Published on October 15th, 2012 | by Bryant West, Columnist0
2012 NCAA Conferences Previews: ACC
Welcome to October! For the next month leading up to the start of actual NCAA Games, I’ll be breaking down some of the biggest conferences.
It’s the battle of the North Carolinans, as my top three teams all hail from the Old North State (sorry Wake Forest, you aren’t one of them). Is this the year that someone besides Duke or North Carolina wins the ACC Regular Season AND Championship crowns?
Five Top Squads:
1. North Carolina State Wolfpack
For the first time in forever, the state of North Carolina belongs to the Wolfpack. At least, that’s how it should be.
While bot the Tar Heels and Blue Devils lost a combined six players to the NBA, the Wolfpack retained their top four players AND added in three fantastic freshmen.
NC State has two of the top five players in the conference, with both guard Lorenzo Brown (12.7 points, 6.5 assists last year) and forward C.J. Leslie (14.7 points, 7.3 rebounds). Add in big man Richard Howell and forward Scott Wood and you have a dangerous lineup—and that’s without mentioning their explosive freshman (Rodney Purvis may be one of the NCAA’s most exciting guards in a few years).
I ranked the Wolfpack No. 4 in my early preseason rankings and my confidence in this squad only grows as I do more research. This squad is a legitimate NCAA Championship threat.
Hit the jump for the rest of Bryant’s preview…
2. North Carolina Tar Heels
I have North Carolina at No. 5 in my early preseason rankings, and while that’s higher than most I expect great things from Roy William’s squad—just not as good as NC State.
James McAdoo is poised for a breakout year after playing behind John Henson and Tyler Zeller last year, but he isn’t the only one who will benefit from extended playing time. Guards P.J. Hairston, Reggie Bullock and Dexter Strickland all have NBA potential, and I expect big things out of all of them. (I particularly like Strickland as the breakout player of the year, but he needs to earn the playing time first).
Add in Marcus Paige, a freshman point who is penciled in as a probable starter. He won’t be Kendall Marshall right off the bat, but he’ll be good enough to win the ACC Newcomer of the Year award.
3. Duke Blue Devils
To be honest, everything about Duke scares me this season (more on that later), but they have too much talent to leave off at this point.
Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee are the biggest names, and I’m not so sure that is a great thing for the Blue Devils. Quinn Cook and Curry will run a balanced offense that doesn’t have any huge scoring threat but doesn’t exactly lack depth either.
Ryan Kelly may be the best shot they have at a true No. 1 option, but that might be hoping for too much.
4. Florida State Seminoles
The ACC Champions from last year retain only one starter, but Michael Snaer has a great shot at winning the Player of the Year award.
He averaged 14.0 points and 3.8 rebounds last season and is the league’s top defender. The rest of the Seminole’s talent is primarily young players, including guards Monty Brandon and Aaron Thomas, as well as Slovakian center Boris Bojanovsky.
The Seminoles are a deep team that lack experience, but they have a legitimate No. 1 option in Snaer. I could very well see them passing Duke.
5. Miami Hurricanes
I can hear the doubts already. “How can you have Miami ranked No. 5? Have you forgotten the past three years of Miami luck? You remember that their best player was suspended and they lost in the NIT?”
Yes, I’ve got the Hurricanes at No. 5. Everything HAS to go right, though. Durant Scott has All-ACC potential, as long as he doesn’t get suspended again. If Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble can both keep their knees healthy, they have legitimate size in the paint—Johnson is particularly good and he can dominate with his 6’10”, 285 pound frame.
The Hurricanes need good fortune to place this high, but they have potential to be even higher.
Four Players to Watch:
McAdoo could have been a top ten selection if he’d joined the NBA Draft this season, even though he’d been a benchy all last season for the Tar Heels. He’s got everything you want in an NBA big man—he’s got size, strength, excellent athleticism and a great all-around game.
He has solid depth around him, but everyone knows it’s his team this year. A Thomas Robinson type out-of-the-shadows star season isn’t out of the question—I bet he’ll average around 16 points and eight rebounds.
2. Lorenzo Brown, North Carolina State
Brown doesn’t have the NBA potential that his teammate C.J. Leslie has, but he’s an excellent NCAA guard. He’s a quick scorer (12.7 points on 45 percent shooting) but an excellent point guard (6.5 assists) and one of the more unselfish guards in the nation. He’ll certainly have plenty of talent to pass to this season.
3. Seth Curry, Duke
I had to put a Duke player up, and I figured it might as well be their most scrutinized player. Seth will never be his brother, but he shouldn’t have to be—he’s an efficient player who lacks the real point guard skills he needs for his size.
The reason I put him here over guys like Durand Scott or Virginia Tech’s Erick Green is because the Blue Devils will NEED someone to break out this season. If there is gonna be someone, why not Seth?
4. Michael Snaer, Florida State
The NCAA’s best defender, Snaer is relentless on both ends of the court. He booked in 14 points last year and shot 40 percent from three, and I expect he’ll score even more in his senior season. He’ll be the lone seriously sharp veteran on an otherwise young but exciting squad.
Three Award Predictions:
Player of the Year: James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina
Freshman of the Year: Marcus Paige, North Carolina
Defensive Player of the Year: Michael Snaer, Florida State
Two Storylines to Pay Attention To:
1. Can Miami return to legitimacy?
They have the talent. They have the scorer (Durand Scott) and they have the size (Reggie Johnson. They have the depth (Kenny Kadji, Ron Brown) and they have the freshmen (Melvin Johnson).
If something is going to delay the Hurricanes this season, it will be a real shame. This squad has all the making of an NCAA tournament team, if they stay healthy AND off the suspension list.
2. How good are the returners for North Carolina?
Ignore McAdoo here for a moment. I legitimately like three non-McAdoo returners from the Tar Heels—Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock and P.J. Harison.
We know Bullock already (8.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 42.8 percent shooting). I expect those numbers will rise this season. P.J. Hairston (5.7 points, 30.8 percent shooting) has the makings of an NBA guard if he fixes his efficiency problems. He’s a great shooter, but that didn’t show much of last year.
I know I’m probably overhyped on Dexter Strickland (7.5 points 2.5 assists, 57.0 percent shooting), but I think the main factor that could hold him back is playing time. Freshman Marcus Paige is set to start, but if he falters, Strickland is a great backup. He’s got NBA level athleticism and scoring instincts, although he needs to improve his floor general skills.
One Conference Championship Winner: North Carolina Tar Heels
While I pencil in NC State as the regular season winners, in a head-to-head matchup for all the marbles, I’ll give the nod to Roy William’s Tar Heels. I don’t think Duke has the talent to keep up with either of these squads, and Florida State is a bit too young. This could be Miami, though, if everything goes right for the Hurricanes.
Projected Final Standings:
1. North Carolina State
2. North Carolina
4. Florida State
7. Georgia Tech
9. Wake Forest
11. Virginia Tech
12. Boston College