagles lose Tyrese Rice but retain everyone else. Not necessarily addition by subtraction but no reason to toss BC under any bus. The Eagles should be able to effectively fill the void mainly because last season it was obvious they became multidimensional. Before it was the Tyrese Rice Show. Last season we saw multiple players step up and Rice became more of a faciliator. More than anything else BC needs a player to step into that role more than replacing the points Rice scored. BC has plenty of height/length in the middle and will be a tough team to play because of their defense.
Losing KC Rivers and Terrence Oglesby hurts. Oliver Purnell assumed that he was just going to do without Rivers but then Oglesby surprised everyone by heading to Europe. Now Clemson is looking at shortcomings on the perimeter while still boasting a decent interior game. The upside for Purnell is a good recruiting class which includes McDonald's AA Milton Jennings. The downside is Jennings and fellow recruit Devin Booker are power forwards. Demontez Stitt and Tanner Smith better spend the rest of the summer shooting threes to pick up the slack.
The consensus choice in the media is going to be Duke just on the "who returns the most/best players" calculus. It is difficult to deny Duke the top spot in the preseason ACC poll for a few reasons. The first is, yes, they will be experience and have a potential ACC POY candidate in Kyle Singler. This is now Singler's team and he will have plenty of help in the form of Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith, Elliott Williams, Lance Thomas and Bryan Zoubek. Add to that the Plumlee boys and recruit Ryan Kelly, Duke has talent. The questions they still face is: 1. point guard play and 2. interior play. Plus, let's not just assume that losing Gerald Henderson is some sort of positive. The same logic was employed last season with the loss of DeMarcus Nelson and we saw how that turned out. In the end this still comes down to Duke vs UNC and how those two games play out will say plenty.
Like BC, FSU loses a star point guard. Toney Douglas was not only a scoring maching but the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and not in a Shelden Williams sort of way. That being said, Derwin Kitchen had plenty of bright spots last season showing he will be capable of stepping up. A more polished Solomon Alabi will give the Noles a legitimate inside-out threat as well as a shot blocker. McDonalds AA Michael Snaer who is also the #3 SG in the country could be key in keeping FSU in the upper tier of the ACC. Possible issues? Leonard Hamilton is still the coach.
The Yellow Jackets are the consensus big winner in the draft process since Gani Lawal decided to return. Add to the mix top receruit Derrick Favors and a more experienced Iman Shumpert the Jackets have an excellent core. Zach Peacock and Maruice Miller will be leaned upon to fill key roles but then again the talent has never been the issue in Atlanta. Geogia Tech has talent coming back and incoming with the current recruiting class. No one would dare argue that the Yellow Jacket roster is devoid of skills. The problem always has been the execution as well as the coaching. Paul Hewitt squanders good players last season. The offense was terribly disorganized but at the same time this team still managed to beat Wake Forest and Clemson when they got the right combination. Doing that consistently would have them enjoying ACC Thursday from their hotel rooms in 2010.
The return of Greivis Vasquez means we will continued to be annoying by the senior point guard ever running, smack talking mouth. It also means Maryland has a legit chance to play with the upper tier of the ACC. The senior trio of Vasquez, Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes make up the returning centerpiece of a team that found a way to win an NCAA Tournament game despite the lack of quality interior play. Gary Williams is hoping incoming big men Jordan Williams and James Padgett can make an impact. Of course given last season's interior scoring option was David Neal, that ain't saying much.
The Hurricanes lose Jack McClinton, Brian Asbury, Jimmy Graham and Lance Hurdle. They did keep Dwayne Collins who may actually get used in the offense this season. It is going to be a rough time in Coral Gables. Malcom Grant will help. Recruit Durand Scott will help. In the end the Canes will be in a full blown rebuilding year.
Call me crazy but I get a sneaking suspiscion that the Wolfpack are going to surprise some folks. Never underestimate what the presence of a few malcontents will do to make a team worse than it could be. For whatever reason Sidney Lowe felt beholden to give Brandon Costner, Ben McCauley and Courtney Fells playing time despite their penchant for sucking, pouting or doing both at the same time. Having those players out of the way stands to make a huge difference, primarily because they will not be there for Lowe to screw his rotation with. At this point you have players who buy in to Lowe's system, are loyal to him and understand his system. One would hope that is enough to put them over the hump in a few games. One thing is certain, Lowe owns this team now. Whatever else that happens from this point forward puts his management and game coachin squarely into focus.
The Heels will have the best frontcourt in the conference, possibly in the nation. They also are looking at copious amounts of uncertainty on the perimeter. Larry Drew assumes the PG position with probably freshman Dexter Strickland as a backup. Marcus Ginyard will be back, probably starting at the two guard spot but until we see otherwise, no one can say for sure if his offensive game will take the same leap David Noel's did from 2005 to 2006. This is why Will Graves becomes possibly the most important player on the 2010 Tar Heels since he is the only UNC player anyone has seen make threes on a consistent basis. That is ultimately where the 2010 season gets decided for UNC. If they can find enough perimeter scoring and Drew takes care of the basketball then the Heels could end up trumping Duke. The Heels will dominate the interior with Ed Davis and Deon Thompson plus a 6-10 freshman named John Henson giving opposing small forwards matchup fits at the three. The rebounds will be there and this team will possibly be better on defense than the last two versions. If they can hit some threes the sky could be the limit.
New coaches tend to pump new life into a program. The poor Cavalier players who have been verbally abused under the previous regime will undoubtedly be happier and presumably play better under Tony Bennett. Sylven Landesberg enjoyed a stellar rookie campaign and comes back with many of the same players around him which is to say they will at least be experienced. Outside of that we are probably talking about a talent gap with the rest of the ACC though if there is anything that closes a talent gap it is the style of offense Bennett employs.
Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen form the tandem on which the Hokies' season rides. Adjusting to life without A.D. Vassallo could prove difficult. The Hokies will be interior heavy and face questions about perimeter scoring much the same as UNC. Of course it really does not matter. Like Clemson, the Hokies are a team that is wholly incapable of being good enough from start to finish. There is little doubt that come March we will be treated to Seth Greenberg on ESPN begging for his 7-9 in the ACC Hokies to be included in the NCAA Tournament will boasting quality wins over...well...no one you have ever heard of before.
Ish Smith and Al-Farouq Aminu are going to be huge together. Just not enough to win games in the ACC on a regular basis. For Aminu's sake I hope he looks really good to NBA scouts in the process.