2008-09 Around the ACC: January 12th, 2009

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Now that each ACC team has played at least one conference game, it’s time for
our first basketball edition of “Around the ACC”. For the most part,
the season hasn’t been a surprise. However, one team in particular isn’t having
the start to conference play that they envisioned.

ACC
Basketball Standings
Team Conf. Overall

Clemson
2-0 16-0

Wake Forest
1-0 14-0

Duke
2-0 14-1

Maryland
1-0 12-3

Miami
1-1 12-3

Boston College
1-1 13-4

Virginia Tech
1-1 10-5

Virginia
1-1 7-6

Florida State
0-1 13-3

NC State
0-1 9-4

North Carolina
0-2 14-2

Georgia Tech
0-2 9-6

So far, the ACC appears to be a top heavy league. The conference has four
teams ranked in the Top 10 of this week’s ESPN/USA Today Poll.


#9 Clemson Tigers (16-0, 2-0)

Clemson is known for their fast starts under head coach Oliver Purnell, but
this year is even better than usual. The Tigers are off to a 16-0 start,
including a 2-0 mark in ACC play. They have defeated Miami and NC State in
conference games, and hold out-of-conference wins over teams such as Temple,
Illinois and Alabama.

The Tigers have had the same starting lineup for all 16 games. Trevor Booker
is developing into one of the top interior players in the conference, while
Clemson also has major perimeter threats in Terrence Oglesby and K.C. Rivers.

While the Tigers don’t have great depth at this point, their starting five is
capable of playing with and beating any team in the ACC. Barring a giant
meltdown over the next couple of months, this is a definite NCAA tournament
team.


#3 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (14-0, 1-0)

Wake Forest is ranked #3 in the nation and they received two first place
votes courtesy of their 92-89 victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels on
Thursday night. Sophomore guard Jeff Teague dropped 34 points on the Heels in
the win, and the Demon Deacons look like a legit contender for the Final Four.

While Wake played a pretty easy out-of-conference schedule for the most part,
they do have three quality wins against Baylor, BYU and UNC. They are very
balanced offensively, with four players averaging double figures in scoring.
Teague leads the way with 20.6 points per game. The Deacs are shooting over 50%
from the field this season.

Wake will find out what they’re made of over the course of the next month.
Four of their next six games are on the road.

Up Next: at Boston College (Jan. 14), at Clemson (Jan. 17)


#2 Duke Blue Devils (14-1, 2-0)

Like several other ACC teams, Duke looks like they are capable of making a
run deep into postseason play. The Blue Devils have just one loss on the year,
an upset at the hands of Michigan. They are 2-0 in ACC play with relatively easy
wins against Virginia Tech and Florida State. As usual, Duke is one of the top
defensive teams in the country.

Four players average double figures in scoring for Duke. Sophomore forward
Kyle Singler has developed an all-around point forward’s game. He leads the team
in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. Coach K has finally developed enough
depth that he is bringing three-year starter Greg Paulus off the bench as a
senior at point guard.

Duke plays Georgia on Wednesday before taking on Georgetown in a huge matchup
on Saturday.

Up Next: at Georgia Tech (Jan. 14), Georgetown (Jan. 17)


Maryland Terrapins (12-3, 1-0)

Maryland has been a very odd team so far this season. The Terps blew out a
very good Michigan State team 80-62, then turned around and were crushed in turn
by Gonzaga (81-59) and Georgetown (75-48). To top it off, they lost at home to
Morgan State on Wednesday, and then beat Georgia Tech on Saturday.

The Terps have an extreme lack of inside players. Generally they’ll start
three guards, a small forward and one post player. They do have talented
perimeter players, such as point guard Greivis Vasquez, who is once again
carrying the team. Vasquez is leading the team in scoring (17.9 ppg) and
rebounding (6.2 ppg).

As usual, it’s tough to say how Maryland’s season will go at this point. They
have two tough road games coming up at Miami and Florida State.

Up Next: at Miami (Jan. 14), at Florida State (Jan. 17)


Miami Hurricanes (12-3, 1-1)

Miami is another ACC team that appears to be in a strong position to make a
run at the NCAA tournament. The Hurricanes are 12-3, and they have no bad
losses. Their losses have come to UConn, Ohio State and Clemson. Miami’s best
win was a 73-67 victory against Kentucky in Rupp Arena.

The ‘Canes have two very good players in guard Jack McClinton and center
Dwayne Collins. They are an excellent inside duo. McClinton is averaging 16.9
points per game, while Collins is averaging 12.1. They complement each other
very well. However, they are the only two players on the roster who average in
double figures.

Miami does have talent and depth. They regularly use 11 players in the
rotation, and they can bring in experienced players off the bench in Brian
Asbury and Jimmy Graham.

Miami will have two big tests this week with Maryland and North Carolina.

Up Next: Maryland (Jan. 14), at North Carolina (Jan. 17)


Boston College Eagles (13-4, 1-1)

Boston College certainly had an up and down week. The Eagles pulled a shocker
when they knocked off then #1 UNC in Chapel Hill 85-78. After that victory
bumped BC into the Top 25, the promptly lost to an overmatched Harvard team
82-70 at home. Over the weekend, they dropped another home contest to Miami
77-71.

BC is led by point guard Tyrese Rice, a Virginia native who is arguably the
best player in the ACC. Joe Trapani, Corey Raji and Rakim Sanders also average
in double figures for the Ealges.

So how good is Boston College? Obviously they have the ability to beat good
teams, but they also have the ability to lose to bad ones. Things won’t get any
easier. They host red-hot Wake Forest next, and then go on the road for
back-to-back games at Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.

Up Next: Wake Forest (Jan. 14), at Virginia Tech (Jan. 17)


Virginia Tech Hokies (10-5, 1-1)

Virginia Tech has been the ACC’s hard luck team thus far. Four of their five
losses have come by a total of seven points, and they are arguably three plays
away from being 13-2 and a probable Top 25 team. However, thanks to another year
of not getting enough wins in the out-of-conference portion of their schedule,
the Hokies are going to have to play very well in the ACC.

However, that doesn’t look like it has a great chance of happening at this
point. A.D. Vassallo and Malcolm Delaney are excellent players, but Jeff Allen
didn’t use the offseason to improve his post game, and he’s in the middle of a
major slump. Only Vassallo, Delaney and Allen average more than five points per
game. If all three play well, the Hokies can accomplish their goals. However,
Tech needs more consistency from Allen right now.

Tech has two straight home games against Richmond and Boston College. They
need to win those games and get themselves to 12-5. That would give them a
chance down the stretch.

Up Next: Richmond (Jan. 14), Boston College (Jan. 17)


Virginia Cavaliers (7-6, 1-1)

Virginia has some good young talent in their program, but their fans are
going to have to be patient. The Hoos are starting three freshmen this year, and
are not getting good play from senior guard Mamadi Diane. Freshman Sylven
Landesberg is averaging 18.5 points per game, and looks like one of the top
players in the conference.

The Hoos have won just seven games this year, which is the fewest of any team
in the ACC. They are going to have a very difficult time making it to postseason
play, and that includes the NIT.

Unfortunately for UVA, their next game is on Thursday night against a UNC
team that should be highly motivated.

Up Next: UNC (Jan. 15)


Florida State Seminoles (13-3, 0-1)

Florida State is off to an excellent start, despite dropping their conference
opener at home to Duke on Saturday. The ‘Noles have quality wins against Cal and
Florida, and took #1 Pitt down to the wire. Maybe this can finally be the year
that Leonard Hamilton gets his team back to the NCAA tournament.

FSU is led by guard Toney Douglas, who is averaging 18.4 points per game. No
one else is averaging in double figures, though freshman forward Chris Singleton
is close at 9.8 points per game. JUCO transfer Derwin Kitchen, cousin of former
Virginia Tech guard Jamon Gordon, joined the team after the first semester and
is averaging eight points per game.

The ‘Noles are off to a good start, and have an RPI in the Top 35 (according
to RealTimeRPI.com). Eight conference wins would likely be enough to get them
into the NCAA tournament.

Up Next: at NC State (Jan. 13), Maryland (Jan. 17)


NC State Wolfpack (9-4, 0-1)

As usual, we have no idea how good NC State is in early January. All four of
their losses have close setbacks to Top 50 teams, but none of their victories
have come over anyone that is likely to finish in the Top 150 of the RPI. In
short, the Wolfpack may or may not be better than they were last year. As of
now, they are 0-1 in the ACC with a 63-51 loss to Clemson.

You’ll still recognize many of the names you’ve heard over the past few
years. Ben McCauley and Brandon Costner make up NC State’s outstanding post duo.
McCauley is perhaps the best passer of all interior players in the conference.
Courtney Fells is an outstanding athlete on the wing. However, the Wolfpack
still have point guard issues. As a result, the offense is run through their
biggest player, McCauley.

NC State’s next two games are winnable, with Florida State and Georgia Tech
visiting Raleigh.

Up Next: Florida State (Jan. 13), Georgia Tech (Jan. 17)


#6 North Carolina Tar Heels (14-2, 0-2)

The sixth-ranked team in the nation is in a tie for dead last in its own
conference. Such is life in the ACC, which looks nasty this year. UNC has
dropped back-to-back conference games against Boston College and Wake Forest
after spending the entire out-of-conference portion of their schedule ranked #1
in the nation.

North Carolina still isn’t playing defense at as high a level as you would
expect a team of their talent level. They allowed 85 points to Boston College,
and another 92 to Wake Forest. Though UNC games are generally higher scoring
because of the pace they play offensively, that’s still too many points allowed.
If Marcus Ginyard can get back to 100% from his injury, he should help them
quite a bit defensively.

The Tar Heels will likely take their anger and aggression out on a very young
UVA team in Charlottesville on Thursday night.

Up Next: at Virginia (Jan. 15), Miami (Jan. 17)


Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (9-6, 0-2)

Georgia Tech is 0-2 in ACC play, but they could easily be 2-0. They lost to
Virginia 88-84 in overtime in their opening conference game, and they blew a
halftime lead to Maryland in a 68-61 setback on Saturday afternoon. The Yellow
Jackets were expected to compete for the bottom of the cellar this year, and it
looks like they’ll do just that.

All five of Georgia Tech’s starters average in double figures. Gani Lawal is
the leading scorer at 16.8 points per game. However, they don’t have a lot of
scoring talent coming off the bench, with the exception of point guard Maurice
Miller, who is currently nursing a broken nose.

The Yellow Jackets have Duke and NC State coming up, so things won’t be
getting any easier.

Up Next: Duke (Jan. 14), at NC State (Jan. 17)

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