ACC Basketball Preview Part I

It's the first of a four-part series taking a look around the league for the 2008-09 season.

Most pundits have already arrived at the conclusion that the ACC will, at best, be a two-team race featuring traditional powers North Carolina and Duke.

After all, the Tar Heels return all five of their starters from last year's ACC Championship team, which advanced to the Final Four, while Duke has four starters back that are a year older and wiser, including one of the top young players in the league in Kyle Singler.

And both schools continue to recruit at a high level as well.

But even so, Clemson, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and Miami also still have a chance to have great teams this year.

Clemson has a legitimate shot to contend once again after reaching its first NCAA Tournament since 1998 earlier this year, especially if heralded recruit Andre Young can come in and give the team an extra spark it is going to need at the guard positions.

Wake Forest is loaded with talent and will more than likely make a move towards the top, Virginia Tech remains one of the top defensive teams in the league under Seth Greenberg and Miami is also loaded, with freshman DeQuan Jones adding to an already dangerous nucleus that could make a run at an NCAA Tournament berth.

Below, CUTigers.com takes a closer look at each team in the ACC and where it is expected to finish by the end of the season.

Teams are in reverse order by expected finish:

Boston College point guard Tyrese Rice averaged 22.9 points, 5-1 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game in 16 conference contests last season and was named a first-team All-ACC performer.
No. 10 Boston College Eagles
Last year's record: 14-17
2007-2008 ACC finish: 12th (4-12)
Postseason: ACC Quarterfinals
Returning starters: 3
Returning lettermen: 8

Overview: The Eagles have perhaps the ACC's most explosive scorer in Tyrese Rice, but very little after that. With just eight returning letterman and little depth on the bench, even head coach Al Skinner isn't expecting very much from this group this season.

If that's the case, why should anybody else? B.C. should still be a strong defensive team, but where will the offense come from? Losing Tyrelle Blair, who earned All-Defensive Team honors a year ago, will hurt more than most realize.

No. 11 Florida State Seminoles
Last year's record: 19-15
2007-2008 ACC finish: Ninth (7-9)
Postseason: ACC Quarterfinals; NIT first round
Returning starters: 3
Returning lettermen: 8

Overview: Entering the start of the season, the Seminoles appear to be a one-man show, led by senior Toney Douglas. But it is hard to win in the ACC with one scorer so FSU has to find someone else to step up and take some of the pressure off of Douglas. Coach Leonard Hamilton would like to see some of that come from Uche Echefu and Ryan Reid.

Freshman center Solomon Alabi (7-1, 241) could be a factor only if he is productive on both ends of the floor.

Overall, don't expect Florida State to make a run at an NCAA berth but the NIT should be squarely within reach.

No. 12 Virginia Cavaliers
Last year's record: 17-16
2007-2008 ACC finish: 10th (5-11)
Postseason: ACC first round; CBI second round
Returning starters: 3
Returning lettermen: 11

Overview: Dave Leitao is maybe feeling the heat a little bit this year. The good news is the Cavaliers have some talent, though unproven. The bad news is he has to replace Sean Singletary's 19.8 points per game average. That will not be easy, but if Leitao can reestablish a defensive theme which has been missing the last two seasons and show some promise to the administration, then he could give himself another year to keep building.

If not, then he could be seeing the pink slip by season's end.

Stay tuned Tuesday for Part II, featuring the No. 7, 8 and 9 teams in the league.

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