Duke (7)--Chris Duhon, Daniel Ewing, Sean Dockery, Shavlik Randolph, J. J. Redick, Michael Thompson, Luol Deng. Shelden Williams would have most likely been the eighth player on this list if he had played a full senior season in high school. This group represents the heart of the Blue Devils' team and underlines why they are highly regarded again this season.
North Carolina (4)—Raymond Felton, Sean May, Rashad McCants, and Jaward Williams. The core of another ACC team is made up of the most highly rated high school players. The Tar Heels are second in the conference with McDonald's All-Americans, and second in most preseason predictions. No coincidence there.
Why is the ACC consistently among the best conferences in the nation? For one, no school outside the conference currently has more than two McDonald's All-Americans on its roster. Second, no other conference approaches the total of 17 ACC schools have. The Big East, with eight, is the closest.
We have all heard the story about how Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team, but he did earn this level of recognition. Juan Dixon and Len Bias, the greatest players in Maryland history, did not. Buzz Peterson, best known as Michael Jordan's friend while playing for North Carolina, was a McDonald's All-American. Tim Duncan, last season's NBA MVP and a Wake Forest alumnus, was not. Georgia Tech's second and third all-time leading scorers, Matt Harpering and Mark Price, were not McDonald's All-Americans. The top three NCAA all-time assist leaders, Bobby Hurley of Duke, Chris Corchiani or NC State, and Ed Cota of North Carolina, all were.
Does anyone remember Ricky Jones of Clemson, Greg Koubek of Duke, Lamarr Greer of Florida State, Darryl Barnes of Georgia Tech, Pete Holbert of Maryland, Kevin Madden of North Carolina, Norman Nolan of Virginia, and Glen Mayers of Wake Forest. I didn't think so, despite the fact that they were all McDonald's All-Americans.
Historically, here is by my count how many each school has signed going back to the first year this designation was made in 1977:
North Carolina-44, Duke-34, Georgia Tech-13, Maryland-13, Virginia-9, NC State-8, Wake Forest-7, Florida State-7, Clemson-4. While not an absolute indicator, these numbers are fairly representative of each school's relative success over the last 27 years. Gary Williams was able to win a National Championship in 2002 at Maryland without a McDonald's All-American, but the Terps are the only team in the nation to accomplish that feat since McDonalds began naming All-Americans.
By the way, former North Carolina coach Matt Doherty was a McDonald's All-American, but none of the current ACC coaches were. I'm not sure what that means, but I thought I'd throw it in anyway.
Question for the Jury:
Who are some of the most overrated and/or underrated recruits you can remember playing for your favorite ACC team? Let me know by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The most popular answer to my last question, what out-of-conference games would you like to see ACC teams play, was a Kansas-North Carolina matchup. I would also put this at the top of my list, but it will not happen. There is no way Roy Williams will ever agree to that. UCLA and Indiana were other popular choices for OOC opponents.
My favorite suggestion was from a reader who wants to see the ACC-Big East Challenge (held for two years in the early 1990's) revived. While I'm perfectly happy with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, a series of games against Big East opponents would have a lot of juice after the recent conference realignment. Alas, this is not likely to take place anytime in the near future. Of course, if ESPN waves enough money in front of both conferences, well, I think you already know the answer to that.
In Tuesday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution, columnist Mark Bradley listed his "what if" Top 20 for this season. He analyzed what the top teams in the nation would look like if everyone who signed letters of intent with a school actually enrolled and played four years. Bradley included players like Amare Stoudemire (Memphis), Kwame Brown (Florida), and Eddy Curry (DePaul) who never played a minute for schools they committed to.
Interestingly, Duke is the highest rated team in this listing at only #14. Their roster would not have any changes in this scenario, and Bradley correctly surmises that a number of teams would move past them if their rosters had stayed intact. Georgia Tech, keeping Chris Bosh, is a tad overrated at #16, while Maryland, with senior Chris Wilcox, is underrated at #17. North Carolina, also with no changes to its roster, was ranked #20. Michigan State, Connecticut, Memphis, St. John's (whoa), and Syracuse comprised Bradley's top five.
Georgia Tech dominated a short-handed Louisiana-Lafayette team Tuesday night in their NIT first round match. The Ragin' Cajuns (major props for a cool nickname) were missing five players including former Tech signee center Michael Southall. All were suspended due to academic issues. Anthony McHenry drew the call to start up front for the undersized Yellow Jackets, who sport a three-guard lineup including B. J. Elder, Marvin Lewis, and Jarrett Jack. McHenry, 6'7, 220 pounds, will need to help 7'1" Luke Schenscher establish some type of presence near the basket on both ends of the court.
It looks like Duke with also open the season with a small starting lineup. Rather than bring Daniel Ewing off the bench, Coach K is expected to start him along with J. J. Redick and Chris Duhon while playing Luol Deng at power forward and Shelden Williams at center. For now, this leaves Shavlik Randolph and Nick Horvath on the bench along with Sean Dockery in what should be the Blue Devil's eight-man rotation.
Freshman Mike O'Donnell will apparently open the season as NC State's starting point guard. Coach Sendek says, "Mike is somebody who has really hit the floor running." Teammate Julius Hodge commented, "The little dude is a warrior." Time will tell if he can prove me and many other prognosticators wrong when we named his position as a major weakness for the Wolfpack.
Following up on an item I mentioned last week, point guard Sean Singletary did officially sign his letter-of-intent with Virginia, apparently ending any chance for Majestic Mapp to return next season.
That's what I think. Let me know what you think on the message board or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Next time, I'll review the opening games of ACC team's seasons and take a look at how they come out of the starting gate. Until then, court is adjourned!