ESPN.com has been running a summer series called Shoot Around in which they preview the conferences. The ACC preview appeared at the end of last week with the expected high praise for UNC:
As soon as the Tar Heels trudged off the Meadowlands court with regional final loss to Georgetown last season, the talk turned to how good they would be this season. If Carolina had a weakness last season, it was its youth. With three freshmen and a sophomore in the starting lineup, the Heels struggled in close games, going 5-6 in games decided by less than nine points. Never was that more painfully obvious than in the Elite Eight game when an 11-point lead disappeared into the second half and Georgetown punched that Final Four ticket. Now all of that talented youth is frighteningly experienced. And even without Brandon Wright, who bolted to the NBA, North Carolina is a logical pick for the Final Four. Again. Back are Tyler Hansbrough (the probable preseason player of the year pick), Ty Lawson (who coach Roy Williams said has a chance to be "the best point guard I've ever coached") and Wayne Ellington (averaged 11.7 points as a rookie). Worse for opponents, the Heels are hungry.
What's even worse than that is THF favorites Marcus Ginyard and Deon Thompson went completely unmentioned in this blurb. What a shame! Anyway, I also thought it was interesting that for as much grief as my readers and I have poured on Wayne Ellington, he actually turned over a good average last season. For some reason it just did not seem that way probably because we were expecting him to be a more consistent from beyond the arc. As for the ACC pecking order, Jay Bilas tabs UNC for first:
1. North Carolina
Tyler Hansbrough will be the most productive player in the ACC and its Player of the Year. Roy Williams again has the most thoroughbreds in his stable and can again come after people in waves. But this season, they have experience too. Ty Lawson is the best point in the ACC, and Wayne Ellington may be the best shooting guard. Carolina may get beat here and there, but the Heels are the best team. Period.
Bilas surprisingly picks Virginia for ninth(way too low), FSU for sixth(a tad high) and NC State in fourth(little low.) In fact according to NCSU's Gavin Grant, Jay Bilas is out of his freaking mind picking NCSU anything but 1st:
"With the incoming freshmen we have coming in here and what we have coming back, I don't see us losing any more than four games this year," Grant began. "Honestly. If we stay healthy, I think we have the talent to be a Final Four team and contend for a national championship."
Pausing briefly to take a breath that surely will fan the flames, Grant continued.
"I'm not just saying that because I'm here," he said. "Looking at the talent we have, I firmly believe that we can play with anyone in the country. There's no team in the country that can beat us. We can only beat ourselves."
Now, there is nothing wrong with optimism and confident players but quite frankly this goes beyond the pale. Media savvy players, like Brandon Costner for example, couch their comments with words like "I think" or "could." Grant decided to give us concrete numbers like only four losses or informing us that the only team that can beat the Pack is the Pack itself. Grant obviously has not looked at the schedule NC State is playing or is fairly ignorant of historical trends in the ACC which stipulates that teams which finish first more times than not do so with 2-3 losses.
At any rate this kind of bravado will make for some interesting basketball come November.