Another year, another batch of worthless rankings. If you’re one of the dozens of people who have read this blog over the years, you know and I know these rankings mean little to nothing. The experts can’t even get these right, so why will I?
Well, I won’t…but knowing people read what I write makes up for my all my other failures in life, I might as well give it a go.
This season really is a toss up. I think there is a clear No 1 (no matter how much it will pain me to say it), after that, the picture gets a little blurry. There are six teams that could make a solid argument for why they should be ranked No 2.
BIG BALLSY RANKINGS
No 1 – NORTH CAROLINA
You really have to hand it to Coach Williams. While he couldn’t produce a title at Kansas, despite being handed the keys to one of the elite programs in the country, the same can’t be said for what he’s done at North Carolina. Right now, he’s recruiting and winning, which trust me, doesn’t always go hand-and-hand. The Tar Heels just lost four starters to the NBA and a key player (Frasor) off the bench, yet here they are ranked No 1 in the ACC.
Despite all the defections, they have a monster front line of Ed Davis, Thomas and my second favorite (ACC) incoming freshman, John Henson. Add in seven-footer Zeller and two Wear’s and you see what I’m talking about.
However, most of the talk will center around the guards, particularly point guard. Let’s go ahead and clear the air…no, Larry Drew II is not, can not, will not be Ty Lawson. But here’s the thing, he doesn’t have to be. If he can get in the lane (he’s certainly fast enough) and can knock down about 35% of his three-point shots, then that should be enough.
No 2 -DUKE
In reality, I have no clue who’s the second best team, but since this is a Duke blog, then I might as well go with the homer pick here. Everyone knows who Duke lost, everyone knows what they got and who they brought in. The reason I feel confident that Duke can compete again this year has less to do with what they’ve done, and more to do with what everyone else lost.
Duke’s biggest struggles the past few years (and will remain a problem this year) has been their inability to stop dribble penetration from lighting quick guards. The ACC was full of them last year and Duke still finished top three and won the ACC Tournament. This season, the Devils will not have to contend with Lawson, Rice, Douglas, Teague and McClinton.
No 3 – GEORGIA TECH
Yes, I’m buying into the hype. With the return of Gani Lawal and the addition of Derrick Favors, my personal favorite incoming freshman in all of college basketball, the Yellow Jackets have the same amount of 2010 top-10 NBA picks, as they had ACC wins last year (two). More importantly, with the addition of freshman point guard, Mfon Udofla, Shumpert can now slide over to the two-guard spot, which is where he’s suppose to be.
With so many freshman expected needed to play right away, don’t expect Tech to dominate, however, a friendly non-conference schedule will allow Tech to grow.
No 4 – FLORIDA STATE
Yep, I’m taking a big leap of faith. The Seminoles enter the season without last year’s best defender and best offensive weapon, Tony Douglas. Yet, they brought in freshman, Michael Snaer, who will make everyone forget about Douglas rather quickly. Snaer doesn’t have the ball-handling chops of a Tony Douglas, but he’ll embarrass a few folks with his scoring ability.
If Snaed is as good as I’m predicting he will be, it will make life just that much easier for Solomon Alabi. Look for Alabi to become a force in what will be his last year in the ACC, leading the league in blocks and finishing top-five in rebounds. If he can bump his scoring up to 15ppg, then the Noles will match their 10-ACC wins from last season.
No 5 – MARYLAND
While technically there’s a “team” in College Park, let’s not kid ourselves here, it’s all Grievis Vasquez, all the time. The Maryland point guard did the right thing coming back to college for one more try. He is single-handily the most important player to his team. Last year he led the Terps in scoring, rebounds and assists.
Yet, if Maryland really wants to play with the big boys of the ACC, something it hasn’t done in a long while, they’re going to need to find some consistency in the paint. Coach Williams has brought in two centers, Jordan Williams and James Padgett. Both are top-25 at their position. One of them needs to step it up right away. Without an inside game, the Terps will remain a inconsistent one-man band, capable of shocking the world one game (like when they beat UNC last year), while getting their asses handed to them in another (losing to Duke by 41).
No 6 – CLEMSON
Now the league really starts to get murky. Last year, I thought Clemson had finally figured it all out. I really thought they were a series Elite-Eight ball club. So what do they do? They fall in the first round. Thanks.
So why should I expect anything better this year, now that they just lost their top outside shooters, Oglesby and K.C. Rivers? In reality, last year the Tigers shot way too man deep balls. They had one of the most dominating big men in the game, Trevor Booker, but too often, the guards would simply forget about him. Maybe now they’ll stop heaving up three’s like they’re going out of style and will learn that if they want to win, Booker needs to touch the ball in every, single possession.
No 7 – WAKE FOREST
When your team is basically a three-headed monster and your two best heads (Teague and Johnson) head to the pros, things are not going to get better. Granted, it could have been worse. Al-Farouq Aminu could have gone too, but he stuck around. Last year as a freshman, he was a solid 13/8 guy, but let’s not forget, he wasn’t asked to be the star. This year, he will be to No 1 guy. How he handles it, will determine who good this team really is.
By the way, all this talk of Duke’s new front court size and Carolina’s solid big men, let’s not forget about what Wake can put on the floor. With McFarland, Walker and Toney Woods, they can put two seven-footers and a 6’10 guy on the floor at the same time. That’s nearly a 21-foot long front court surrounding the basket.
No 8 – BOSTON COLLEGE
Experience? Check. Size? Check. Go-to scorer…um, that would be Tyrese Rice and he’s gone, baby gone. Someone needs to fill that void. Can it be Rakim Sanders? He knocked down about 13ppg coming off the bench last season. In reality, with Rice gone, BC can certainly be more balanced, getting solid production from Sanders, Jackson and Trapani. However, I’d be shocked if Al Skinner’s boys can produce 20 wins this season.
No 9 – VIRGINIA TECH
Last year, Tech was robbed of an NCAA tournament birth, but this year, they won’t be robbed, they’ll just miss it. The 2008-2009 squad featured A.D. Vassallo and Malcom Delaney, who averaged roughly 37 points per game (half of Tech’s points). Vassallo and his 19 points and six boards are gone. Who’s going to fill the void. The Hokies will need unknowns like J.T. Thomas (hurt late last year), guard Deronzo Hudson and the league’s smallest center, incoming freshman, Cadarian Raines (he’s 6’8 for the record) to do the filling. In reality, it’s probably going to be too much to ask.
No 10 – VIRGINIA
The good news is, nearly everyone important comes back. The bad news is, these same folks didn’t win a lot of conference games last season. However, they do have a new head coach, Tony Bennett. If he can teach the Cavaliers some defense and continue to let guard, Sylvan Landesberg, develop into a star (he should lead the conference in scoring this season), then maybe, just maybe they can find another win or two.
No 11 – MIAMI
Like a lot of teams in this conference, Miami is entering the 2009-10 campaign without last year’s star player, star scorer and team leader. Gone is Jack McClinton. They also lost Jimmy Graham to football, the teams second leading rebounder and best shot blocker. Incoming freshman, Durand Scott, will be asked to fill the void left by McClinton. He certainly has the ability, but in reality, the Hurricanes will be a two-man team of Scott and 6’9 Dwayne Collins.
No 12 – NC STATE
The sad part is, I actually like Sidney Lowe (come on, who doesn’t admire the red jackets?) and I wanted him to succeed. It doesn’t look like he will and the pressure is going to get heavy. NC State loses four solid contributors, who scored half their team’s points and pulled down half their rebounds last season. Who’s going to make up for all that? They are bringing in five freshman (a top 15 class), but their best recruit, Lorenzo Brown, was not eligible and won’t be on campus this season. Can you say, two conference wins?