Summer School in the ACCPosted by Brian Goodman on September 7th, 2010
Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the ACC and an occasional contributor.
Around The ACC:
- Encore, Encore: Duke won the national title by toppling Butler in a hard-fought final, but unlike recent championship squads, there’s no major mass exodus of talent from Durham (unless you’re related to Jon Scheyer or Brian Zoubek), so the Blue Devils will have a legit chance to repeat.
- New Faces, New Places: Former Cornell head coach Steve Donahue, best known for elevating the Big Red from NCAA Tournament floormat to the Sweet 16, takes the lead for Boston College. Another import is former Wright State general Brad Brownell, who will lead Clemson after the departure of Oliver Purnell. Brownell previously served at UNC-Wilmington, so it shouldn’t take long for him to reopen that pipeline. Lastly, Jeff Bzdelik comes to Winston-Salem, hoping to provide Wake Forest with long-term stability.
- No News Is Good News: Rumors came and went surrounding conference realignment, but in the end, the ACC held steady amongst the national wave of teams changing conferences.
Power Rankings (last season’s conference and overall records in parentheses)
- Duke (13-3, 35-5): The Blue Devils don’t rebuild, they just reload. Losing Jon Scheyer and Brian Zoubek hurts, but when Coach K gets back from Turkey, he’ll be happy to see familiar faces in Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and Mason and Miles Plumlee. College basketball fans everywhere can also rejoice in another season of Curry, as Stephen’s brother Seth is eligible to play after transferring in 2009, and Kyrie Irving (West Orange, NJ) makes his long-awaited debut. The frontcourt will have to pick up for the loss of Zoubek, but with this much talent to being with and Josh Hairston arriving in Durham, I don’t think it’ll be a problem.
BETTER OR WORSE?: If you can believe it, I think Duke might be even better. They can’t top last year’s national title, obviously, but I don’t see any other ACC team touching them for the regular season title.
- Virginia Tech (10-6, 25-9): The Hokies lose no one. I repeat: NO ONE. Find me another team in the nation that doesn’t lose a key contributor. With one of the ACC’s most exciting players, Malcolm Delaney, coming back, Tech also learned its lesson from NCAA snubs in the past and scheduled at least a couple interesting nonconference games, including Kansas State (away), Purdue, Penn State, Mississippi State and possibly Oklahoma State, depending on how the 76 Classic plays out in Anaheim.
BETTER OR WORSE?: Better, at least by enough to not be sweating it out come Selection Sunday. Whether they can make noise in March, no one really knows, but the Hokies will dance this season.
- Boston College (6-10, 15-16): Experience, experience, experience. No one has more of it in the ACC than the Eagles. BC’s new coach, former Cornell boss Steve Donahue, has more Sweet 16 experience than most coaches in the ACC. Don’t underestimate the Eagles this season (this coming from a Boston University grad and card-carrying BC hater). With so much youth all around the ACC, BC’s experience will be invaluable, and Donahue was an absolute no-brainer to replace Al Skinner.
BETTER OR WORSE?: Better – much better. With Corey Raji, Joe Trapani and others leading the way, BC will join NC State as the league’s most improved teams, and should get an NCAA invite. Now if only they’d man up and put my alma mater back on their schedule.
- Maryland (13-3, 24-9): No ACC team relied on one player more than Maryland counted on Grevis Vasquez last year. And now that he’s gone, you have to wonder if Maryland can keep up with the Joneses. Athletic recruit Mychal Parker (Crozet, VA) should bring some of the same excitement as Vasquez, but there may not be any Terps to pick up the leadership and poise that the ACC Player of the Year possessed.
BETTER OR WORSE?: Worse, but only because it would be tough to improve on last season’s record. Maryland will be in the upper half of the league, but I doubt their ability to stay in the title hunt.
- Clemson (9-7, 21-11): The second new coach on our list, Brad Brownell, should at least bring a change of pace to Clemson. Not that Oliver Purnell wasn’t a good coach, but it was just time to move on for the Tigers, who never really made it over the hump from good to very good. The loss of monster rebounder Trevor Booker will obviously hurt, but early reports are positive about the new recruiting class. Give Brownell, who has NCAA experience at UNC-Wilmington and Wright State, some time and Clemson might finally start to make noise in March.
BETTER OR WORSE?: I expect another middle-of-the-road ACC season, and maybe a fringe NCAA bid. But don’t be surprised to see the Tigers get worse before they get better.
- N.C. State (5-11, 20-16): If the Wolfpack finish as low as they did last year, head coach Sidney Lowe will be out of a job. N.C. State showed flashes of talent last year, including a thumping of Duke, and had some hard-luck losses. But with a lot of young talent, including C.J. Leslie (Raleigh, NC) and Ryan Harrow (Marietta, GA) to go along with Tracy Smith, Lowe has what is arguably his most talented team ever.
BETTER OR WORSE?: Things better be better, or Lowe could be fired before the season even ends. The Wolfpack won’t be in the upper tier of three or four teams, but they definitely shouldn’t be in the bottom tier.
- Florida State (10-6, 22-10): The Seminoles lose Solomon Alabi, their leading scorer and frontcourt anchor, but welcome in a strong big man in Okaro White (Clearwater, FL). Top-50 guard recruit Ian Miller (Charlotte, NC) will also arrive in Tallahassee. Right now, FSU is the most up-in-the-air team in the ACC. I really have no idea what to expect. Last year, they had plenty of ups, but also a few head-scratching downs. Can Leonard Hamilton find a way to overcome Alabi’s departure?
BETTER OR WORSE?: Right now, my out-on-a-limb prediction is that FSU will struggle a little bit and finish in the middle of the pack.
- North Carolina (5-11, 20-16): Who really knows what to think of the Tar Heels? Hey, at least things are better on the basketball court than on the football field. After counting on the young guys last season, you would think the Heels would be one year wiser. But without Ed Davis (NBA) and the Wear brothers (transferred), UNC is, incredibly, even younger than last year. Recruits Harrison Barnes (Ames, IA), Kendall Marshall (Arlington, VA) and Reggie Bullock (Kinston, NC) embody the term “blue chip,” but will UNC be burned by youth yet again?
BETTER OR WORSE?: There’s no way things can be as bad as they were last year in Chapel Hill, but UNC still may find itself on the NCAA bubble.
- Wake Forest (9-7, 20-11): New coach No. 3 is Jeff Bzdelik, who has both college and NBA experience (albeit brief). Fortunately for Bzdelik, most of the Deacons’ original recruiting class is still coming to town, including 6’10 center Carson Desrosiers (Windham, NH). Wake will have plenty of growing pains this year, but the future should be bright.
BETTER OR WORSE?: The record won’t be great this season, but Wake fans with patience should be rewarded in 2011 and beyond.
- Georgia Tech (7-9, 23-13): My favorite ACC team to watch last year will, sadly, be without much of the same excitement in 2010-11. Gani Lawal, gone. Derrick Favors, see ya. Zach Peacock, adios. Tech has nothing left in the frontcourt, and a few decent ballhandlers and shooters remain in the backcourt. They’ll be able to run a little bit, but if teams in the ACC are smart enough to exploit the Jackets’ lack of size, it could be a long year in Atlanta.
BETTER OR WORSE?: Worse. If Tech can finish .500 in the ACC, that would be a very solid showing.
- Miami (4-12, 20-13): The Hurricanes lost Dwayne Collins (12 PPG, 7.8 RPG) to injury in the ACC tourney, and lost him for good to graduation. The only real positives last year were an inflated overall record and the discovery of Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant. The ‘Canes can be fun to watch when they’re on, but it’s hard to take them seriously until they start playing teams that actually know how to hit the occasional shot. Things are a little better this year, with dates against Memphis, Rutgers and West Virginia, but it’s hard to think Miami will be any better.
BETTER OR WORSE?: Pretty much the same. The overall record won’t be as gaudy, and the ACC mark should be about the same.
- Virginia (5-11, 15-16): One of only two teams in the ACC with overall losing records last season, Virginia does have a few solid recruits coming in. One thing head coach Tony Bennett doesn’t have is Sylven Landesburg, last year’s only real bright spot in Charlottesville. The league’s sixth-leading scorer is gone, and there’s really nothing left in the cupboard – at least not anyone who’s ready this year.
BETTER OR WORSE?: Worse, if that’s possible. Virginia will struggle to stay out of the ACC basement.
- Saving Sidney: With a young tandem of power forward C.J. Leslie, point guard Ryan Harrow and combo guard Lorenzo Brown set to join N.C. State’s nucleus of Tracy Smith, Scott Wood, and Javier Gonzalez, Sidney Lowe needs immediate contributions. Did he simply outkick his coverage, or does he have something going?
- Learning Curves: How many players are retained through coaching changes is always a double-edged sword: If they stay, the new coach will struggle early because “they’re not his guys.” If they leave, the coach is left to deal with holdovers who may buy into his system, but aren’t very talented. BC, Clemson and Wake Forest may be longshots to crack the NCAA Tournament this year, but who gets there first may declare the winner among Steve Donahue, Brad Brownell and Jeff Bzdelik.
- Will Duke Repeat?: Duke will join the 2008-09 Tar Heels as a squad that has sky-high expectations due to the obscene amount of talent returning. There’s no media darling a la Tyler Hansbrough, but even with head coach Mike Krzyzewski spending the summer with Team USA, the Blue Devils are locked and loaded.