Saturday, March 15, 2008

Deacons, Tigers show promise

As many of the bottom eight seeds exited the ACC tournament, writers in the media room at Bobcats Arena gave ominous forecasts for their future.

It's difficult to even imagine at least five teams getting better next season:

• N.C. State seems likely to lose freshman center J.J. Hickson, who scored 27 of its 50 points in its first-round loss to Miami. And some recruiting experts question whether incoming freshman Julius Mays will solve the Wolfpack's problems at point guard.

• Georgia Tech counted heavily on seniors Anthony Morrow, Jeremis Smith and Matt Causey.

• Florida State backcourt stalwarts Ralph Mims and Jason Rich were seniors.

• Senior Sean Singletary was just about Virginia's whole team.

• Maryland loses seniors James Gist and Bambale Osby and doesn't seem to have another post player who can catch the ball, let alone shoot it.

So you've got to wonder whether the ACC is entering a prolonged cycle where less than half its teams will get NCAA tournament bids. The conference seems likely to get five of its 12 teams, at most, in the 2008 tournament after getting seven bids in 2007.

The good news for the league is that two teams in the Carolinas seem to be building steam along with traditional powers North Carolina and Duke. Wake Forest's best players this season were freshmen Jeff Teague and James Johnson, and the Deacons add one of the nation's top recruiting classes.

Clemson will return leading scorer K.C. Rivers, post scorer Trevor Booker and capable freshman guards Demontez Stitt and Terrence Oglesby (at right in photo above).

Those two programs appear to be in position for prolonged success that will add to the already stellar quality of basketball in the Carolinas. -- Ken Tysiac