Before last season, I talked to my friend who happens to be a BC fan. We talked about realistic expectations for BC. They had everyone back except for standout guard Tyrese Rice. Interestingly enough, he told me he expected BC to take a step forward in 2009-10 while getting worse results. How does this make sense? Well, BC was coming off an odd season. They beat eventual national champions UNC and lost to Harvard. When the season was all said and done they collectively had gotten pretty lucky. Results were good, but they only ranked 69th in Ken Pomeroy's rankings. Well, said friend turned out to be completely right. BC saw modest improvements in the rankings (62nd overall), but finished the season 15-16. Back to present day. Joe Trapani, Corey Raji, and Reggie Jackson are all great pieces. The extremely efficient role player, Tyler Roche, is lost to graduation. Rakim Sanders has transferred to Fairfield, but may actually help BC's offensive efficiency. Depth and defense will be the problems for the Eagles. A tourney bid is unlikely, but the "big three" will make BC dangerous when on their game.
The Tigers will be a different team this season with the departures of Trevor Booker and Oliver Purnell. Demontez Stitt will lead a talented backcourt. Stitt, Tanner Smith, and Andre Young need to do a better job taking care of the basketball. Each player turned the ball over on over 22% of possessions last season. On the bright side, Stitt and Young both shot the ball really well last year. 6'8" Jerai Grant will provide solid efficiency, rebounding, and shot blocking for Clemson. Devin Booker may be the X Factor here. Booker showed promise in limited minutes last season and will be a big part of the ultimate fate of the Tigers.
Coach K's squad will once again be the team to beat in the ACC. The national champs are loaded once again with parts. Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith are the known quantities for the Blue Devils. Both will surely provide the team with superb offense. Kyrie Irving takes over for Jon Scheyer. Much has been made of Irving, and we have no evidence to disagree with the public sentiment. Miles Plumlee will presumably take over Zoubek's role. Plumlee may not approach Zoubek's offensive rebounding, but will be more than competent underneath. Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee, Tyler Thornton, and Josh Hairston will make the Blue Devils as deep as they come.
Last season, FSU was really, really good defensively and really not good offensively. In the end, it resulted in a first round exit to Gonzaga. Solomon Alabi and Ryan Reid are both gone. With these two out, FSU's interior defense will take a bit of a hit. Still, the Seminoles have competent replacements coming in. Xavier Gibson returns for the Seminoles and newcomers Okaro White (top 100 prospect), Jon Kreft, and Bernard James will provide an abundance of size. The development of Michael Snaer and Chris Singleton will be crucial for FSU. Both featured very inefficient offensive production last season. Other guards, Kitchen and Dulkys, provided much better efficiency albeit in a smaller offensive role. The Seminoles defense should keep them competitive alone, but improvement on offense would turn them into a legitimate contender in the ACC.
Paul Hewitt's club should be in for a rebuilding year this season with the losses of Lawal, Favors, Peacock, and Bell. Iman Shumpert will be the established go to guy for the Yellow Jackets, but needs to bring up his efficiency. Brian Oliver and Glen Rice both showed great signs last year to indicate they are ready to break out. The former shot 38% from three while the latter shot 47%. Still, the problem will be the frontcourt for GT. Kammeon Hosley, Daniel Miller, and Nate Hicks will form an extremely inexperienced frontcourt. The young Yellow Jackets will most likely be on the outside looking in at the NCAA Tourney, but gaining experience will be crucial down the road for a team with a fair amount of talent.
The Terps had the 5th offense in the nation last season. In fact, not one player on the team had an offensive rating below 100. Unfortunately for Maryland, they are losing three key starters. Vasquez, Milbourne, and Hayes all provided efficient offense with high usage. Sean Mosley and Jordan Williams will both see greatly increased roles. If both players can keep their efficiency at last years levels, they both are excellent breakout candidates. The supporting cast of Bowie, Tucker, Padgett, and Gregory are all efficient options. The Terrapins should remain efficient on offense if one or more of those four can step up. Six more recruits will also enter the mix for Gary Williams. Maryland could find themselves on the bubble, but have the pieces to get back to the NCAA Tourney in what should have been a rebuilding year.
The U had a tough conference season last year. The 4-12 last place finish was not indicative of Miami's true talent level. Dwayne Collins and James Dews are unfortunate losses, but talent is still around. Durand Scott had a solid freshman campaign, but also has plenty of room for improvement. Scott and Malcolm Grant will form a great backcourt for the Canes. Adrian Thomas' ORtg of 122 and 3P% of 42% make him the perfect role player on offense. 6'9" Reggie Johnson is a breakout candidate in the frontcourt. As a freshman he was extremely effective in limited minutes. Miami could be a big surprise in the ACC.
Team defense was a strength for the Wolfpack last year, but offensively they really struggled. Apart from go to guy Tracy Smith, NC State only has one player returning with and ORtg over 100 (Scott Wood). On the bright side, Sidney Lowe was able to land top recruit CJ Leslie. This team has gotten a lot of early hype, but I am taking a more cautious approach. The Wolfpack will be deep and have a solid distributor in point guard Javier Gonzalez, but a wait and see approach should be used for a team that has big expectations.
Many words have been written on UNC. Potential is the key for most of the Tar Heels. From a statistical standpoint, Tyler Zeller and Will Graves are Roy William's best offensive options. Zeller is one of the best big men in the ACC when healthy and Graves is a solid shooter who can take care of the ball. Harrison Barnes will improve UNC right away. The Heels have a solid foundation with those three. John Henson, Lesile McDonald, and Dexter Strickland are the unknown returners for UNC. All three had not so great freshman years, but have talent. Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall will enter with plenty of talent as well. Production will be needed from a couple of these young, talented players to return UNC into a conference contender once again.
UVA will probably once again be near the bottom in the ACC. Sylven Landesberg is now in the rear view mirror after getting kicked off the team towards the end of last season. Jeff Jones and his solid ORtg are also taking their talents elsewhere this season. Mike Scott should be the team leader underneath. He can rebound and score very well. Sammy Zeglinski and Mustapha Farrakhan both return and will need to make big strides for UVA to be competitive. Tony Bennett's first recruiting class will also be entering. UVA will most likely be fighting to get out of the ACC cellar this season.
VT did virtually everything well last season except shoot. Everyone is back this season, and shooting will probably still be the achilles heel. However, the Hokies are still a legitimate contender in the ACC. Heck, College Gameday even made the decision to visit for the Duke game. Malcolm Delaney is the real deal. He can get to the line really well and has a solid assist to turnover ratio. Still, he hasn't been able to shoot consistently (like most of the Hokies). Dorenzo Hudson is being acknowledged as one of the most underrated players in the conference, but he too has struggled shooting. In fact, Hudson did not break 30% from three last year despite taking 120 attempts. VT will be one of the top defensive teams in the conference again this season. Offensive consistency and shooting will be what prevents Tech from challenging Duke for conference supremacy.
The Deamon Deacons will be a different team in Jeff Bzdelik's first season. The team could be led by two rising sophomores: Ari Stewart and C.J. Harris. Harris posted an impressive ORtg of 107.7 in his rookie campaign. He gets to the line well and is an excellent foul shooter. Stewart struggled last season, but still has potential. Tony Woods and Gary Clark were both also useful options in limited time last season. The real key for Wake will be the incoming recruits. ESPN ranks Bzdelik's class as 12th in the nation with four top 100 recruits. If the class is as good as advertised Wake Forest should be in line for another NCAA Tourney berth, but the margain for error is pretty slim.
(Note: Incoming freshman were not considered)
Player of the Year: Kyle Singler, Duke
Singler was used on a higher percentage of possessions last year than any of his other teammates. Many players have this distinction, but Singler is the only one who did it on the national champions. He also took full advantage of his opportunities. He shot the three ball well, got to the line, and took care of the basketball. The result was an ORtg of 116.2. The only flaw in Singler's game was shooting two's. He only shot 42% from inside the arc in 2009-10. In his freshman and sophomore years, that number was significantly hire. The two point shooting will almost certainly improve and Singler will be the best player on the best team in the ACC.
Best of the rest:
1) Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech
2) Nolan Smith, Duke
3) Tyler Zeller, UNC
4) Corey Raji, Boston College
5) Jordan Williams, Maryland
Breakout Player: Reggie Johnson, Miami
As a freshman, Johnson did hardly anything wrong in limited minutes. He shot over 50% from the floor, blocked shots, took care of the ball, rebounded on both sides of the floor, got to the charity stripe, and shot 78.5% from the line. This resulted in an ORtg of 122.4 while being used on 23.2 percent of possessions. Now Johnson will see regular playing time. With the increase it is unrealistic to expect Johnson to maintain this unbelievable efficiency, but he should be one of the top big men in the conference.
Best of the Rest:
1) Brian Oliver, Georgia Tech (2009-10 stats: 41.2 %Min, 20.1 %Poss, 105.7 ORtg)
2) Miles Plumlee, Duke (2009-10 stats: 40.9 %Min, 17.1 %Poss, 107.2 ORtg)
3) Sean Mosley, Maryland (2009-10 stats: 66.3 %Min, 18.7 %Poss, 116.6 ORtg)
4) Devin Booker, Clemson (2009-10 stats: 28.9 %Min, 20.7 %Poss, 100.1 ORtg)