Wednesday, June 30, 2010

ACC basketball preview: Wake Forest

Wake Forest

2009-10 record: 20-11 overall, 9-7 ACC (fifth)

Postseason: NCAA Tournament (1-1, lost to Kentucky)

Projected starting lineup: G Tony Chennault, G C.J. Harris, F Ari Stewart, F Tony Woods, F Carson Derosiers


• Size

In Tony Woods (6-11), Ty Walker (7-foot), Carson Derosiers (6-11) and Melvin Tabb (6-8), the Deacs have plenty of size to go around.

The quality of that size is debatable, but you know what they say, "You can't teach size."

Wake's still waiting for Woods and Walker to meet their potential. It wouldn't be surprising to see Derosiers, a freshman from New Hampshire, be a starter from Day One.

• Sophomore hope

C.J. Harris and Ari Stewart were being groomed as the leaders of this team by former coach Dino Gaudio. Jeff Bzdelik will likely keep Harris and Stewart in prominent roles.

Despite some bumpy patches, particularly at the end of the season, both were productive as freshman and should be better because of that experience.


• Guard play

Harris was a pleasant surprise last season, adding 9.9 points per game as a freshman, but his role is going to change dramatically.

Instead of hitting the occasional outside shot, handling the ball some in the halfcourt set and playing solid defense, he's going to have to be the best guard on the team.

Will he be good enough to be Ish Smith and C.J. Harris? He might have to be because it's possible Tony Chennault's not ready to be a starting ACC point guard (and it's possible that a new coach who didn't recruit Chennault doesn't want him to be a starting ACC point guard).

The other options at guard are limited. Senior Gary Clark is supposed to be a shooter but hasn't been a factor in three seasons. J.T. Terrell's jump shot should help but ballhandling is not exactly his bag.

• Unfamiliarity

You can bet if we (the media and fans) are asking, "Who's Jeff Bzdelik?" than the players are, too. Bzdelik has been in the NBA or out west in the college game for the better part of 20 years. The players recruited Gaudio likely felt some loyalty to him after experiencing the success that they did together in the past three years.

Problem for Bzdelik is this was going to be a transition year for Wake, who lost Al-Farouq Aminu to the NBA draft, a year after losing Jeff Teague and James Johnson, regardless of the coach.

He has been put in a tough spot, albeit with low expectations, for his first season.

Bottom line

Wake lost its best player, a four-year starting point guard and two other starters from an NCAA tournament team that won nine ACC games.

Wake AD Ron Wellman knew this would be a rebuilding year and instead of letting Gaudio burn, he decided to start over with a new coach. That's not a bad premise but he took a risk in hiring a 57-year-old with little connection, at least recruiting-wise, to the region.

Maybe Bzdelik, a coach well-versed in the finer points of the game's strategy from years as a scout in the NBA, can pull a rabbit from his hat. Maybe the freshmen are better than advertised. Maybe Harris and Stewart are ready to be leaders. Maybe Woods and Walker are ready to live up to their prep billing.

Maybe, maybe, maybe. It just sounds a lot like last place to me.

Returning players
G C.J. Harris Soph. 9.9 1.8 1.2
F Ari Stewart Soph. 7.3 3.2 0.3
F Tony Woods Jr. 4.6 3.2 0.1
G Gary Clark Sr. 3.2 0.6 0.2
F Ty Walker Jr. 1.9 1.4 0.1
F Al-Farouq Aminu (NBA) 15.8 10.7 1.3
G Ish Smith 13.2 4.9 6.0
G L.D. Williams 8.7 5.6 1.8
F Chas McFarland 7.2 7.0 0.8
F David Weaver 2.6 2.1 0.2
F Carson Desrosiers Fr. 6-11 225 41
F Travis McKie Fr. 6-6 180 54
G J.T. Terrell Fr. 6-3 175 65
F Melvin Tabb Fr. 6-8 210
G Tony Chennault Fr. 6-1 170
F Nikita Meschcharakou (transfer) Jr. 6-7 215

Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep,

Desrosiers: "This is Bzdelik's kind of guy. Carson's skilled, smart, tall and can stroke it. He'll be tougher inside in time and the offense should be an exact match to his talents. We feel he's a major ACC sleeper who went under-ranked by others."

Terrell: "A volume scorer in high school, Terrell's jump shot will bring back memories of bombers Archie Miller and J.J. Redick (and his range extends beyond both). The biggest transition will come in shot selection where he'll have to dial it back a bit. Wired up to score and athletic to boot, he's the ' X factor.' "

McKie: "It won't take long for him to be a crowd favorite. McKie has the smile, plays with bounce in the lane and spent the last three years worried about his ranking. All that is in the past and he'll be a leader and contributor from the start."

Chennault: "Fresh off a storied high school career, Chennault has the Philly edge to his game. He's going to play and challenge for minutes early especially if he can defend. Frankly, we aren't sure exactly how his game will translate but he's one of those guys that is tough to keep off the court. He's got a winner's background."

-- J.P. Giglio

ACC basketball preview: Boston College

Boston College

2009-10 record: 15-16 overall, 6-10 ACC (eighth)

Postseason: none

Projected starting lineup: G Reggie Jackson, G Dallas Elmore, F Joe Trapani, F Corey Raji, F Josh Southern


• New coach

After Boston College quit against Virginia in the opening ACC tournament game — four days after quitting in the second half against N.C. State — it was obvious the Eagles either had to get rid of the coach or their entire roster.

Boston College AD Gene DeFilippo took the path of least resistance and fired Al Skinner, despite seven NCAA tournament appearances in 10 years and a school-record 247 wins.

Enter Steve Donahue, who took Cornell to the Round of 16 in 2010 and three straight NCAA trips. And don't dismiss that accomplishment as "Oh, it's the Ivy League," because before Donahue got there, Cornell hadn't won an Ivy title since 1988.

Under Donahue, Cornell led the country in 3-point field goal percentage and ranked third in 3-pointers per game last season. Given how many coaches in the ACC attempt to win with defense and play at a glacial pace, Donahue gives BC a different and promising perspective.

• Reggie Jackson and Joe Trapani

With seven scholarship players on the roster, and zero freshmen as of June 29, Donahue's options are limited for his first team. In guard Reggie Jackson and forward Joe Trapani, he at least has two players who will excel in his up-tempo, perimeter-based system.

Given the transfer of Rakim Sanders, it doesn't take much imagination to project Jackson (12.9 ppg last year) and Trapani (14.1 ppg) to be in for big statistical seasons.


• Tough transition

It's not quite as jarring as Nebraska football going to the West Coast offense, but BC's in for a difficult transition with a roster of players built for Skinner's physical, halfcourt offense going to an up-tempo scheme.

Even Jackson and Trapani are inconsistent from the 3-point line, where Cornell made its living.

• Dry well

Skinner had a knack for finding and winning with players overlooked in the recruiting process (Craig Smith, Jared Dudley, Tyrese Rice). He understood how to develop players for his system but not necessarily how to coach within the 40-minute walls of the game.

He got lazy, beat or both on the recruiting trail in his final two classes, adding zero players in 2009 and having the one he signed in 2010 (Kevin Noreen) skip town with him.

It's tough to sustain a program's success when you aren't adding any players.

It's likely that Donahue will still add freshmen to this roster but he's obviously picking from the scrap heap.

Bottom line

DeFilippo made a good hire and it's going to work out in the long run but BC's in for some Steve Carell-hot-wax pain this season.

The Eagles are going to take a bunch of 3s and they have a roster built for a flex offense, which doesn't preclude good 3-point shooters, but it's not predicated on them, either.

The Eagles will definitely finish with fewer wins than scholarship players. Four, maybe five, seems about the level best that anyone could in this situation.

Returning players
F Joe Trapani Sr. 14.1 6.4 1.3
G Reggie Jackson Jr. 12.9 5.7 4.5
F Corey Raji Sr. 11.4 5.8 1.0
G Biko Paris Sr. 4.8 2.0 4.1
F Josh Southern Sr. 4.4 3.2 0.8
G Dallas Elmore Jr. 3.9 1.6 0.6
F Cortney Dunn Jr. 3.2 2.7 0.5
F Rakim Sanders (transfer) 11.3 3.7 2.1
F Tyler Roche 7.2 2.4 0.7
G Brady Heslip (transfer)

ACC basketball preview: Virginia


2009-10 record: 15-16 overall, 5-11 ACC (ninth)

Postseason: None

Projected starting lineup: G Jontel Evans, G Sammy Zeglinski, F K.T. Harrell, F Mike Scott, F James Johnson


• Tony Bennett can flat-out coach

Liked Tony Bennett before his first season at Virginia, liked him when he started 5-2 and even liked him when he finished 0-9. Dude can coach and in the ACC, that puts you in front of two-thirds of your peers.

Bennett had some success early, notably at N.C. State and UNC's expense, and then struggled after Feb. 3. In the ACC tournament, you saw Bennett's real value, getting a team, minus its best player, to win one game and nearly another, and the second games was against the national champions.

Now that he's thinned the weeds from the roster, Bennett's on the brink of making Virginia basketball relevant again.

• Recruiting bonus

UNC, Duke and N.C. State all landed higher-profile players but of the six that Bennett signed, two figure to start — K.T. Harrell and James Johnson — and the others all fit Bennett's pragmatic, hard-nosed style.


• Youth

With Sylven Landesberg, the team's leading scorer (17.3 ppg), failing out of school, Jeff Jones and Tristan Spurlock transferring, the Cavaliers are going to need their freshmen to play early and play well.

Senior forward Mike Scott and junior guard Sammy Zeglinski will provide veteran leadership but you get the sense from Bennett that last year was an audition and he found a bunch of "Solid Gold" dancers but no stars.

He will add the leading roles through recruiting and typically an overhaul of program takes more than two years.

• Talent

Even if Johnson and Harrell are good, there's just not a lot behind them. A roster with Mustapha Farrakhan, Will Sherrill and Assane Sene doesn't exactly scream "Final Four."

Bottom line

Be patient, UVa fans (and I know you have been), because there's going to be a payoff in Bennett but it's going to take some time.

This class was a great start and he'll mine more talent but in the interim, there's going to be a learning curve and it figures to bend at about five or six ACC wins.

Returning players
F Mike Scott Sr. 12.0 7.2 1.2
G Sammy Zeglinski Jr. 8.9 3.8 2.6
G Mustapha Farrakhan Sr. 6.5 1.7 2.0
F Will Sherrill Sr. 3.0 3.0 0.5
G Jontel Evans Soph. 2.4 1.5 1.9
F Assane Sene Jr. 1.6 3.6 0.2
G Sylven Landesberg (NBA) 17.3 4.9 2.9
G Jeff Jones (transfer) 7.3 1.3 0.4
F Jerome Meyinsse 6.5 4.1 0.4
G Calvin Baker 3.0 1.2 1.9
F Tristan Spurlock (transfer) 2.4 0.8 0.1
G K.T. Harrell Fr. 6-3 170 36
F James Johnson Fr. 6-8 210 37
G Billy Baron Fr. 6-1 185
F Akil Mitchell Fr. 6-7 200
G Joe Harris Fr. 6-5 200
F Will Regan Fr. 6-8 215

Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep,

Harrell: "UVA must replace its wing scoring and Harrell will get his chance to earn the shots Landesberg left behind. A late bloomer, he was a priority SEC recruit that got away."

Johnson: "We're higher on him than most and its because of his work ethic, developing frame, athleticism and scoring tools. He's an early starter and reports out of Charlottesville are that he's ready to impact as a freshman which is in line with our evaluation."

Baron: "When Tony Bennett looks in the mirror he sees a version of Billy Baron. An overachieving gym rat, Baron is the son of a coach, brother of a shooter and combo guard."

Harris: "Bennett recruited him to be a sniper and student. He's equipped to be both and he could be UVA's designated zone buster."

Regan: "He's blue collar all the way. The cerebral insider knows the value of hardwork in the paint and he's a max effort role player for the Cavs."

Mitchell: "He's the guy who's going to have to work the hardest to crack the rotation. Mitchell has a nice touch to mid-range. To get freshman PT he'll have to find a niche and that means getting stronger from the perimeter and in the weight room."

-- J.P. Giglio

ACC basketball preview: N.C. State

N.C. State

2009-10 record: 20-16 overall, 5-11 ACC (11th)

Postseason: NIT (1-1, lost to UAB)

Projected starting lineup: G Javier Gonzalez, G Lorenzo Brown, F C.J. Leslie, F Tracy Smith, F Rich Howell


• Level playing field

With the addition of freshmen C.J. Leslie, Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown to a core of Tracy Smith, Scott Wood, Rich Howell and Javier Gonzalez, N.C. State has as many functional parts as any team in the league.

You could never write that sentence under Les Robinson and maybe only once or twice under Herb Sendek (2003-04, Julius Hodge's senior year, was arguably his best roster).

That means Sidney Lowe has put himself in position, in Year 5, to win games not by fluke but by simply being better than the other team. That's a major step up from any position he's operated under in his professional career, going all the way back to some bad NBA teams in Vancouver and Minnesota.

• Flexibility

Brown and Leslie have the ability to play multiple positions which adds a flexibility to the program. Brown can handle the ball, shoot and create his own shot. Leslie can defend the "four" and play the "three."

One of the freshmen guards can be on the floor with Gonzalez and move him off the ball, where he has proven to be an effective 3-point shooter.

Wood should get more space to do what he does best (hit shots) while not having to defend the other team's best forward (although he still could).

There are options for Lowe, which, of course, is both good and bad, because he has shown a propensity to do too much with his rotation for too long during the season, but at least he has options.

• Light bulb

It's dangerous to extrapolate too much from the end of one season to the beginning of another, but the way State finished 2009-10 — with six wins in nine games and an emphasis on defense and decision-making — suggests the light finally clicked.

A "Oh, so this is how we have to play to win" kind of epiphany for a group that returns three starters and loses really only one valuable piece (Dennis Horner).

It was not an accident that State went 6-1 down the stretch when it held an opponent under 70 points.


• Turning potential into reality

Lowe's in a delicate position because he needs to win now to keep his job but he also needs to tread carefully with this team.

For the better part of two years, we've all heard how good this class is — including the current players — so there's a natural tension between the returning players and the new ones.

That tension doesn't have to be combustible, the way the 2007-08 roster was, but the situation needs to be managed carefully lest it turn into the sequel of "Nightmare on Hickson-Costner-McCauley-Grant Street."

Gonzalez has given his blood and guts to the program, paying his dues early in his career in some trying and overmatched situations, and developing into a productive (yet still erratic) ACC player. How will he mesh with Harrow and Brown?

Wood was the only player to start every game last season, as a freshman no less. How will he handle coming off the bench, if that's how the lineup shakes out?

Smith was the center of this team's universe last season and had the numbers (16.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg) to prove it. How will he handle not being options 1 through 4? His touches are going to be reduced, is that going to be a problem?

• Schedule

This is both a plus and minus because with six games against Duke, UNC and Florida State, N.C. State's RPI certainly won't be lacking but the conference record could be.

The good news is Georgia Tech, in a similar situation last year, went 7-9 in the ACC and got into the NCAA tournament (they did reach the ACC tournament final, though, keep in mind) while Virginia Tech went 10-6 and watched the NCAA tournament on TV because it didn't have enough wins (or games) against the top ACC teams.

Bottom line

Lowe compiled a 79-229 record in parts of five NBA seasons. His ACC record is 20-44 at N.C. State. He has been quick to point out the discrepancy in talent between his teams and his competition.

That's no longer the case and if he doesn't win enough this season, it will be his last head coaching job for the foreseeable future.

That could be construed as pressure or a challenge. It's up to Lowe to decide which one it will be in what promises to be an entertaining season.

He will have to manage the roster, and egos, better than he has previously but the way the 2009-10 season finished suggests this team is ready to listen and continue its progress from March.

Given the schedule, it will be difficult for this team to win 10 ACC games but a 9-7 record is there for the taking if the right buttons are pushed.

Returning players
F Tracy Smith Sr. 16.5 7.3 1.1
G Javier Gonzalez Sr. 9.5 3.3 3.7
G Scott Wood Soph. 7.8 2.9 1.4
F Rich Howell Soph. 4.9 4.6 0.6
G C.J. Williams Jr. 4.3 2.6 1.3
F DeShawn Painter Soph. 1.6 1.2 0.0
F Jordan Vandenberg Soph. 1.0 1.8 0.2
F Dennis Horner 11.9 4.9 1.4
G Farnold Degand 5.5 2.4 2.5
G Julius Mays (transfer) 4.6 1.2 1.6
F Josh Davis (transfer) 2.6 1.7 0.5
F Johnny Thomas (transfer) 0.8 0.9 0.2
F C.J. Leslie Fr. 6-8 190 11
G Ryan Harrow Fr. 5-11 155 25
G Lorenzo Brown Fr. 6-4 175 28*

Note: Brown's rank from the class of 2009.

Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep,

Harrow: "A trickster with the ball and a major threat to find the bottom of the net. He has work to do in the weight room but what he lacks in strength he makes up for in swagger. The Pack needed a guy to get buckets and he's at the front of the line to provide the punch."

Brown: "Don't be surprised if he becomes the primary offensive decision maker. He's physically ready, can score it in his own right and may be most ready to handle the decision-making as a freshman. Either way, he and Harrow are a super 1-2 tandem."

Leslie: "End to end, he's as athletic as they come plus he gives the Pack a helpside shot blocker, above the rim player and forward who can create his own offense. He's the perfect complement to Tracy Smith."

-- J.P. Giglio

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

ACC basketball preview: Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech

2009-10 record: 23-13 overall, 7-9 ACC (seventh)

Postseason: NCAA Tournament (1-1, lost to Ohio State)

Projected starting lineup: G Moe Miller, G Iman Shumpert, G Brian Oliver, F Glen Rice Jr., F Kammeon Holsey


• Pain in the ...

With a four-guard lineup, Georgia Tech's going to be the most annoying team in the ACC. The Jackets are going to present matchup problems, pressure the ball, hand check, knock off screeners and play as physical as any team in the league.

No one will want to play this group of gnats.

Still, there's talent. Junior guard Iman Shumpert is the best of the group but he's not always engaged. You figure he should be more focused considering this is his team and his ticket to the NBA.

Brian Oliver, Glen Rice and Moe Miller are all functional players, although Rice needs to work on his on-court demeanor. The sophomore guard's body language is off-the-charts irritating (and that's not necessarily a bad thing).

• ACC schedule

A year after playing the toughest schedule, GT gets one of the easiest with Wake and Virginia twice and Duke and UNC once (with the UNC game in Atlanta).


• Where's the size?

A year after being the ACC's biggest team, the Jackets have turned into the smallest.

You can imagine coach Paul Hewitt weeping when Justin Knox chose to transfer to UNC over GT. At least UNC has Tyler Zeller and John Henson. GT, after losing Lawal and Favors early to the NBA, has nothing, at least in terms of experienced big men.

Kammeon Holsey, a top 80 recruit from the class of 2009, is the most talented forward but he hasn't played a game of college basketball after sitting out last season with a serious knee injury.

Daniel Miller also redshirted last season but that was by design.

That leaves Brad Sheehan, who may or may not decide to stay with the program for a fifth season. Given his career output, 1.6 points per game, it's telling that Hewitt cannot afford to lose Sheehan.

And that's it at forward, unless you want to label Rice and/or freshman Jason Morris one but really, you're just talking about a wing playing the "four" because there are no other options.

Bottom line

Only Hewitt could find a way to win seven ACC games with a pair of studs like Favors and Lawal. Without those two, it stands to reason the Jackets will freefall back to the 2-14 days of 2009.

The problem with that logic is the schedule is too loose and their guards are too good. College ball will always be about guard play and there are enough parts, and enough breaks on the schedule, to float to 6-10.

Returning players
G Iman Shumpert Jr. 10.0 3.6 4.0
G Mfon Udofia Soph. 5.9 2.5 1.9
F Glen Rice Jr. Soph. 5.4 3.1 1.7
G Moe Miller Sr. 3.9 1.8 2.3
G Lance Storrs Sr. 2.8 0.7 0.5
F Brad Sheehan Sr. 1.2 1.6 0.2
F Kammeon Holsey R-Fr. DNP
F Daniel Miller R-Fr. DNP
F Gani Lawal (NBA) 13.1 8.5 0.4
F Derrick Favors (NBA) 12.4 8.4 1.0
F Zach Peacock 8.6 4.1 1.0
G D'Andre Bell 6.1 2.5 1.6
G-F Jason Morris Fr. 6-4 190 84

Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep,

Morris: "He would have fit in on the Final Four team Hewitt fielded a few years ago. He's a mega-leaper with major rise. His jumper is inconsistent but the athleticism is elite."

ACC basketball preview: Clemson


2009-10 record: 21-11 overall, 9-7 ACC (sixth)

Postseason: NCAA Tournament (0-1, lost to Missouri)

Projected starting lineup: G Demontez Stitt, G Tanner Smith, F Milton Jennings, F Devin Booker, F Jerai Grant


• New perspective

Oliver Purnell was content to go into the 2010-11 season with basically the same roster that won 21 games and made a third straight NCAA trip. Oh yeah, with the exception Trevor Booker, the team's best player who was taken in the first round of the NBA draft.

Then Purnell left for DePaul and his one recruit, forward Marcus Thornton, opted to jump to Georgia. Point is, Clemson would have been stagnant this season without the coaching switch.

Of the three hires in the ACC this offseason, Brad Brownell's the youngest (41) and the one that will work out best in the short term and probably long term. Brownell has already taken two different teams (UNC-Wilmington and Wright State) to the NCAA tournament and has a chance to take a third this season.

• Defensive credentials

Guard Andre Young (54 steals) and forward Jerai Grant (54 blocks) are two of the best defenders in the ACC. Demontez Stitt and Tanner Smith both understand the concept of team defense, although Brownell's will surely differ from Purnell's full-court schemes.

Not all players fit every offensive system but defense is defense and Clemson has the parts to win games with its defense.


• Outside shooting

Clemson had a glaring need for outside shooters last season, after the losses of Terrence Oglesby and K.C. Rivers from the 2008-09 team, and still does.

Sophomore Noel Johnson has the best shooting stroke of the group but is inconsistent and was too one-dimensional to get more minutes for a coach like Purnell, who values defense.

Guards Smith and Stitt are also capable of hitting from the 3-point line but it's not their bread-and-butter. Young led the teams with 60 3s but one consistent shooter wasn't enough last season and it won't be this season.

• One less Booker

Brownell gets a Clemson roster with one Booker, sophomore forward, Devin, but two. Trevor Booker led the Tigers in scoring (15.2) and rebounding (8.4), while adding 2.5 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 steals per game.

There's no one player on the roster who can pick up his production, not to mention his toughness and leadership.

Bottom line

Purnell won 25, 24, 23 and 21 games in his final four seasons with three trips to the NCAA tournament. Relative to other Clemson basketball coaches, he's a genius.

But an 0-3 record in the NCAA tournament will also be on his epitaph along with "he once started a season 17-0 and missed the NCAA tournament."

Purnell clearly prefers the chase (building a program), to the happily-ever-after (making a program great). He left the Tigers in good enough shape, though, for Brownell, who'll be expected to win 20 games and extend the NCAA streak to four.

An 8-8 record probably hits both marks.

Returning players
G Demontez Stitt Sr. 11.4 2.7 3.1
G Andre Young Jr. 9.2 2.2 2.4
G Tanner Smith Jr. 8.7 4.2 2.2
F Jerai Grant Sr. 7.2 4.7 0.6
G Noel Johnson Soph. 4.8 1.9 0.8
F Devin Booker Soph. 4.5 2.9 0.3
F Milton Jennings Soph. 3.2 2.7 0.5
G Donte Hill Soph. 1.4 0.6 0.3
F Trevor Booker 15.2 8.4 2.5
F David Potter 7.0 2.7 1.4
G Cory Stanton Fr. 5-11 165

Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep,

Stanton: "The level is going to be an adjustment for him. The system will help him out but he's going to need to scrap and fight for everything. He's a strong kid who will go to the hole and make good decisions, so he's got that going for him.""

ACC basketball preview: Miami


2009-10 record: 20-13 overall, 4-12 ACC (12th)

Postseason: None

Projected starting lineup: G Durand Scott, G Garrius Adams, F DeQuan Jones, F Julian Gamble, F Reggie Johnson


• Pieces that fit together

Durand Scott, as he showed by scoring 29 points against UNC and 21 against Duke in the final month, is going to be a star in this league. He's a big guard who can create his own shot and get to the foul line.

Miami coach Frank Haith ran a lot of high, ball screens for Scott at the ACC tournament and basically gave him the freedom to run a freelance offense.

The reason Miami was successful in the ACC tournament, though, beating Wake Forest and Virginia Tech before pushing Duke in a three-point loss in the semifinals, is because other players learned how to fill in the roles around Scott.

Reggie Johnson, at 6-10 and 295 pounds, was born to set screens and rebound. He did both with consistency, which was a revelation compared to the enigmatic Dwayne Collins, who is more talented but also prone to disappear.

In Johnson and Julian Gamble the Canes have a pair of "WYSIWYG" forwards to complement Scott.

Junior wing DeQuan Jones also had a coming-out party at the ACC tournament, with a pair of 14-point games and using his athleticism to get to the basket and score easy points in transition. His maturation will be the determining factor in how far this Miami team goes.

• Senior guard Adrian Thomas, who led the ACC in 3-point shooting percentage, got an extra season of eligibility from the NCAA. He did so because of injury issues, but when it comes to the NCAA's Forrest Gump-injury policies, it's a bonus that Thomas was given another season.


• ACC schedule

The Canes have four games against Duke and Florida State, which could be four losses, and another four with Clemson and Georgia Tech, which have a 2-2 split written all over them.

That doesn't leave much wiggle room, although, with the right wins, the Canes could pull a "Georgia Tech" (the opposite of a Virginia Tech) and parlay a 7-9 ACC record into an NCAA bid.

• Summer break

One of the big mistakes we (the media) make in preseason predictions, in any sport, is thinking that the way a team ends a season is how they'll begin the next season, like nothing happens in between.

Miami played well in the final two weeks, for the most part, because it had been humbled by such a bad ACC showing (4-12 and last place, as correctly predicted only here).

Truth is, especially in college, a lot changes happen in the offseason. Maybe Miami will miss James Dews and Dwayne Collins, I don't know, maybe they were a good influence in the locker room. Truth is, every season is different, even if most of the parts are the same.

Bottom line

Miami has talent, and more than just Scott, but the question is how focused and cohesive will this group be?

Scott will provide leadership, and will get a boost in the backcourt by freshman Rion Brown, but it's up to Jones, Thomas and Malcolm Grant to provide consistent support.

For a team that won four ACC games last year, a 7-9 season would be a good sign of progress and enough to keep Haith employed for another year.

Returning players
G Durand Scott Soph. 10.3 4.0 3.4
G Malcom Grant Jr. 9.6 1.9 3.5
F Adrian Thomas Sr. 7.3 2.7 1.4
F Reggie Johnson Soph. 6.4 4.6 0.4
F DeQuan Jones Jr. 5.7 2.1 0.5
G Garrius Adams Soph. 3.8 2.1 0.6
F Julian Gamble Jr. 3.5 2.9 0.7
F Donnavan Kirk R-Fr. 2.5 2.2 0.0
F Dwayne Collins 12.0 7.8 1.2
G James Dews 11.5 2.9 1.6
F Cyrus McGowan 3.2 2.6 0.4
G Antoine Allen (transfer) 2.9 0.8 0.7
G Rion Brown Fr. 6-5 190 63
F Raphael Akpejiori Fr. 6-9 230
G Erik Swoope Fr. 6-4 210

Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep,

Brown: "Brown's the headliner who is fresh off a big season. He an athlete with a jumper and propensity to score. Sounds like a big-time Miami contributor to us."

Swoope: "Is this Frank Haith's second coming of P.J. Tucker or Adrian Thomas? Time will tell but he drew positive reviews for his toughness, especially in the lane."

ACC basketball preview: North Carolina


2009-10 record: 20-17 overall, 5-11 ACC (10th)

Postseason: NIT (4-1, lost to Dayton)

Projected starting lineup: G Larry Drew II, G Reggie Bullock, F Harrison Barnes, F John Henson, F Tyler Zeller


• Instant offense

Freshmen Harrison Barnes and Reggie Bullock give UNC two players capable of scoring points and carrying a perimeter offense.

Barnes can create his own shot and Bullock can hit an outside shot, two big problems for last year's UNC team. UNC's perimeter options on last season's team were concisely summed up by Deon Thompson, who said after the Heels' home win over Virginia Tech:

"He's our best shooter; everybody on this team knows that."

Thompson was talking about Will Graves. When you're UNC and you just rolled out Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson and Danny Green in the same lineup, that's a major problem.

And that's not a knock on Graves, he's a perfectly acceptable player, but he's not the caliber of talent UNC previously featured. And, really, he was the only player on the roster who could hit an outside shot.

UNC scored less than 65 points in six ACC games last season. With Barnes and Bullock, and, yes, Graves, that's not going to happen again.

• Motivation

I wrote this last summer and it was a huge part of what went wrong with UNC last year. Picked to finish first in the ACC, and in the top 10 nationally, that team had too many people telling them how good they were before they ever played a game.

Instead of being motivated by a perceived media snub, like the 2006 team was, UNC had nothing to rally against last season.

After a 5-11 season that ended in the NIT, there's plenty of motivation for this UNC team.

Williams handled just about every peripheral aspect of last season poorly, but he's well-versed in stoking the motivational flames, certainly one that has been dissed as many times as the returning UNC players


• Defense

Just adding Barnes and Bullock won't solve all of UNC's problems. They were a poor defensive team last season, and worse, sometimes indifferent (hello, 32-point loss at Duke).

"I’ve never coached effort," Williams memorably said last February. "I always coached execution. But with this group I’ve had to coach effort."

That comment was meant to be a compliment to his former players at Kansas and UNC, but it made Williams sound pretentious. You don't coach effort? That's the essence of your job.

Defense is all about effort. Save for shot-blocking, defense is not about talent rather desire and the willingness to work hard and communicate with your teammates.

UNC needs to take a major step up from the league-worst 71.9 points per game it allowed last season.

Sophomore John Henson playing in the correct forward position, and protecting the rim, should help the cause, but this team needs to improve its mindset without the basketball.

• Clarity at the point

Junior point guard Larry Drew II took a lot of heat for what went wrong last season, some of it justified. Drew's not Ty Lawson or Ray Felton, and he shouldn't try to play like those championship point guards.

Now Drew has company at the point in freshman Kendall Marshall. Will Drew keep his job? For how long? Is Marshall dynamic and have the ability to get his own shot or is he cut in the same pass-first mold as Drew?

For an offense that is so dependent on its point guard, those are unsettling questions.

Bottom line

That was Roy Williams' first and last 5-11 season. You can book that. The was the definition of an aberration in a 21-year career that has been nothing short of excellent.

That being said, the Final Four is not calling this team either.

The Heels will be better on offense, they have no other choice but to be better on defense and they will be sufficiently motivated.

Still, there are issues at the point, forward depth and team leadership (it's tough for any freshman to lead, particularly one that plays off the ball).

The ceiling looks like 10-6, maybe 11-5, but the basement's not going lower than 8-8.

Returning players
F Will Graves Sr. 9.8 4.6 0.9
F Tyler Zeller Jr. 9.3 4.6 0.3
G Larry Drew II Jr. 8.5 2.7 6.0
F John Henson Soph. 5.7 4.4 0.9
G Dexter Strickland Soph. 5.4 1.5 2.0
G Leslie McDonald Soph. 3.4 1.5 0.6
F Deon Thompson 13.7 6.7 0.8
F Ed Davis (NBA) 12.9 9.2 0.9
G Marcus Ginyard 7.7 4.8 2.8
F Travis Wear (transfer) 3.5 2.2 0.2
F David Wear (transfer) 2.9 1.7 0.4
F Harrison Barnes Fr. 6-6 205 1
G Reggie Bullock Fr. 6-6 185 16
G Kendall Marshall Fr. 6-3 180 29

Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep,

Barnes: "Barnes conducts himself like a guy gunning for two things: a national title and the eventual top pick. Both could happen if the string plays out long enough. His competitiveness and talent are second to none in the league. Look out, ACC."

Marshall: "The future maestro of the attack. He's the guy who doesn't hunt his offense and knows what to do with his weapons."

Bullock: "He'll provide wing scoring pop right from the start. He needs to stay aggressive and if they coax him to take more shots, his production will be strong as a freshman. Unselfish and talented, when the game is on the line he steps up. "

Monday, June 28, 2010

ACC basketball preview: Maryland


2009-10 record: 24-9 overall, 13-3 ACC (second)

Postseason: NCAA Tournament (1-1, lost to Michigan State)

Projected starting lineup: G Adrian Bowie, G Cliff Tucker, G Sean Mosley (right), F Dino Gregory, F Jordan Williams


• Gary Williams

If your own life depended on winning a basketball game and you only had two hours to put a team together and coach them up, Gary Williams should be your first phone call.

Mike Krzyzewski has a more complete resume and Roy Williams is a better recruiter, but as Gary Williams proved (again) last year with a 13-3 ACC record with an undermanned, overachieving lineup, he can out X-and-O anyone in the ACC.

One of the reasons Williams, who has won a school-record 442 games at Maryland, including 185 in the ACC, is he's not afraid to play at a fast pace.

It's Maryland that has been the hare under Williams while majority of the ACC — especially after Williams established the program among the ACC's best in the late 1990s — have willingly chosen the role of the tortoise.

In this case, slow and steady definitely does not win the race. Maryland led the ACC in scoring (79.7 points per game), field goal percentage (.471) plus turnover margin (plus-3.52), which suggests there's a method to the madness.

At this point in his career, entering his 22nd season at Maryland, Williams is just showing off. Thirteen ACC wins with a Venezuelan point guard, a bunch of 3-point shooters, an undersized forward and a freshman big man? No problem.

A return to the NCAA tournament after losing the guts of said ragtag group? Why not?

• Simplicity

Most coaches work better with fewer options. There are fewer egos to massage and fewer substitution mistakes to make when you have no choice but to play the same seven guys.

In losing three senior starters — Greivis Vasquez, Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes — the hierarchy of Maryland's program is fairly clear.

This offense starts with junior wing Sean Mosley and ends with sophomore forward Jordan Williams. Those are options "1" and "1A."

The other returning parts are filler with a six-man recruiting class that's sure to produce a star but also sure to lose a transfer sooner than later.

Players make the biggest advancement in their games between their sophomore and junior seasons and Mosley, who averaged 10.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game last season, is in line for major jump in production. (Take what I wrote last year about N.C. State's Tracy Smith and apply it to Mosley this year.)

Williams goes from a supporting part to the lead role in his second season. A true back-to-the-basket big man (and he's big at 6-10 and 260 pounds), he came on at the end of his freshman season, putting up 21 and 17 in the NCAA tournament win over Houston. Expect his numbers, 9.6 ppg and 8.6 rpg, to soar as more of the offense flows inside-out.


• Lost a lot of lumber

Vasquez led the Terps in scoring (19.6) and the ACC in assists (6.3) while also adding 4.6 boards and 1.7 steals per game. That's just his statistical impact. The ACC's player of the year was the heart-and-soul of the program for the past two years.

Hayes, a fine 3-point shooter who added 4.0 apg, and Milbourne (12.7 ppg), who played out of position for most of his career, were both good ACC players.

All three will be missed, Vasquez obviously the most, but that type of production and leadership will need to be offset somehow and it can't just come from Mosley and Jordan Williams.

• Schedule

The Terps have a potential "Virginia Tech" problem. With six games against Virginia, Boston College and Wake Forest, they could get halfway to 10 ACC wins without making much of an impression on the selection committee (see VT's padded 10-6 mark last season).

With a lot of filler, comes the reduced opportunities for resume-building wins. The Terps go to UNC, get FSU at home and have four games against Duke and VT. They're going to have to win three of those to offset the built-in inflation to their ACC schedule.

Bottom line

Maryland won't win 13 ACC games again but the Terps aren't going to fall of the map, either, even in a quasi-rebuilding season. The rest of the ACC (save for Duke and VT) is either bad, in transition or both and you know Gary Williams is worth an extra win or two.

Mosley and Jordan Williams must step up, and some combination of the freshmen (likely Mychal Parker, Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard) need to make an impact, but another NCAA tournament trip and a 10-6 ACC record is there for the taking.

Returning players
G Sean Mosley Jr. 10.1 5.1 2.6
F Jordan Williams Soph. 9.6 8.6 0.2
G Cliff Tucker Sr. 5.7 1.7 0.8
G Adrian Bowie Sr. 4.8 2.1 1.5
F Dino Gregory Sr. 4.2 3.4 0.4
F James Padgett Soph. 3.0 2.8 0.2
G Greivis Vasquez 19.6 4.6 6.3
F Landon Milbourne 12.7 4.9 0.8
G Eric Hayes 11.3 2.5 4.0
F Mychal Parker Fr. 6-6 190 68
G Terrell Stoglin Fr. 6-0 165
G Pe'Shon Howard Fr. 6-2 200
F Ashton Pankey Fr. 6-8 220
F Haukur Palsson Fr. 6-6 210
F Berend Weijs Jr. 6-10 215

Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep,

Parker: "The highest-rated guy has a big ceiling. He's a load off the bounce and in the lane where he finishes with flair."

Stoglin: "This is the one guy we may have underrated. What position is he? Who knows but he has swagger and he gets buckets. We may need a mulligan on this one."

Howard: "He's the guy who can pass with flair, wants to be good and has size for his position. If he takes good shots and cuts down on his turnovers, you'll see him on the floor early."

Palsson: "He hails from Montverde which cranks out college prospects. Think a JV version of FSU's Deividas Dulkys."

ACC basketball preview: Florida State

Florida State

2009-10 record: 22-10 overall, 10-6 ACC (third)

Postseason: NCAA Tournament (0-1, lost to Gonzaga)

Projected starting lineup: G Derwin Kitchen, G Deividas Dulkys, G Michael Snaer, F Chris Singleton, F Xavier Gibson


• Defense

The Noles led the ACC in scoring defense (60.4 points per game), field-goal percentage defense (.377) and blocked shots (6.3 per game) last season.

Even with the loss of forward Solomon Alabi, the ACC's leading shot-blocker, FSU will still be one of the ACC's best defensive teams.

Coach Leonard Hamilton has led the Noles to consecutive 10-win ACC seasons and trips to NCAA tournament because of his ability to recruit top-end talent and teach those players how to defend.

Junior forward Chris Singleton, who led the ACC in steals (2.2 per game) and ranked fifth in blocks (1.5 per game), was the ACC's best defender last season and will be again this season.

Guard Derwin Kitchen and forward Xavier Gibson are also capable of being exceptional defenders but have to be more consistent.

• Guard play

Between Kitchen, Michael Snaer, Deividas Dulkys and freshman Ian Miller, the Noles have a variety of versatile backcourt options.

Kitchen, a senior, played better off the ball as a sophomore with Toney Douglas than he did last year as the primary ballhandler. He's too talented to average less than 10 points per game and maybe with the addition of Miller, a true point from Charlotte, he'll have the opportunity to score more.

Dulkys is the team's best 3-point shooter and had two of his best games in the final three of the season, including a team-best 14 in the NCAA tournament loss to Gonzaga.

Snaer's the best athlete of the group and has NBA size (6-5, 200) but also NBA shot selection. If the sophomore learns that his scholarship is not dependent on the number of shots-per-minute, he will be more popular with his teammates and a more productive player.


• Offense

There's no more frustrating exercise in the ACC than watching Florida State play basketball in person. The roster oozes with NBA talent (and still does without Douglas or Alabi) yet Hamilton insists on taking the air out of the ball and dragging every game down to the 50s and 60s.

Teams without talent, like in the Ivy League or service academies (or Tempe, Ariz.), want to limit possessions and shorten the game, not teams with a conspicuous talent like Chris Singleton, whose scoring average (10.2) would be double at say Kansas or Maryland.

Ken Pomeroy, the rockstar of basketball mathematicians, measures offensive and defensive efficiency. Not surprisingly, FSU ranks first in the country on defense but 130th on offense.

The number of teams from a major conference that ranked behind FSU in Pomeroy's metric? Six. The number of those teams that had a winning record? Zero.

The point is FSU has been a bad basketball team on offense. But here's the frustrating part, the quality of the parts is not commiserate with the level of production.

Which inevitably leads us to Minus No. 2 ...

• Coaching

Leonard Hamilton can recruit and coach defense and he is humble enough to get out of assistant Stan Jones' way and allow him to handle the Xs and Os during the game.

Hamilton took an FSU program, which will always been an afterthought to football, to the NCAA tournament (twice!) after a 10-year drought.

Those are his positives. The negatives are he just doesn't understand how to use the talent on his roster.

Mike Krzyzewski isn't a great coach because he has won four national titles (although obviously that helps), he's a great coach because he adjusts the way his teams play based on the available personnel.

The majority of coaches (in all sports, really, not just college basketball) are too dogmatic to divert from what they do because that's "what they do."

You can't always drive a Ferrari, but if you have one, you owe it yourself to drive it as often as possible.

With this FSU team, Hamilton has a chance to crank the gas. He can take the next step from "just happy to be in the NCAA tournament" to legitimate Final Four threat but he needs to give this team more freedom to, for the lack of a better term, just "out-athlete" everyone else.

Bottom line

With Alabi gone, Singleton needs to take ownership of this program the way NBAers Douglas and Al Thornton did before him.

Hamilton and Jones also need to put the spectacularly talented, yet inconsistent, Singleton, in a position to carry this team and fulfill his vast potential.

There's good backcourt depth and enough frontcourt options to win 12 ACC games. You get the sense, though, that Hamilton's going to take safe route and pull the Prius out for a 10-6 spin, while the Ferrari sits in the garage.

Returning players
F Chris Singleton Jr. 10.2 7.0 2.2
G Michael Snaer Soph. 8.8 2.7 1.3
G Deividas Dulkys Jr. 8.7 2.3 1.1
G Derwin Kitchen Sr. 8.1 4.9 3.9
F Xavier Gibson Jr. 5.5 2.8 0.3
G Luke Loucks Jr. 4.4 2.5 2.8
F Terrance Shannon Soph. 1.7 1.1 0.1
F Solomon Alabi (NBA) 11.7 6.2 0.5
F Ryan Reid 6.8 4.0 1.1
G Ian Miller Fr. 6-2 175 21
F Okaro White Fr. 6-8 185 57
F Bernard James Jr. 6-9 240
F Jon Kreft Jr. 7-0 240

Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep,

Miller: "This is the biggest steal for a team outside Tobacco Road. Hamilton waltzed into North Carolina and landed a potential All-ACC point guard. Miller's a stud, he can score and his point-guard play has improved with each season."

White: "Like Miller, he finished high school on a high note. This guy has bounce, skills in the lane and he should be college ready."

ACC basketball preview: Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech

2009-10 record: 25-9 overall, 10-6 ACC (fourth)

Postseason: NIT (2-1, lost to Rhode Island)

Projected starting lineup: G Malcolm Delaney (left), G Dorenzo Hudson, F Terrell Bell, F Jeff Allen, F Cadarian Raines


• Top-end talent

In guard Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech has the top scorer (20.2 points per game) in the ACC and one of its best 3-point shooters.

In forward Jeff Allen, the Hokies' have one of the best defenders (one of two returning players to rank in the top 10 in both steals and blocks) in the ACC and one of the most active post players.

In guard Dorenzo Hudson, the Hokies have one of the top role scorers (15.2 ppg) in the ACC. Hudson has great size for an off guard who can handle the ball and he's capable of carrying the offense if Delaney or Allen's not on their game — as he showed in a 41-point outburst against Seton Hall.

• Experience

Like Duke, VT has both talent and experience. The starting lineup, which returns in tact — although, Victor Davila could be replaced at forward by either Cadarian Raines or Allan Chaney (if he's healthy) — played together for 31 games last season.

Teams that have played together, particularly successful ones, have an advantage over teams that haven't. It's that simple.

• Toughness

The Hokies aren't the biggest team but they might be the most aggressive. There's a general toughness that permeates the program, which starts in the recruiting process.

That an All-ACC talent like Delaney is at Virginia Tech is certainly a testament to Seth Greenberg's recruiting acumen but it's also an indictment of the Washington-Baltimore area schools who overlooked him.

Virginia Tech's roster (save for Allen) is filled with players who were ignored elsewhere and are intent on proving their worth.


• Momentum

Greenberg has out-kicked his coverage at Virginia Tech, where the facilities and remote location would be twin anchors for a lesser coach.

Greenberg has won average of 21 games and nine ACC games over the past four seasons but only has one NCAA tournament appearance to show for it.

At 10-6 in the ACC, there's certainly an argument to be made that VT belonged in the NCAA tournament last year, or for that matter in 2008 after going 9-7, but there's an inconsistency that's holding this program back.

The combination of myopic scheduling, poor out-of-conference results and the propensity to flop on an annual basis in the ACC tournament have all hurt Greenberg.

VT hasn't taken advantage of the limited chances, created by both weak nonconference scheduling and an easy ACC draw. This program should be coming off its fourth straight NCAA trip, instead it's searching for its first berth since 2007.

• Florida transfer Allan Chaney, who's expected to provide inside help for Jeff Allen, collapsed during an April workout and had to be hospitalized.

Dehydration was the cause of the scary episode but how that incident affects Chaney, both mentally and physcially, going forward is a wild card.

Bottom line

This team has the talent, experience, depth and motivation to prove it's better than every ACC team this side of Duke.

With an upgraded nonconference schedule (with high-profile games against Kansas State and Purdue) the list of excuses has been reduced.

Now it's on Greenberg to make sure the team starts *and* ends the season at a high level. Greenberg's the ACC's best coach in February but there's no trophy for that.

His 3-6 ACC tournament record is a blight on an otherwise outstanding resume at one of the toughest places to win in college basketball.

This season will go a long way in determining if Greenberg is merely going to be good at VT or something more.

Returning players
G Malcolm Delaney Sr. 20.2 3.7 4.5
G Dorenzo Hudson Sr. 15.2 3.5 1.9
F Jeff Allen Sr. 12.0 7.4 1.2
F J.T. Thompson Sr. 7.3 4.6 0.6
F Terrell Bell Jr. 6.1 6.1 2.0
F Victor Davila Jr. 5.3 4.2 0.2
G Erick Green Soph. 2.6 0.9 0.9
G Ben Boggs Soph. 2.2 1.4 0.6
F Manny Atkins Soph. 2.2 1.3 0.6
F Cadarian Raines Soph. 1.5 1.8 0.1
F Lewis Witcher 0.8 1.0 0.1
G Tyrone Garland Fr. 6-0 160
F Jarell Eddie Fr. 6-6 185 81
F Allan Chaney (Florida) Soph. 6-9 235

Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep,

Garland: "Exactly the kind of guy V-Tech wins with — moderately recruited at the highest level but definitely a high-major player, Garland will roll into Blacksburg with a chip on his shoulder the size the one Malcolm Delaney carried to stardom. Garland is tough, quick and plays with a Hokie-style edge."

Eddie: "Could be the replacement for Deron Washington, minus the elite bounce. Eddie's a solid athlete with a jump shot that is his calling card. He'll play as a freshman and start later in his career."

-- Joe Giglio

ACC basketball preview: Duke


2009-10 record: 35-5 overall, 13-3 ACC (first)

Postseason: NCAA Tournament (6-0, national champions)

Projected starting lineup: G Kyrie Irving, G Nolan Smith, G Seth Curry, F Kyle Singler, F Mason Plumlee


• More scoring options

Duke won a national title with three consistent, viable scoring options. This team returns two of those parts, in seniors Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, and adds two more in freshman point guard Kyrie Irving and sophomore transfer Seth Curry.

Plus, sophomore forward Mason Plumlee, who missed the preseason and six games with a wrist injury last year, is healthy. The younger Plumlee has NBA tools and the potential to provide consistent interior scoring, which Duke has lacked for the better part of the last five years.

While departed guard Jon Scheyer was tremendous, particularly his decision-making, Irving is a more dynamic point guard. Add Curry, a shooter's shooter, to that mix, and Duke's got more octane in its offense.

The last four Duke teams have labored, particularly late in the season, to score points. They wanted to grind out wins in the 60s. This Duke team will be more like the 2001 and 2002 versions, which routinely cranked the tempo into the 90s and 100s.

• Experience

Talent goes far (see Kentucky), but only so far (see Kentucky). You want talent that has played together and has a shared experience.

I picked Duke last summer (when other people were picking UNC) because the familiarity Singler, Smith and Scheyer had with each other. UNC had more talent on paper, but the Tar Heels had never fought together. This Duke group has undergone a transformation from an also-ran to UNC to national champions.

Duke's got a real team, not just a collection of talent. True, there are valuable parts missing from last year's team but the experience of Singler and Smith together — with the Plumlees — is invaluable.


• Dirty work

Duke was built like a good hockey team last year with top-line scorers and third-line plumbers. Forwards Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek not only understood their role as rebounders, defenders and screeners, but embraced that role.

Mike Krzyzewski will be pliable with his personnel, and won't attempt to plug different parts into the same template, but the selfless element that Thomas and Zoubek contributed to the Big Three will still need to be present.

Junior forward Miles Plumlee has hard-hat credentials, as does freshman forward Josh Hairston, who is cut from the Lance Thomas mold, but will they be as effective as Thomas and Zoubek?

• Hunter > hunted

There was no shortage of motivation for last year's Duke team. It was easy to get lost in all the UNC hype, and no doubt Krzyzewski played that to the tilt, but the "No respect" card is gone, that's what happens to national champions.

Their motivation — and let's face it, Krzyzewski's is the master of this — will have to come in the form of a pursuit of history. That can be complicated carrot to dangle in front of team that has every right to be satiated.

As Urban Meyer learned at Florida last college football season, keeping a champion motivated isn't easy, no matter how talented.

Bottom line

This Duke team has the talent, experience and right-place, right-time alignment to match the 1999 team's 19-0 ACC exacto.

At some point, Scheyer's poise and late-game, shot-making will be missed but the down moments will be few and far between for this team.

Singler and Smith will take so much pressure off of Irving and Curry that those two young players will have the luxury of merely playing their games. And they both have the opportunity to be exceptional.

And this team will have more flexibility, in terms of going big or small, and finding a mismatch for Singler, instead of leaving him in one spot.

The trips to Virginia Tech and Florida State could be dicey, but either way, 14-2 looks like the worst-case scenario.

Anything less than a return to Houston, where Duke won the South Regional last year, for the Final Four would have to be considered a disappointment.

Returning players
F Kyle Singler Sr. 17.7 7.0 2.4
G Nolan Smith Sr. 17.4 2.8 3.0
F Miles Plumlee Jr. 5.2 4.9 0.3
G Andre Dawkins Soph. 4.4 1.1 0.3
F Mason Plumlee Soph. 3.7 3.1 0.9
F Ryan Kelly Soph. 1.2 1.1 0.4
G Jon Scheyer 18.2 3.6 4.8
F Brian Zoubek 5.6 7.7 1.0
F Lance Thomas 4.8 4.8 0.9
G Kyrie Irving Fr. 6-1 170 2
F Josh Hairston Fr. 6-8 215 33
G Tyler Thornton Fr. 6-2 180
G Seth Curry (Liberty) Soph. 6-1 175

Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep,

Irving: "He's a game-changer and at Duke that means you alter the national landscape. He has improved every facet of his game and he'll be tough off the bounce, ready to lead and his talent doesn't come around often."

Hairston: "His game took a step up last season as he polished up his perimeter play to mid-range. Think Lance Thomas with more offense."

Thornton: "He could have wavered once they got Irving but he never did and that speaks to his character and team play. He's a defensive specialist, four-year player and a coach on the floor."

-- Joe Giglio

Friday, June 25, 2010

NBA draft takes tall talent from the ACC

The ACC officially got shorter on talent Thursday night – courtesy of the NBA draft.

Four of the league’s top forwards -- Georgia Tech’s Derrick Favors (No. 3, by the New Jersey Nets), Wake Forest’s Al-Farouq Aminu (No. 8, Los Angeles Clippers), North Carolina’s Ed Davis (No. 13, Toronto Raptors), and Clemson's Trevor Booker (No. 23, traded from Minnesota to Washington) -- were all chosen in the first round at Madison Square Garden.

In addition, 6-feet-6 Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez was chosen 28th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies -- striding out of the stands to hug commissioner David Stern.

Locally, Duke's Jon Scheyer and Brian Zoubek, starters on the national championship team who had hoped to be selected in the second round, plus UNC forward Deon Thompson, went undrafted.

Favors, who averaged 12.4 points and 8.4 rebounds as a freshman for the Yellow Jackets last season, was the first ACC player chosen; he extended the league's streak of having at least one first-round draft pick to 22.

Then came Aminu, the only ACC player to average a double-double with 15.8 points and 10.7 rebounds as a sophomore last season. He follows his older brother to the pros – albeit with a much larger contract. Alade Aminu, who played at Georgia Tech, ended up paying his dues in the NBA's Development League this past season before getting called up in March by the Miami Heat.

Aminu joins a struggling franchise in the Clippers, which finished last season with 29-53 record and missed the playoffs for the 15th time in 17 years. But the player took a positive attitude about his destination: “I guess every team has a history either good or bad,'' he said. "When you’re drafted, you just try your best to change it for the good. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Davis, meanwhile, follows in the footsteps of his dad Terry – who played 10 seasons in the NBA after going undrafted in 1989. It marked the eighth straight year that the son of a former NBA player has been drafted. The sophomore averaged 13.4 point and 9.6 rebounds last season for the Tar Heels before missing the last 13 games with a broken left wrist. He is UNC’s 40 first-round NBA draft selection, and seemed excited about going to Toronto.

"I really learned a lot during the whole Carolina thing, my two years there, you know what I’m saying,'' Davis said. "We did great one year and then not so good my sophomore year, but like I said, I learned a lot. But I'm really looking forward to being in Toronto, a young team; they really played up and down and I’m happy to be there."

Booker, a first-team All-ACC selection, was the first senior chosen in the draft. He averaged 15.2 points and 8.4 rebounds last season, and although he was drafted my Minnesota, ESPN reported that he was going to be traded to Washington -- where he will team with Raleigh's John Wall, the top overall selection.

Georgia Tech forward Gani Lawal was taken in the second round, 46th overall, by Phoenix -- well ahead of Florida State 7-footer Solomon Alabi, who had been projected as a first rounder but instead went No. 50 overall to Dallas; Alabi was later traded to Toronto. FSU's forward Ryan Reid went No. 57 to Indiana, and Miami forward Dwayne Collins went with the final pick, No. 60, to the Phoenix Suns.

BRIEFLY: But 7-foot Marshall forward Hassan Whiteside, who is from Gastonia, was chosen by Sacramento in the second round, 33rd overall.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Correspondent Elio Velez contributed to this story.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

UNC guard Strickland on crutches

CHAPEL HILL -- North Carolina guard Dexter Strickland was on crutches Wednesday with a bruised right hip after a collision with former Tar Heel Jawad Williams during a pick-up game.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said the training staff will keep an eye on the injury, and the player may later have more tests, but that it has been diagnosed as a bruise.

"I was guarding Raymond Felton, and Jawad came over and set a screen,'' Strickland said. "I got over the screen, but Jawad poked his hip out ... I should have had my padded Under Armour on. ... It just got worse as I kept playing, so I went to the trainer's.

"...Hopefully it's not that bad. It hurts, but I'll get through it."

-- Robbi Pickeral

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ex-UNC player Reid learning ropes of coaching

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - The relaxed pace of retirement has been enjoyable for J.R. Reid, but there's only so much fishing and watching television that he can do.

Reid, 42, a former North Carolina and Charlotte Hornets player, recently called Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown to ask how he might get involved in coaching.

Brown advised Reid, whose 12-year, six-team NBA career ended in 2001, to get in touch with the NBA Players Association and enter its coaching internship program. Starting Wednesday and continuing through Saturday, Reid worked at the NBPA's top-100camp at the University of Virginia, helping a team that included some of the top high school players in the nation.

Former North Carolina guard Jerry Stackhouse and ex-Duke point guard Chris Duhon are among the players with North Carolina ties coaching at the camp. Theo Ratliff, an NBA free agent who played for the Charlotte Bobcats last season, also participated.

"I'm getting a little antsy," Reid said in his booming, baritone voice. "I like to give back. We're getting the competitive juices flowing again, working with kids, teaching. Now I just want to take it to the next level."

Coaching is in Reid's blood. He said his father, the late Herman Reid, coached at Princess Anne Middle School in Virginia Beach, where his players included David Robinson and Plaxico Burress before they went on to careers in the NBA and NFL, respectively.

Reid said he hopes to bring the intensity of John Thompson, the compassion of Dean Smith and the humor of George Raveling to the job. He was pleased with the way players on his team at the camp raced after loose balls and responded to instruction, especially Texas-bound point guard Myck Kabongo.

At the camp, veteran NBA assistant Brendan Suhr tutored the current and former NBA players on how to take notes, create practice plans and organize a team. Reid hopes his work at the camp will help him land an NBA assistant coaching or front office job.

He lives in San Antonio, where he was thrilled to see North Carolina arrive for the 2008 Final Four and disappointed to see the Tar Heels lose in the NCAA semifinals. His son Jaylen is a 6-foot-6 rising sophomore who started at Nation's Ford High in Fort Mill, S.C., last season.

"We're all just hopeful that he'll be able to enjoy the sport the way I did," Reid said.

Reid already runs camps in Virginia Beach and Lexington, N.C. He was disappointed when the NBA camp conflicted with the Lexington camp this year, but enlisted former Tar Heels Brian Reese and Melvin Scott to assist during his absence.

Now he hopes to get further involved in basketball in a different way.

"I’m ready to get into something," Reid said. "A lot of guys are. They’re ready to get the competitive juices flowing again, and coaching is the best way to do it."

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Krzyzewski scuttles NBA talk

DURHAM - First there were rumors that the New Jersey Nets and their Russian owner would be interested in Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Krzyzewski said he was flattered, but he also said, "Nyet." Last week, Krzyzewski's name surfaced in speculation about the Cleveland Cavaliers' vacant coaching position.

But Krzyzewski on Wednesday reiterated the stance he took last summer, when he said Duke is going to be his final coaching stop.

"My position hasn't changed," he told reporters at the start of his yearly K Academy basketball camp.

Then he smiled.

"I hope Duke's [position] hasn't changed," Krzyzewski said. "You never know. Maybe they thought I only had one more [championship] left in me, and it's time to hit the trap door."

Nobody at Duke is trying to jettison Krzyzewski after the season the Blue Devils just completed. With a 61-59 win over Butler in Indianapolis in April, Duke captured its fourth NCAA title under Krzyzewski.

With Final Four most outstanding player Kyle Singler and high-scoring guard Nolan Smith returning, the Blue Devils will be a favorite to return to the Final Four in 2011. But Krzyzewski said the team is going to alter its style of play.

Duke will lose frontcourt starters Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas. In the backcourt, heralded, athletic freshman point guard Kyrie Irving is expected to replace steady, heady departing senior Jon Scheyer.

With Liberty transfer Seth Curry also becoming eligible, the Blue Devils will be deeper in the backcourt. So Krzyzewski will have them run the fast break more.

"We'll run and we'll press a lot more," Krzyzewski said. "We only had three perimeter guys [last season]. Well, four, but one was a converted big guy [Singler]. And actually it should be a strength [in 2010-11], depth on the perimeter."

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Toned-down tweets from Tar Heels players?

Clarification and update at the end of this story

It appears as if North Carolina's players got a talkin' to about what is -- and is not -- acceptable on Twitter.

About 5 p.m., rising sophomores Dexter Strickland and John Henson, plus rising junior Larry Drew II, all posted variations of the same message on their individual Twitter accounts: "well coach just talked to us about twitter and told us we offend some people n what not so this is a farewell to bein' myself..lata tweeps."

Strickland also added: "They told me I gotta watch wat I I'm sry if any of my tweets offended anybody that follows me.."

Then Strickland and Henson later tweeted, "yeah these people be emailin coach n stuff smh....'self expression is a birthright and something you did PRIOR to hoopin...'"

The trio, who all have more than 4,000 followers apiece, are three of the most prolific tweeters on the team, commenting on everything from basketball to what they eat to what music and movie they enjoy -- all, usually, in shorthand-Twitter-slang.

But some of the team's tweets this season have also gotten individuals into hot water.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner, for example, in April told a panel discussing social networking that one Tar Heel tweeted that freshman Travis Wear may have broken his ankle – which could, he said, have broken HIPAA violations and brought on a lawsuit. After the College of Charleston loss during the season, Henson tweeted that the Tar Heels had just made a guy's college career. Both posts were later erased.

Clarification on the HIPAA story: Kirschner called tonight to clarify the HIPAA story that he discussed during the panel in April. When the player tweeted the injury, he said, he told the player that it wasn't his job to discuss injuries -- that was up to Coach Roy Williams, the player and the head trainer.

Kirschner further pointed out to the player that if Kirschner discussed the injury without permission from the injured player, he could be subject to HIPAA violations. He was trying to make a point to the player who tweeted the injury, he said.

Kirschner also said he didn't know the details of the players' meeting today with the coaches, or who who they met with. "But we've always told them to be careful about Twitter."

-- Robbi Pickeral