[Editor’s note: This is the second of our ACC Previews. Make sure to check in periodically on the predictions, the previewer whose predictions are worse will be executed.]
It’s me, MannysHeadStash, gearing up for another season of NCAA Basketball. I’ll be here all year long keeping it real for the East Coast-biased fans of the ACC. Ever since Chris Webber’s extra timeout had me collecting lunch money in 5th grade I’ve been a TarHeel supporter. Jamison and Carter, May and McCants, even Zwikker and Calabria hold a special place in my heart. Which means I’ll probably be insufferable around here as the Heels run roughshod over all comers.
So if you’re in the market for irrational Duke hate, hare-brained predictions and zany zingers, jump with me like Air Canada over Frederick Weis…
This looks to be a big year for the Tar Heels. Much like the 2005 championship team, they’ve had a taste of the tournament, matured and seem poised for a shot at the Final Four. Hansbrough, Ginyard, Frasor and Green are all juniors this year. Will they have the same success that May, McCants and Felton had in their junior years? That may depend on whether or not sophomore forwards Alex Stepheson and Deon Thompson make the leap to fill the spots left by Reyshawn Terry and Brandan Wright (and their combined 25 PPG!), and if 2nd-year guard Tywon Lawson can build upon his stellar first season. (10.2 PPG, 5.6 APG)
Even with these x-factors, it’s probably safe to say that Tyler Hansbrough should put together another All-American caliber season, hopefully complete with Rip Hamilton-esque unnecessary facemask. Coach Roy Williams isn’t gonna rest on his laurels after his trip to Springfield last April; in fact, he should probably be booking a trip to San Antonio for next spring.
What can you say about Deron Washington? Virginia Tech athletic department cliché-speak claims he “fits their system well.” Apparently their system requires a 6’7” swingman that can rebound (his 5.3 RPG led the team), block shots (second on team with 35) and get to the rim all day (12.0 PPG). He’ll improve on that this year and lead the team in scoring, (which is already happening in preseason play) and he’ll probably lead the Hokies to a second place finish in the ACC.
Malinese import Cheick Diakite should be able to fill the low-post role left empty by Coleman Collins, who incidentally was named after a camping gear company. Puerto Rock star A.D. Vassalo brings a similar skill set to the table as Washington’s. Fortunately for the Hokies, having two athletic multi-positional swingmen is the kind of redundancy that pays off. And a whole Virginia Tech preview is written without me making a joke about their shooting woes. Tremendous restraint.
Senior point guard Sean Singletary declared for the 2007 NBA Draft, but pulled himself out (see Travis Henry? It’s not that hard). He’ll return to lead a Cavaliers squadron that found itself second in the ACC last year behind perennial juggernaut UNC. I see them falling a spot this year. The Cavaliers came into the year with high hopes for Nigerian sophomore Solomon Tat, but it appears Tat will be sidelined for at least a few weeks while he recovers from sports hernia surgery. If you’re not familiar with sports hernias, have someone kick you in the balls (or for you ladies out there, ovaries) about 300 times and then try to outrebound Roy Hibbert. Junior center Tunji Soroye suffered from a similar injury last season. Looks like Virginia needs to hire a new crotch-and-groin man for their medical staff.
The Cavs find themselves with a plethora of guards to complement/spell Singletary. Returning starter Mamadi Diane is an excellent option at the 2, and 2006 CAA freshman of the year Calvin Baker is eligible to play PG after his transfer from William and Mary. Expectations for incoming frosh guard Mustapha Farrakhan may have to be lowered with the rumors that he plans to play while wearing a bow tie.
The 66th best team in the country. Is that really a fair way to describe the NIT Champions? They’ve already cracked some preseason Top 25 polls, they return four starters and their leading scorer, and they have an exciting young point guard in the making (Demontez Stitt). Still, while James Mays (12.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG) and K.C. Rivers (14.3 PPG) should put up some serious numbers, the Tigers will have to move on from last year’s demoralizing fall from grace that found them at 25-11 after a 17-0 start. The good news? They’ve shown they know how to win in tournament play. Now they just have to remain relevant until Selection Sunday.
When you return four out of five starters from a good team, and you’ve got the 25th anniversary of one of the most memorable championships in NCAA history, expectations are going to be high. The question is, will we see coach Sidney Lowe in a Valvano Monologues press conference sob-a-thon because his team is cutting down nets or because they couldn’t fill the Converse of the “Cardiac Pack?” The answer rests with sophomore starter Brad Costner. Will he turn the “Old Barn” into a Fieldhouse of Dreams? Can he continue putting the rock in the Tin Cup? Is Courtney Fells talented enough to be the perfect Bodyguard for Costner? Could NC State be Untouchable? Waterworld reference? Suffice it to say, when March Madness rolls around, 2008’s Big Dance is with Wolves.
Considering the Terps lost two of their top players from last year, Ekene Ibekwe and Darryl “The D.J. Could Stand For Anything, Not Necessarily Darryl Junior” Strawberry, as well as their only player with the same name as an annoying, self-aggrandizing rapper, they appear to be fielding a pretty decent squad for the 07-08 season. Senior James Gist brings back his 12 and 7, and Bambale Osby may change his job description from “spark off the bench” to “Chris Wilcox” this year. Floor general Greivis Vasquez is back for round two with the Terrapins after leading the team in assists as a freshman. Equally impressive youngster Eric Hayes returns to the dime-fest as well. How will the Terps fare in 07-08? Not too bad, all right? Get off my back, Scott Van Pelt.
The Dookies are looking to shake off the disgrace of last year’s first-round tournament exit at the hands of Eric Maynor and Virginia Commonwealth. This year, they can look to dump all their troubles on the back of Josh McRoberts. The explosive junior forward will have to shoulder more of the scoring load this year, as…wait, what? Declared for the draft as a sophomore, you say? I thought Coach K didn’t let them out early. Well, when you see a first-round caliber talent, you have to let them go. 37th overall? Really? Well, good luck with all that, Big Josh.
Having lost their best player on the strength of that one time he almost scored 20 against Kent State, the Devils will need to depend on their veteran backcourt to get them through the year. DeMarcus Nelson led the team with 14.1 PPG last year and could be the next borderline useless Duke guard to make the NBA come the 2008 draft, at which point he’ll share an apartment with Chris Duhon and Jay Williams. His backcourt running mate Greg Paulus should pick up his game a bit this year in an effort to dispel the rumor that he is, in fact, 12 years old.
And that’s about it for Duke. I don’t see any significant sources of frontcourt scoring on their roster, unless McDonald’s All-American freshman forwards Taylor King and Kyle Singler are prepared to contribute right away. The returning forwards averaged about 13 PPG total between them, and the only center on the team is from New Jersey. Oh well, at least Gerald Henderson has a shot to lead the ACC in “punching Tyler Hansbrough in the face” again.
Junior point guard Tyrese Rice is the standout on this BC team. He’ll lead the team and conference in minutes this year, and perhaps even improve on last year’s 17.6 PPG. In fact, he must score more now that Sean Williams, Jared Dudley and Sean Marshall have left for greener pastures (and Turkey.) Nonetheless, BC returns a solid squad including undersized banger (that description makes him sound like Chris Hansen is waiting in the next room) Shamari Spears and 6’10” senior John Oates, who reaps what he sows from beyond the three-point arc. Pun notwithstanding, he’s not that good at basketball, but he’ll hit more threes than a big man should.
The Eagles won’t quite reach the heights that Matt Ryan and the rest of the BC footballers achieved this season, but Al Skinner’s contract extension (on board ‘til 2013) should be enough to prove that the Eagles have their eye on hoops as well as the pigskin. However, if BC gets stuck in a region as tough as the one they were in last year (UNC, Georgetown, Texas, USC, Texas Tech, WSU) they’ll be lucky to escape the first round.
Al Thornton may be plying his wares for the LA Clippers, but don’t despair, ‘Noles fans. Isaiah Swann, Jason Rich and Toney Douglas return to anchor FSU’s 3-guard system. They’ve even got a fourth backcourt option in the electric Ralph Mims. However, a schedule that has them facing 9 of last year’s tourney teams including reigning back-to-back champs Florida (the night before the Gators and Seminoles meet on the gridiron), and a dangerous Butler as well may give them fits.
I’m sure that Yellow Jackets fans would love to forget about the off-season exploits of some of their alumni. I’m sure they’d love to look forward to an improvement over last year’s 8-8 ACC record which left them in the middle of the pack in the conference. However, they will be without the services of NBAers Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young, not to mention undrafted Mario West. When you find head coach Paul Hewitt saying things like he can not get around inexperience at the point position, one tends to be a little skeptical of the Rambling Wreck’s hopes for the 07-08 season.
After the shocking death of head coach Skip Prosser, the fairy tale season for the Demon Deacons would have newly promoted assistant Dino Gaudio leading Wake to the Big Dance. The reality is that Wake Forest just doesn’t have the talent to live out that dream. I’m sure that the Deacs would love to run rampant over the ACC in memory of their departed coach, but instead they’ll have to deal with a long and depressing season in the Tobacco Belt.
Sure, the ‘Canes may have come in last place in the ACC last year, finishing 12-20. It’s hardly their fault. I blame the fans. I mean, in this post-Katrina world, who wants to cheer for a Hurricane. Fortunately, The U has come up with a solution that addresses all of last year’s issues and puts them in a position to wrest control of the ACC: NEW UNIFORMS! OMG THESE ARE FAB-U-LOUS! There is no doubt in my mind that the new-look ‘Canes will…still finish in the bottom three in the ACC. Watch out, Georgia Tech!