Ranking The Benches

Hear ye, hear ye. Court is back in session, and it's time to look at some of the unrecognized but very important contributions of reserves on ACC teams. Here's how I rate the benches so far this season.

9-NC State -There's not much good news here for Wolfpack Coach Herb Sendek. Freshman point guard Mike O'Donnell has provided an occasional spark, and another freshman guard, Engin Atsur, may do so after he gets his feet wet following his three-game suspension for European club play. The Pack gets Jordan Collins back after the first semester which will give them a flexible six-man rotation, but that doesn't leave them much room for injuries or foul trouble unless O'Donnell or Atsur step up big-time.

8-North Carolina —Jackie Manuel has been very solid off the bench for Coach Roy Williams, and the Tar Heels have received a surprising contribution from big man Justin Bohlander. Freshman Reyshawn Terry could still be an important player in Carolina's rotation later in the season, he has the physical skills to be a good player in the ACC. Nothing against Bohlander, but if he's the second best reserve on your team, you don't have a lot in reserve. Coach Williams should have David Noel back for most of the ACC schedule and will have a strong seven-man rotation at that time.

7-Clemson- Guard Shawan Robinson and forward Akin Akingbala, both sophomores, give Coach Oliver Purnell two talented players to bring off his bench. Junior wing Lamar Rice could develop into a contributor later in the season. While the Tigers are at a talent disadvantage with their starting lineup, their bench matches up relatively well with the rest of the teams in the ACC.

6-Maryland- Depth was supposed to be one of the strength's of Coach Gary Williams' young Terrapin team this season, but that has not been the case so far. Only freshmen D. J. Strawberry (the least touted player in Maryland's five-man freshman class) and Ekene Ibekwe have made significant contributions off the bench for the Terps. Mike Jones, who many fans felt would earn a starting job, is not even in the regular rotation. Jones is the most likely candidate to help solve the problems Maryland is having scoring from the perimeter, and they need him to step up sooner rather than later.

5-Duke— Coach K is going with a seven-man rotation but has yet to lock into a starting lineup. Most recently against St. John's, J. J. Redick came off the bench for the second game in a row along with Sean Dockery. In their win over Michigan State, it was Redick and Daniel Ewing as the first substitutes in the game for Duke, while in the loss to Purdue it was Dockery and Randolph coming off the bench. Any way you look at it, the Blue Devils are generally getting good production from only six players. Dockery showed some signs of life with 12 points vs. St. Johns, but it is looking like Coach K will have to work with a shorter bench that he is used to. I think he'll be able to adjust.

4-Virginia- Cavalier Coach Pete Gillen has settled into an eight-man rotation with most of the bench minutes being divided between point guard Majestic Mapp, and freshmen Donte Minter (forward) and J. R. Reynolds (guard). Bringing a veteran point guard like Mapp off the bench is a luxury few college coaches have. Minter has been very efficient in his playing time so far, while Reynolds needs to improve his 36% shooting. This is a well-balance group of reserves that, with Minter and Reynolds' youth, has a lot of upside.

3-Wake Forest- The Deacons' bench only scored eight points in their most recent game, an 81-66 victory at Richmond, but that appears to be the exception and not the rule. With Vytas Danelius and Trent Strickland in reserve, Wake has an outstanding bench. Continued improvement from freshmen Kyle Visser, Todd Hendley, and Jeremy Ingram could allow Coach Skip Prosser to go ten players deep into his rotation and give him a leg up on the rest of the conference when league play commences.

2-Florida State- Coaches often talk about going nine or ten players deep into their rotation, but Seminole Coach Leonard Hamilton has actually done so this season. Ten of his players are averaging over 13 minutes per game, and five of their top eight scorers do not start. Freshmen Alexander Johnson and Von Wafer are the most explosive of the bunch, but guard Todd Galloway also makes important contributions at point guard. Veteran forward Al Thornton and Adam Waleskowski are also seeing quality minutes for Florida State and help give them the deepest bench in the conference.

1-Georgia Tech- The play of Ismai'l Muhammad by himself could qualify Coach Paul Hewitt's bench as the best in the ACC, but he also has help from forwards Clarence Moore and Robert Brooks. These three give the Yellow Jackets a strong eight man rotation which will grow to nine when guard Will Bynum, a transfer from Arizona, soon becomes eligible.

CBS Sportsline's Gregg Doyel recently wrote, "Ismai'l Muhammad is a lock-down defender and spectacular scorer who provides emotional lifts every time he scores, because every time he scores he's hanging from the rim." Muhammad so far has been one of the best sixth men in the nation and been a huge reason Tech is one of the biggest surprises of the early season.

Question for the Jury:
Who do you think I neglected or overrated among reserves in the ACC? Let me know by e-mail at thecourtmaster@aol.com.

In response to my previous question before the ACC-Big 10 challenge regarding positive impact players I may have overlooked, the overwhelming leader in your responses was Jamal Levy of Wake Forest. He is a player I have not written much about, but his 12.4 points and 9.0 rebounds per game make him difficult to overlook. Good choice folks.

CourtMaster's Briefs
It was disappointing to hear the Cameron Crazies chanting "Fire Mike Jarvis" during Duke's win over St. Johns on Saturday. For a group of fans known for being original and clever, this was neither. It was merely gratuitous, kicking a man while he's down. Come on Crazies, you can do better than that!

Four ACC teams are in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll Top 12 this week. Duke is #5, North Carolina #8, Georgia Tech #10, and Wake Forest #12. Maryland, Florida State, and NC State also received votes. The rankings were similar in the AP Poll, Duke #5, Carolina #7, Tech #10, and Wake #15. Carolina and Tech received first place votes in both polls. What would have been the odds before the season against Georgia Tech receiving a single first place vote in either poll this season? Humongous, enormous, even quite substantial. Once again, truth is stranger than fiction.

Tim Brando is a nice upgrade as play-by-play man for Fox Sports' ACC Sunday Night Hoops. He is knowledgeable and has a very pleasant voice. He and former Duke star Mike Giminski, entering his second year with Fox's coverage, should make a very good broadcasting team.

I enjoy college football, but I was reminded again Sunday why college basketball is still the best. Can you imagine a scenario (excluding NCAA probation) where the #1 team in the nation in both polls would not have an opportunity to play for the national championship in basketball? Fortunately, neither can I, but it will happen in football this season. What a travesty.

That's what I think. Let me know what you think on the message board or by e-mail at thecourtmaster@aol.com. Next week, I'll update the progress of this season's highly touted ACC freshman class. Also, I will give you my thoughts on the recent released Street & Smith's 100 Greatest College Basketball Players.

Until then, court is adjourned.


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