NCAA BK

ACC preview: Tar Heels reload after title run

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Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for FOXSports.com. Check out his Yardbarker blog. MORE>>
 
   
 
The defending champion North Carolina Tar Heels lost Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. Yet they remain the favorites to win the ACC this season.

2009-10 preview

Roy Halladay Can't wait for the college hoops season to start? We get you ready for 2009-10 with our preseason guide.
Roy Williams' team welcomed a stellar freshman class led by long and talented big man John Henson, and North Carolina still has guys like Deon Thompson, Ed Davis and Marcus Ginyard to build around. But the disparity from North Carolina down to the team — whomever you want to pick — that is selected to finish 10th in the league is as minimal as it has been in years. The loss of Gerald Henderson to the NBA and Elliott Williams will hurt Duke, but the Blue Devils still have Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and a couple of promising young big men. Georgia Tech welcomes highly touted center Derrick Favors, and Florida State should be loaded despite the loss of guard Toney Douglas. Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Maryland and Boston College are all capable of cracking the top half of the league as well.

Top storylines

  • With Ty Lawson gone, the starting point guard job goes to Larry Drew II. He's going to have plenty of talent around him, but is Drew talented enough to be able to run the team and lead the Tar Heels to a Final Four?
  • Georgia Tech was abysmal last season and finished in the cellar. With the return of Gani Lawal, the addition of freshman big man Derrick Favors and a year of experience for sophomore point guard Iman Shumpert, can the Yellow Jackets go from worst to first?
  • Duke was small a year ago. Now, coach Mike Krzyzewski will have to change the way the Blue Devils play, since they only have three true guards in the program — Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and freshman Andre Dawkins, who graduated high school early to help solve Duke's lack of depth in the backcourt this season. The Scheyer point guard experiment is still a work in progress.
  • Boston College has always had someone emerge, whether it has been Craig Smith, Jared Dudley and, most recently, Tyrese Rice. Look for sophomore guard Reggie Jackson to be next, but this Al Skinner team may be as balanced as ever.
  • Now that Jeff Teague and James Johnson are off to the NBA, it's clearly Al-Farouq Aminu's team at Wake Forest. However, the key to the Demon Deacons is speedy point guard Ishmael Smith.
  • Can N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe save his job? The Wolfpack hasn't been to the Big Dance in his three seasons at the helm after N.C. State was a mainstay the last handful of years in the Herb Sendek Era.
  • Is this the season Clemson wins an NCAA tournament game? Despite the loss of K.C. Rivers and the surprising departure of Terrence Oglesby two years early to Europe, the Tigers may be as talented as ever with Trevor Booker in the middle and the addition of skilled freshman Milton Jennings.
  • Is Maryland back? The Terps return experienced guards Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes, and now Gary Williams has a couple of true big men with the addition of Jordan Williams and James Padgett.

Predicted finish

1. North Carolina
2. Duke
3. Georgia Tech
4. Maryland
5. Florida State
6. Clemson
7. Virginia Tech
8. Boston College
9. Wake Forest
10. Miami
11. N.C. State
12. Virginia

All-Conference team

Small forward: Kyle Singler, 6-7, 225, Jr., Duke
2008-09 Stats: 16.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.5 spg, 1.0 bpg Power forward: Al-Farouq Aminu, 6-8, 218, Soph., Wake Forest
2008-09 Stats: 12.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg Center: Derrick Favors, 6-10, 235, Fr., Georgia Tech
2008-09 Stats: N/A Shooting guard: Sylven Landesberg, 6-6, 210, Soph., Virginia
2008-09 Stats: 16.6 ppg, 6 rpg Point guard: Greivis Vasquez, 6-6, 190, Sr., Maryland
2008-09 Stats: 17.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 5.1 apg Player of the Year: Kyle Singler, 6-7, 225, Jr., Duke
Newcomer of the Year: Derrick Favors, 6-10, 235, Fr., Georgia Tech

Frosh to watch

Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech): The Yellow Jackets' big man is the key reason Georgia Tech has a chance to go from worst to first in the league this season. He's big, strong and is a big man who doesn't want to play on the perimeter. John Henson and Dexter Strickland (North Carolina): Henson is ultra-talented but may have to wait his turn because the Tar Heels already have Deon Thompson, Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller. Strickland, a combo guard, may make an immediate impact because of UNC's needs in the backcourt. Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly (Duke): They're two frontcourt guys that should quickly get into the rotation in Durham. Michael Snaer (Florida State): The 6-foot-5 wing can really score, but that's not all he's able to do. The numbers may not be eye-popping, but he'll help Leonard Hamilton and the 'Noles this season. Milton Jennings (Clemson): At about 6-foot-9, he's the top shooter on the Tigers. He's skilled and is also the most highly touted recruit in Oliver Purnell's tenure.

Five non-conference games to watch

1. North Carolina at Kentucky, Dec. 5: The defending national champs travel to Rupp and face a talented Wildcats squad and talented freshman point guard John Wall. 2. Michigan State at North Carolina (ACC/Big Ten Challenge), Dec. 1: It's a rematch of last year's national title game. 3. North Carolina vs. Texas in Arlington at Cowboys Stadium, Dec. 19: A pair of elite teams — yet both with point guard concerns — will go at it in the Lone Star State. 4. Duke vs. Gonzaga at Madison Square Garden, Dec. 19: Both teams have some question marks, but both are national powers and will meet in New York. 5. Minnesota at Miami (ACC/Big Ten Challenge), Dec. 2: Tubby Smith and the Golden Gophers have added some serious young talent. Can they go down south and pull out the victory against an underrated Hurricanes team?
Tagged: Minnesota, Michigan State, Wake Forest, Clemson, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia, Duke, Florida State, Maryland, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Murray State, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Texas, Mississippi Valley, Gonzaga

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