ACC Preview: Part Two

The college basketball season is starting and that means it is time to take a look at the ACC this year. As expected, the usual suspects are expected to dominate the league, but the top half will be much more wide open than in past seasons. This year there is unlikely to be one dominant team in the league In part two of the ACC Preview, we look at the top half of the league.

Duke Blue Devils

Key losses: Gerald Henderson, Elliot Williams

Key additions: Mason Pumlee, Ryan Kelly, Andre Dawkins

Outlook: Duke will certainly miss the departures of Henderson to the NBA and Williams transferring to Memphis. Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith, and Lance Thomas will be counted upon to lead the Blue Devils this year. They still lack depth in the frontcourt and will likely rely heavily on the three-point shot like last season. Look for freshman Ryan Kelly and Andre Dawkins to be counted on to contribute right away. Kelly is a 6'9 forward with a similar skill set to Singler. Kelly is a skilled four with the ability to knock down perimeter shots although his post defense still needs work. Dawkins graduated high school a year early in order to enroll at Duke and begin playing. He is extremely athletic and compares favorably to the recently departed Gerald Henderson.

Prediction: Duke does not have as much depth as UNC but they return more experience. What they lack they make up for with intelligence and excellent coaching. They should finish first in the conference behind a strong season from Kyle Singler.

North Carolina Tar Heels

Key losses: Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green

Key additions: David Wear, Travis Wear, John Henson, Leslie McDonald, Dexter Strickland

Outlook: UNC loses four key contributors from last year's national championship squad including the ACC's all time leading scorer, Tyler Hansbrough.They did manage to manage to reel in one of the best recruiting classes in the country. John Henson might be the best of the bunch. Henson is an athletic 6'10 combo forward with a great face-up post game. Sophomore Ed Davis, who averaged 6.7 points and 6.6 rebounds as a reserve last year, will be the centerpiece of the offense. Along with Davis, senior Deon Thompson should give the Tar Heels a strong frontcourt this year. UNC is thin at the guard spot with just one experienced player returning (Marcus Ginyad). Much of their success this season will be determined by how well freshman Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland play this season.

Prediction:Roy Williams looks to re-load this season with plenty of fresh faces. The Tar Heels have an extremely talented bunch and under William's tutelage they should finish near the top once again. A second place finish is not out of the question for this young team.

Boston College Eagles

Key losses: Tyrese Rice

Key additions: None

Outlook: Boston College looks to build on last year's 22-win season, with a strong core of returning players. Rakim Sanders is a budding star and perhaps the most physically gifted guard in the conference. Joe Trapani is a perfect fit for Skinner's style, a big four who can shoot and handle the ball. Biko Paris and Reggie Jackson will take over for Tyrese Rice at the point. Although they won't provide the same scoring, they will be able to run the offense and minimize turnovers. Corey Raji is a scrappy forward with an uncanny knack for grabbing offensive rebounds. The questions for the Eagles surround the development of big men Josh Southern, Courtney Dunn and Evan Ravenel. If these players can provide consistent defense support and occasional offense Boston College could be a very dangerous team and contend for the elusive conference title.

Prediction: Al Skinner and company have always found a way to win and with this experienced returning unit they could finish third in the conference.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Key losses: Alade Aminu, Lewis Clinch, Zachery Peacock

Key additions: Derrick Favors, Kammeon Hosley, Mfon Udofia, Glen Rice Jr, Brian Oliver, Daniel Miller

Outlook: With the top recruiting class in the conference, including phenom Derrick Favors and the return of double-double machine Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech will be looking to make some noise in the ACC this year. After last season's last place finish, the Yellow Jackets have re-loaded this season and will be serious contenders. Favors and Lawal will be tough on the boards for opposing teams and freshman guards Rice and Udofia along with sophomore Iman Shumpert will handle the guard duties.

Prediction: Georgia Tech should be able to make a big jump this season and earn at least a fourth place finish. This team is young but is loaded with talent.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Key losses: Jeff Teague, James Johnson, Harvey Hale

Key additions: Ari Steart, C.J. Harris, Konner Tucker

Outlook: Wake Forest loses two first round picks from last year's team that finished second in the conference. Al-Farouq Aminu would likely have been another had he chose to leave. Now a sophomore, Aminu is poised to take control of this team. He will be joined by senior center Chas McFarland. McFarland stands at seven feet and can be a decent space eater in the post. They will be joined down low by sophomores Ty Walker and Tony Woods both of whom were highly regarding come out of high school. The biggest concern for Wake lies in their guard play. It will be tough to replace the production of Teague, but Ismael Smith has shown glimpses of brilliance in the past. He will look to run the show for Wake Forest with returning starter L.D. Williams playing the two-guard.

Prediction: Wake Forest is still very much a talented squad. They have arguably the deepest collection of post players in the league. The Demon Deacons should be strong enough to finish in the top half of the conference in fifth place.

Maryland Terrapins

Key losses: Dave Neal, Braxton Dupree

Key additions: James Padgett, Jordan Williams

Outlook: With the return of do-everything guard Greivis Vasquez, Maryland will look to pick up where the left off last year. A strong finish pushed them into the NCAA tournament behind the sensational play of Vasquez, who spurned the NBA to return for his final season. Last season he led the team in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. Maryland returns four of five starters including forward Landon Milbourne and guards Eric Hayes and Adrian Bowie. Freshman forward Jordan Williams is a big body and should be able to provide some depth this season.

Prediction: If Maryland can get consistent contributions outside of Vasquez they could be a sleeper in this conference. Until someone emerges they will likely be in the middle of the pack. Right now it looks like a sixth place finish for the Terrapins.


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