This should be a crazy league this season, from 3 to 9 it was incredible difficult to rank and that grouping is almost interchangeable at any spot.
1. North Carolina – Even with all of the losses, there isn’t much debate. Carolina still will return; Marcus Ginyard, Ed Davis, Deon Thompson and Larry Drew. Coupled with an impressive recruiting haul consisting of; Leslie McDonald, John Henson, Dexter Strickland, and the Wear twins. The twins might be overrated depending on who you ask, the rest, legit. Simply stated, there still is a whole lot of talent and Roy Williams will have his guys ready. A lot will depend on Ed Davis’ development to a go to guy.
2. Duke – Yes, they have almost no back court left to speak of, and we know the front court has not been a strong point in recent years. But Coach K is still around, and in conference play, that can be enough for this spot. Andre Dawkins is enrolling early to provide a lift in the back court next to Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith. This will be Kyle Singler’s team and he must step up in all facets of his game to keep Duke near the top of the league. Zoubek, Thomas, Ryan Kelly and the Plumlee’s are bodies up front, how good is the question. Almost all must get stronger and more explosive. Losing their two best athletes this off season will not being doing the Blue Devils any favors. Due to Coach K and Cameron Indoor, I slot them 2nd, but that may be subject to change.
3. Wake Forest – Despite the losses of Jeff Teague and James Johnson, Wake returns a nice core. Star in the making Al Farouq Aminu returns a long with Chas McFarland, Ish Smith, LD Williams, Tony Woods and Ty Walker. Also added are Ari Stewart and CJ Harris. It did appear opponents figured Wake out a bit at the end of Dino Gaudio’s first year, but they should be in for a nice season again resulting in a tournament birth.
4. Maryland – There is still not much of a question Gary Williams can X and O. Talent has been the problem, and while it still is lacking, it all returns this season. Greivis Vasquez, who can be terribly inconsistent, must become more under control this season. The Terps found their way last season, and while they still may drop a game or two to below average teams, they should find more consistency this season.
5. Clemson – Oliver Purnell returns one of the league’s best post players in Trevor Booker and adds highly touted freshmen Milton Jennings. The losses of KC Rivers and Terrence Ogelsby in the backcourt will hurt, forcing improvements from Demontez Stitt and Andre Young. Purnell should find a way to gather wins as he has since he came to Clemson.
6. Georgia Tech – While they finished dead last a year ago, #6 may be selling the team short this season. Derrick Favors is an absolute stud and a top 3 pick whenever he chooses so. Gani Lawal, another future pro also returns along with standout guard Iman Shumpert. Mfon Udofa will add a toughness and solid demeanor to this team. The talent retiring is above average and the incoming class is very good. Potential to be this years Wake Forest.
7. Virginia Tech – Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen should provide a great inside out punch for Seth Greenberg’s team. The only substantial loss of the 19 win team is leading scorer AD Vassalo. Defensively they must improve to make a jump in the conference. The four player incoming class appears solid and balanced.
8. Florida State – Gone is Toney Douglas, the main reason FSU is only 8 here. They certainly have talent, but during Leonard Hamilton’s tenure, that has always not been capitalized. This team has length and a lot of it in, Solomon Alabi, Chris Singleton, Xavier Gibson and incoming Michael Snaer. Derwin Kitchen must prove to be a reliable back court player to equal last seasons success.
9. Boston College – Al Skinner will have to uncover more diamonds in the rough this season as he has done in the past. Gone is floor leader and playmaker Tyrese Rice. Returning is a solid group of; Rakim Sanders, Joe Trapani, Corey Raji, Reggie Jackson and Josh Southern among others. While there may be no top flight talent here, Skinner always gets the most out of his guys. For that reason, I very well maybe selling this team short.
10. Miami – Like BC, Miami losses a top scoring guard, Jack McClinton. Talent does remain for Frank Haith in the form of; Dwayne Collins, DeQuan Jones, Cyrus McGowan and James Dews as a core. McClinton’s spot may be filled by incoming, Durand Scott from NYC. Another solid addition is Donovan Kirk.
11. Virginia – There is no doubt, Sylven Landesberg is a rising star in the conference, problem is, for new coach Tony Bennett there is not much else around him. Incoming freshmen, Tristan Spurlock is a start. Returning players include; Jamil Tucker, Mike Scott, Calvin Baker and Sammy Zeglinski. Similar to Rutgers in the Big East, their young star may be good enough to win a few on his own, the rest will be up to the supporting cast.
12. NC State- Sidney Lowe appeared to have things moving in the right direction two years ago in the ACC Tournament. Since then there have only been disappointments. Now gone are; Costner, McCauley and Fells. Three important pieces. Bright spots are available, in the form Tracy Smith and Javier Gonzalez. Smith is a very intriguing prospect with great athleticism. Help is also on the way; Deshawn Painter and Richard Howell lead a solid recruiting class. But in a middle heavy league, NC State is just on the outside looking in currently.