Inside the ACC

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Anyone who steps onto campus with Dwight Howard comparisons must be taken seriously. Paired with veteran Gani Lawal, Favors provides the Yellow Jackets a significant inside presence capable of snapping the program out of its recent funk. By the end of the season, he’ll be one of the ACC’s top players.

Malcolm Grant, Miami

Caught in a numbers game at Villanova, Grant took his outside shooting to Coral Gables. There are plenty of opportunities in the backcourt with Jack McClinton out of the picture. Coincidentally, McClinton also thrived after transferring to thrive at Miami.

John Henson, North Carolina

Although he was the jewel of Roy Williams’ recruiting bounty, Henson didn’t slide into the starting lineup when the Tar Heels coasted to a pair of blowouts victories his week. Still, Henson’s rebounding and shot blocking will help. If his perimeter skills translate well to the college game, Carolina might be the favorite to win the conference.

RATING THE ACC

1. Duke (30-7, 11-5 last season)

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (30th season, 760-215)

Where they’re at: The Blue Devils haven’t made the Final Four in the past five years. That’s hardly a concern at most programs, but it’s Duke’s longest drought since Coach K’s first five seasons (1981-85). There’s still excellence in Durham, but it isn’t the unabashed superiority of the past.

Where they’re headed: Into at least the second weekend of the postseason. The presence of Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler gives the Blue Devils probably the best combo in the conference. But with only three guards likely to play regularly - Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Andre Dawkins - Duke will need to win from the inside out. If anyone can manage that, it’s Krzyzewski.

2. North Carolina (34-4, 13-3)

Coach: Roy Williams (seventh season, 178-37)

Where they’re at: In reloading mode. What’s Ole Roy to do after losing the nucleus of a national title team? Stock up on big men. Unlike after the 2005 championship, when the cupboard was nearly bare, the Tar Heels return Marcus Ginyard, Deon Thompson and potential lottery pick Ed Davis.

Where they’re headed: There is no talk of an unbeaten season or an obvious national player of the year and perhaps not an NCAA tournament crown. But there is promise with the arrivals of John Henson and Dexter Strickland. If Larry Drew II is a capable point guard, this could be a top-five team.

3. Clemson (23-9, 9-7)

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