As the leaves start to turn on the trees, it is time once again to look at ACC basketball.
This is a brand new era in ACC basketball with the addition of Miami and Virginia Tech, and soon Boston College. The beloved round robin is no more and is replaced by the more typical unbalanced schedule. So now more than ever it is important to look at teams' schedules.
Below is an overview of each team in the ACC. Included are last year's record and results, key returnees and newcomers (with updated measurements), key losses, ACC production returning, home/away split against the perceived top 6 in the ACC, OOC RPI ranking against guaranteed opponents, strengths, key questions, and an outlook for the season as well as a newcomer to watch. All stats are ACC only unless otherwise noted.
First off is a quick projection of where teams finish in the regular season based upon an examination of their ACC schedules. Now these records will not come to pass due to upsets, but here is how I would group the teams based upon their schedules using some basic rules vs. level of opponent and home/away. If I had to pick one team to have the most wins in the ACC regular season I would go with Wake Forrest – their schedule is the most favorable for that to happen among the top 6.
11-5 Wake, NC ST, MD
10-6 UNC, Duke, GT
9-7 FSU, UVA
2-14 Miami, VT
Clemson (10-18, 3-13)
Akin Akingbala 6'9, 220 Jr. (4.3ppg, 4.7rpg, 18.2mpg, 57.7%FG, 45%FT)
Olu Babalola 6'6, 242 Sr. (8.2ppg, 3.7rpg, 24.1mpg, 35.8%FG, 29.5?G, 77.8%FT)
Sharrod Ford 6'9, 223 Sr. (12.1ppg, 6.2rpg, 28.3mpg, 51.6%FG, 65.6%FT)
Vernon Hamilton 6'0, 192 So. (5.9ppg, 2.8apg, 26.1mpg, 32.3%FG, 30.8?G, 51.9%FT)
Shawan Robinson 6'2, 183 Jr. (11.1ppg, 2.9rpg, 40.3%FG, 34.7?G, 67.3%FT)
Cliff Hammonds 6'3, 175 CG
Troy Mathis 6'0, 200 PG
James Mays 6'9, 215 F
Cheyenne Moore 6'6, 190 F
Sam Perry 6'5, 190 F
Chey Christie G (7.3ppg, 3.2rpg, 26.1mpg, 36.2?G)
Chris Hobbs F (5.3ppg, 4.4rpg, 26.3mpg)
Lamar Rice F (3.8 ppg, 2.6rpg, 15.7mpg)
ACC Production Returning: 71.4% PPG, 61.3% RPG, 67.8% APG
Top 6 split: 5 home, 4 away
OOC Avg: 175.2
Strengths: Center with Ford, returning experience at guard
Questions: PG play, who will step up on the wing, can anyone hit the 3-point shot consistently?
In his second season Coach Purnell starts his long climb from the basement. PG play was very erratic last season so either one of the returning guards must improve or one of the freshmen need to make an immediate impact, both are somewhat suspect. Depth in the post is another concern with little experience behind Ford and Akingbala. With his incoming class Purnell brought in a nice set of athletes that should help contribute long term but are not likely to make huge impacts as freshman. The wing position is wide open though Babalola will probably be given the first shot. With the addition of Miami and VT Clemson is no longer the weakest team in the conference, but it still has a ways to go before it is a post-season team. With a weak OOC schedule Clemson has an outside chance of qualifying for an NIT bid but the odds are of another losing season in South Carolina.
Newcomer to watch: Troy Mathis
While not super highly rated, Mathis is highly regarded. With Clemson's issues last year in the backcourt they will need ballhandling help immediately and Troy is the one that looks most ready to help. He had some ridiculous scoring games as a senior, can he now become more of a playmaker?
Duke (31-6, 13-3, NCAA Final Four)
JJ Redick 6'4, 190 Jr. (18.3ppg, 2.6rpg, 31.6mpg, 45.3%FG, 44.2?G, 96.3%FT)
Daniel Ewing 6'3, 185 Sr. (13.1ppg, 2.5rpg, 31.8mpg, 40.1%FG, 41.3?G, 77.8%FT)
Sheldon Williams 6'9, 250 Jr. (12.4ppg, 9.3rpg, 2.6bpg, 27.4mpg, 55.6%FG, 72.6%FT)
Shavlik Randolph 6'10, 240 Jr. (4.6ppg, 4.1rpg, 19.6mpg, 55.2%FG, 66.7%FT)
Sean Dockery 6'2, 185 Jr. (2.1ppg, 1.0apg, 14.9mpg, 39%FG, 7.7?G, 12.5%FT)
DeMarcus Nelson 6'3, 195 G
David McClure 6'6, 205 F
Luol Deng F (14.6ppg, 7.2rpg, 31.1mpg)
Chris Duhon G (10.1ppg, 6.6apg, 37.6mpg)
ACC Production Returning: 65.9% PPG, 55.8% RPG, 41.8 APG
Top 6 split: 4 home, 5 away
OOC Avg: 130.1
Strengths: Wing and perimeter shooting with Ewing and Redick, center with Williams, experience and talent of the starting 5.
Questions: PG play, leadership, depth – especially in the post.
After another strong run to a Final Four, Coach K has one of his more interesting coaching jobs this season. For the first time in over half a decade he lacks a proven PG and has serious depth issues in the post. Ewing and Redick are among the most dangerous wing players in the conference and Williams is one of the best interior players both offensively and defensively. But Dockery and Randolph have yet to prove they can be consistent 30mpg performers and the bench consists of 2 freshmen and a Jr. that played 31 minutes in ACC games last year, none over 6'7. The key to this team will be getting solid PG play from Dockery and keeping Williams and Randolph out of foul trouble. While its starting 5 is one of the best in the conference, questions at PG and with depth does not make Duke a natural pick for first place this year, rather it will have to fight for every win. It's OOC schedule is not overwhelming, but Duke's conference schedule is probably second only to GT for its difficulty against the top 6. Another NCAA Tourney trip, probably to the Sweet Sixteen should occur, anything above that would be a great year.
Newcomer to Watch: David McClure
While most would pick DeMarcus Nelson, McClure may be more important to Duke's immediate success. With Duke's lack of depth in the post they will need help behind Williams and Randolph and McClure looks like the best option. A tough, hard nosed player in the Carrawell mode, Duke insiders say he has been a pleasant surprise early on and they need him to help out on the interior for Duke to shine.
Florida State (19-14, 6-10, NIT)* stats are all games, not ACC only
Alexander Johnson 6'10, 250 So. (9.5ppg, 4.2rpg, 20.8mpg, 55.1%FG, 67.5%FT)
Von Wafer 6'5, 210 So. (7.9ppg, 1.9rpg, 17.5mpg, 36.9%FG, 32.9?G, 60%FT)
Anthony Richardson 6'7, 205 Sr. (7.3ppg, 3.6pg, 17.9mpg, 43.3%FG, 30.4?G, 81.5%FT)
Adam Waleskowski 6'8, 240 Sr. (6.8ppg, 5.4rpg, 21.6mpg, 46.9%FG, 40.4?G, 71.2%FT)
Andrew Wilson 6'6, 206 Jr. (4.1ppg, 2.0rpg, 39%FG, 39.4?G, 71.4%FT)
Todd Galloway 5'11, 178 Jr. (3.2ppg, 2.2apg, 14.6mpg, 34.4%FG, 25.6?G, 68.6%FT)
Antonio Griffin 6'6, 214 F JUCO
Ralph Mims 6'2, 200 G
Diego Romero 6'10, 240 F JUCO redshirt
Isiah Swann 6'1, 197 G
Jason Rich 6'3, 185 G
Tim Pickett G (16.5ppg, 4.5rpg, 2.5spg, 29.7mpg, 40.7?G)
Michael Joiner F (6.2ppg, 3.7rpg, 22.4mpg, 48.2%FG)
Nate Johnson G (5.3ppg, 3.8apg, 27.2mpg, 42?G)
ACC Production Returning: 57.3% PPG, 55.4% RPG, 48.7% RPG
Top 6 split: 4 home, 5 away
OOC Avg: 173.5
Strengths: Center with Johnson, depth
Questions: PG play, leadership, experience
Coach Hamilton continues his rebuilding project in Tallahassee as he continues to assemble a deep and talented squad. After a NIT berth last season FSU is a trendy pick to be a surprise team in the ACC this season, but a couple of factors may force a wait of one more year for a big breakthrough. First off the PG situation will have to be settled and guard positions in general, while talented are young. Second, someone will have to step up and replace the leadership that Tim Pickett provided. He was the heart and soul of last season's team. There is a lot of help on the way with a strong recruiting class that includes two JUCO's (Romero and Griffin) who did not play last year for various reasons as well as 3 potential outstanding guards in Rich, Mims, and Swann. Coach Hamilton has significantly raised the talent level, now it is a matter of allowing it to mature. The OOC is relatively weak and its ACC schedule gives it a leg up on UVA. There is an excellent chance that FSU could get a bid to the NCAA this season.
Newcomer to watch: Isiah Swann
This is a tough choice between Swann and Romero. I'll pick Swann mainly because Hamilton has to find a way to replace the production of Johnson and Pickett and 5th year prep Swann appears to be the most ready to make a splash early. Spent last year at Hargrove transitioning from SG to PG, he is a fantastic athlete who is learning to be a PG. The faster he makes the transition the better off FSU will be.
Georgia Tech (28-10, 9-7, NCAA Championship game)
BJ Elder 6'4, 218 Sr. (15.9ppg, 2.7rpg, 27.7mpg, 40.9%FG, 38.8?G, 78.7%FT)
Jarrett Jack 6'3, 202 Jr. (13.3ppg, 4.8rpg, 5.1apg, 32.1mpg, 44.8%FG, 35.9?G, 80.5%FT)
Will Bynum 6'0, 185 Sr. (11.2ppg, 2.3apg, 21.7mpg, 41.9%FG, 36.7?G, 85.7%FT)
Isma'il Muhammad 6'6, 228 Sr. (8.3ppg, 4.4rpg, 53.6%FG, 50.9%FT)
Luke Schenscher 7'1, 250 Sr. (9.1ppg, 6.9rpg, 2bpg, 55.3%FG, 64.6%FT)
Anthony McHenry 6'7, 222 Sr. (1.9ppg, 2.3rpg, 15.9mpg, 36.7%FG, 14.3?G, 42.1%FT)
Jeremis Smith 6'6, 232 F
Ra'Sean Dickey 6'9, 255 F
Anthony Morrow 6'5, 205 G
Zam Fredrick 6'0, 209 G
Marvin Lewis G (10.7ppg, 2.6rpg, 25.4mpg, 45.7%FG, 81.8%FT)
Clarence Moore F (4.9ppg, 4.7rpg, 35.3?G)
ACC Production Returning: 79.7% PPG, 78.9% RPG, 88.2% APG
Top 6 split: 3 home, 5 away
OOC Avg: 130.4
Strengths: PG play, top 6 experience, defense, depth
Questions: outside shooting, experienced depth
Coach Hewitt had a breakthrough year in his 4th season at GT making it all the way to the NCAA championship game. Using a team that was deep, talented and experienced, they got off to a school record start and then followed that up with the best post-season run in school history. 7 of the top 9 players on that squad return. Once again Hewitt has a deep, experienced squad. With solid play at PG, talented wings, and an emerging center down low GT has all the ingredients to have another strong season. The key questions will be one of the freshmen stepping up to add to the outside shooting lost with Lewis and Moore departing and whether the squad is ready to handle the target that will be on its back. The OOC schedule is reasonable but the ACC schedule is quite unfavorable with only 3 home vs. 5 road games against the other top 6 teams. That being said this team is well designed to make and then have a strong run in the NCAA Tournament.
Newcomer to Watch: Jeremis Smith
GT insiders have been raving about Smith from the day he stepped on campus this summer, with some even predicting he will be starting by the time ACC season rolls around. An athlete of Ish caliber, but with a bigger frame, Jeremis was the best and most consistent performer on the US Squad at the Global Games making the All-Tournament team after averaging over 15 ppg and almost 7 rpg. The last 2 GT players to put up numbers like that at the Global Games were Ed Nelson and Chris Bosh and Jeremis will play at the PF spot as well.
Maryland (20-12, 7-9, NCAA 2nd Round)
John Gilchrist 6'3, 201 Jr. (15.4ppg, 4.5rpg, 4.4apg, 35.6mpg, 44%FG, 30.5?G, 73.2%FT)
Nik Caner-Medley 6'8, 240 Jr. (11.9ppg, 4.1rpg, 31mpg, 39.2%FG, 27.1?G, 58.6%FT)
Chris McCray 6'5, 190 Jr. (10.8ppg, 3.6rpg, 2.6apg, 28.6mpg, 44%FG, 23.4?G, 78.5%FT)
Travis Garrison 6'8, 243 Jr. (7.4ppg, 4.7rpg, 21.9mpg 42.4%FG, 38.1?G, 84.4%FT)
DJ Strawberry 6'5, 201 So. (6.2ppg, 2.6rpg, 1.8spg, 19.9mpg, 46.3%FG, 46.9%FT)
Ekene Ibekwe 6'9, 220 So. (4.6ppg, 3.9rpg, 13mpg, 48.3%FG, 60%FT)
Mike Jones 6'5, 196 So. (4.1ppg, 1.8rpg, 10mpg, 33.3%FG, 36.1?G, 72.2%FT)
Hassan Fofana 6'10, 288 So. (2.3ppg, 2.5rpg, 10.8mpg, 41.7%FG, 52.6%FT)
James Gist 6'8, 215 F
Sterling Ledbetter 6'4, 195 G
Jamar Smith C (10.3ppg, 7.7rpg, 28.9mpg)
ACC Production Returning: 85.8% PPG, 71.7% RPG, 92.2% APG
Top 6 split: 4 home, 4 away
OOC Avg: 156.4
Strengths: PG experience, depth and experience throughout the roster
Questions: outside shooting, experience at center
Gary Williams continues to produce winners in College Park. Last year this team suffered through the typical ups and downs of a young, inexperienced team but came together late to capture the ACC Tournament Championship and make a 2nd round appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Everyone returns from that squad except big man Jamar Smith. This team is fully capable of making a big run both in the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. Confidence should be very high after their finish last season. The biggest obstacles in the way for this team is outside shooting (both 3FG and FT) and getting consistent play in the middle. If Fofana is ready to handle the post full time this is a very dangerous squad. The OOC schedule is fairly easy and the ACC schedule is fairly favorable with a 4/4 split against the heavyweights. This team could very well challenge for most wins in the regular season ACC. If Gilchrist can play a little more like a PG and less like a SG (some of this falls on his teammates) this team will be very tough to beat.
Newcomer to Watch: James Gist
With the severity of the injury to Ledbetter not clear, you have to take Gist here. Another athletic forward for Gary Williams to use in his rotation. Gist has the springy step and aggressiveness to help along the baseline. This MD team was already deep, with Gist it gets just a little bit deeper.