ACC Early Look: Hoops 2011-2012

The caliber of last season's ACC teams did not measure up to the standard expected of one of college basketball's powerhouse leagues. Will the upcoming season be another disappointing year or will the mix of coaching changes, returning talent, and touted freshman bring the ACC back to its usual spot as one of the top leagues in the nation?

A lot can change between now and the May 8th deadline to withdraw from the NBA draft and still be eligible to play next season, but here is an early look at how the conference is shaping up for next season.

Duke Blue Devils:

Key Losses: Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith, Kyrie Irving
Gaining: Austin Rivers, Quinn Cook, Michael Gbinije, Marshall Plumlee, Alex Murphy
Key Returning Players: Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, Miles Plumlee
Potentially Leaving: No One

Notes: Duke will be a very young team at several key positions next season. Still, Austin Rivers and Quinn Cook will bolster an already strong backcourt. The potential late commitment of DeAndre Daniels is still a big factor in what the rotation will look like next season, as is the decision of whether or not Alex Murphy will redshirt. A lot of Duke's success will depend on how quickly Rivers adjusts to the college game and how much Mason Plumlee improves in the frontcourt. Despite their youth, the Blue Devils have as much talent on their roster as any team in the conference and should compete for the top spot in the ACC.

North Carolina Tar Heels

Key Losses: Justin Knox
Gaining: James McAdoo, P.J. Hairston, Desmond Hubert, Stilman White, Jackson Simmons
Key Returning Players: Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Kendall Marshall
Potentially Leaving: No One

Notes: North Carolina is the odds on favorite to win the ACC this season. The Tar Heels return all five starters thanks to the decisions of Harrison Barnes, John Henson, and Tyler Zeller to not entertain the NBA draft and stay for another year. Kendall Marshall proved to be an excellent point guard last season and will return with more experience and more options on offense than last season. Reserve big man Justin Knox is gone, but James McAdoo is an upgrade in that role. The Tar Heels are without doubt the team to beat in the ACC.

North Carolina State Wolfpack

Key Losses: Tracy Smith, Javier Gonzalez, Ryan Harrow
Gaining: Tyler Harris, Jaqawn Raymond
Key Returning Players: C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood, Richard Howell
Potentially Leaving: No One

Notes: Sidney Lowe is gone as N.C. State's coach, and former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried is now running the show. The return of C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown is big, but the loss of both Javier Gonzalez and Ryan Harrow is a major blow. Harrow's decision to transfer means the Wolfpack are without a true point guard. Brown might be the most likely fit at the position, but if running the offense limits his scoring, N.C. State is in trouble. Tracy Smith's presence in the post will be missed heavily as well. The Wolfpack have some key pieces, but there are too many holes in the lineup to expect much this year.

Miami Hurricanes

Key Losses: Adrian Thomas
Gaining: Bishop Daniels
Key Returning Players: Durand Scott, Malcolm Grant
Potentially Leaving: Reggie Johnson

Notes:It was semi-surprising to see Frank Haith leave Miami after last season, but the Hurricans made a great hire in Jim Larranaga of George Mason fame. Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant lead a dangerous backcourt that can put points up in a hurry from behind the arc. If Reggie Johnson pulls out of the NBA draft and returns for another season, the Hurricanes will have a significant presence in the post as the well. The Hurricanes have been young and lacking in consistency over the last few years, but the talent is there. If Johnson stays and Larranaga brings a little of the that George Mason magic to Miami, the Hurricans could be one of the top teams in the conference.

Clemson Tigers

Key Losses: Demontez Stitt, Jerai Grant
Gaining: Rod Hall, Devin Coleman, Kevin McDaniels, Daniel Sapp, Bernard Sullivan
Key Returning Players: Andre Young, Devin Booker, Tanner Smith, Milton Jennings
Potentially Leaving: No One

Notes: Clemson was the biggest surprise in the ACC last year. The Tigers put together a solid season and made the NCAA tournament after losing their coach and star player from the previous season. Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant are big losses for the Tigers, but Brad Brownell has a nucleus of returning a talent and a solid recruiting class coming in. If Andre Young can fill Stitt's spot sufficiently at the point, the Tigers have the potential to be back in the NCAA tournament and fighting for a high seed in the ACC tournament.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Key Losses: Iman Shumpert
Gaining: Julian Royal, Bobby Parks
Key Returning Players: Glen Rice Jr., Brian Oliver, Mfon Udofia, Maurice Miller
Potentially Leaving: No One

Notes: Paul Hewitt is no longer the head coach at Georgia Tech, which means the Yellow Jackets can finally breathe a little without enduring constant speculation surrounding their head coach's future. Brian Gregory was brought in from Dayton to take over the coaching responsibilities and got an early win by keeping incoming freshman Julian Royal committed to the Yellow Jackets. Royal will give Georgia Tech some talent in the frontcourt, something they were severely lacking last year. While Mfon Udofia, Brian Oliver, Glen Rice Jr., and Maurice Miller provide a nice mix in the backcourt, the loss of Iman Shumpert will be tough to endure. He was Mr. Everything last year, leading the Yellow Jackets in just about every statistical category imaginable. Georgia Tech was terrible last season, and they have an uphill battle ahead of them if they want to take steps forward this year.

Maryland Terrapins

Key Losses: Adrian Bowie, Cliff Tucker, Dino Gregory, Jordan Williams
Gaining: Martin Breunig, Nick Faust, Sterling Gibbs
Key Returning Players: Terrell Stoglin, Sean Mosely
Potentially Leaving: TBD A Gary Williams coached team is always going to be dangerous, especially when there are a few major talents on the roster. The problem is that Gary Williams will not be on the sidelines for Maryland in 2011-2012 after the coach announced his retirement this week. The loss of the head coach usually means players have second thoughts about their projected path and role within a program so more players could be on their way out before the end of the summer. Especially once a new coach is named. Last season's Terrapin squad was a bit up and down, but that was expected after the departure of Greivis Vasquez. A lot of experience is out the door for the second year in a row in College Park, but their are a few pieces in place. Terrell Stoglin impressed as an offensively minded point guard last season, and Jordan Williams was one of the best big men in the nation. With Williams and Williams both gone, the Terrapins will be likely fall towards the bottom of the ACC.

Florida State Seminoles

Key Losses: Chris Singleton, Derwin Kitchen
Gaining: Antwan Space, Aaron Thomas, Kiel Turpin, Terry Whisnant
Key Returning Players: Xavier Gibson, Bernard James, Ian Miller, Michael Snaer
Potentially Leaving: No One

Notes: Leonard Hamilton has quietly turned Florida State into one of the top basketball programs in the ACC. They routinely finish in the top half of the conference standings thanks to a seemingly endless supply of athletic players over 6'10". Chris Singleton is gone, leaving a big hole in the Seminoles' defense. That said, Bernard James showed enough last season to assume that he'll be able to step in as the central cog in Florida State's defense. Derwin Kitchen is also gone, but Ian Miller is capable of running the offense effectively. The Seminoles have enough in the cupboard to stay in the top half of the conference.

Boston College

Key Losses: Biko Paris, Corey Raji, Joe Trapani, Josh Southern
Gaining: Jordan Daniels, Lonnie Jackson, Ryan Anderson, Kyle Caudill, Eddie Odio, Dennis Clifford
Key Returning Players: No One
Potentially Leaving: Reggie Jackson

Notes: Boston College had some rough patches last season, but it was an overall successful first year Steve Donahue with the Eagles. This upcoming season, however, looks to be a challenging one. The Eagles lose practically every player who played a major role last season. Reggie Jackson has put his name in for the NBA draft, but he hasn't signed an agent and could still withdraw before the May 8th deadline. Even if he returns though, the Eagles will be extremely young and unproven. At best, Jackson returns and plays the role Iman Shumpert played at Georgia Tech last year. Either way, next season will be a struggle for Donahue and the Eagles.

Virginia Cavaliers

Key Losses: Mustapha Farrakhan
Gaining: Darion Atkins, Malcolm Brogdon, Paul Jesperson
Key Returning Players: Sammy Zeglinski, K.T. Harrel, Joe Harris
Potentially Leaving: Mike Scott

Notes: Tony Bennett is trying to build Virginia back into a top ACC team one step at a time. Last season was certainly a step in the right direction, but there is a long way to go. The Cavaliers bring in a solid recruiting class, adding to a core of good returning role players. However, Virginia desperately needs Mike Scott to return in order to have a go-to player with the ability to carry the team on his back. Scott hasn't declared for the NBA draft, but he's still waiting to hear whether or not he will be granted a fifth year of eligibility after a severe ankle injury sidelined him just 10 games into the season. All signs point to a likely return for Scott, which is something Virginia badly needs.

Virginia Tech Hokies

Key Losses: Malcolm Delaney, Jeff Allen, Terrell Bell
Gaining: Dorian Finney-Smith, Marquis Rankin, C.J. Barksdale, Robert Brown
Key Returning Players: Dorenzo Hudson, J.T. Thompson, Erick Green
Potentially Leaving: No One

Notes: If Seth Greenberg can ever recover from being left out of the NCAA tournament yet again, the Hokies could actually have a shot at a decent season this year. Malcolm Delaney is gone, so the Hokies will need to find a new strategy on offense. Dorenzo Hudson will be back after redshirting, which will help on the offensive side. Coach Greenberg brings in an impressive recruiting class with four top 100 recruits. It will be tough adjusting to like without Delaney, but the Hokies will have enough talent to be in the discussion for the NCAA tournament once again.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Key Losses: Gary Clark
Gaining: Anthony Fields, Daniel Green, Chase Fischer
Key Returning Players: J.T. Terrell, Travis McKie
Potentially Leaving: No One

Notes: Jeff Bzdelik couldn't have had a worse first season at Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons were 8-24 overall and 1-15 in the conference. Travis McKie and J.T. Terrell give Wake Forest two talented young players to build the offense around, but they still don't have anyone else who seems ready to contribute in a big way. Bzdelik isn't reeling in top talent yet on the recruiting trail, which is what will be needed to get Wake Forest to the level they were at a few years ago. It's hard to imagine the Demon Deacons finishing higher than the bottom three in the conference next year.

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