- The Washington Times - Monday, November 4, 2002

GREENSBORO, N.C. The status quo changed last regular season in the ACC, but a media poll doesn't expect it to happen again.

Duke was picked to win the league in a poll yesterday among media members at a Greensboro resort. The Blue Devils received 79 of 93 first-place votes. Maryland, the defending national champion, was on nine ballots. N.C. State got four votes and is expected to finish third, and Georgia Tech got one and forecasted to place fourth.

Not surprisingly among the largely North Carolina media, Chris Duhon was named preseason player of the year. The Duke guard got 26 votes, while Virginia's Travis Watson notched 23 and Wake Forest's Josh Howard received 20. Maryland point guard Steve Blake and N.C. State's Julius Hodge were also on the preseason All-ACC team.

The conference is marked by its lack of proven stars this season. Duke lost three starters, including All-American Jason Williams and lottery pick Mike Dunleavy. Maryland returns only one starter in Blake. Watson, a second-team all-league selection last season, is the only player back among the All-ACC first and second teams.

The league will be stocked with support players looking for starring roles and talented freshmen shooting for an instant impact.

"It's going to be a little more unpredictable than you have had the last couple of years," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said of the league that lost 28 of 45 starters from last season. "Because you had veteran, experienced guys. If they stayed healthy, they were going to be able to carry their basketball team. Obviously last year, if Maryland was in a game at the end, you knew Juan Dixon was going to find a way to get it done. He and Lonny Baxter were going to find a way to help their team win."

Virginia was picked fifth, followed by Wake Forest, North Carolina, Clemson and Florida State. The Seminoles' new coach is former Wizards coach Leonard Hamilton.

The second team was made up of Duke's Dahntay Jones, Clemson's Edward Scott, Maryland's Tahj Holden, N.C. State's Marcus Melvin and North Carolina's Raymond Felton, who was also named rookie of the year.

This was the first trip back to North Carolina for many of the Terrapins since they won the national title, which came after they went 15-1 in league play and captured the ACC regular-season title. They weren't surprised that few on Tobacco Road expect them to repeat.

"We're a little more hated now in the ACC because we won the national championship," said Holden, one of four experienced seniors back in College Park. "They're going to try to take it to us. We beat a lot of good teams last year. They think they'll get us. We'll surprise some people."

Maryland will try to incorporate four freshmen and junior college All-American Jamar Smith with the veterans. Duke has six highly touted freshmen, while North Carolina also has a top recruiting class of six players. Youth will be served on a nightly basis in the ACC this season.

"The league is wide open," said Wake's Howard, whose team has five freshmen. "It's going to be which team grows up the fastest."

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