- The Washington Times - Monday, October 24, 2005

GREENSBORO, N.C. — An ACC season looming with uncertainty will begin with some familiarity — Duke installed as the preseason favorite.

The Blue Devils, last season’s conference tournament winner and a likely national title contender this season, were unanimously voted the league’s top team yesterday in a poll of 87 writers and broadcasters at the league’s media day.

Maryland, which went 19-13 and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1993 last season, was picked fifth in the 12-team league. Virginia Tech was eighth, and Virginia — under new coach Dave Leitao — was voted last.

“I think most people pick Duke first nationally, not just in the ACC, and after that I think there’s some confusion on a lot of people’s parts on how everyone fits into place,” Maryland coach Gary Williams said. “The ACC had a great year [last year] and it should be a great year this year, but I think there’s a lot of even teams.”

Duke is followed by Boston College, Wake Forest, N.C. State, Maryland and defending national champion North Carolina. Miami and Virginia Tech — who had surprising seasons after joining the league last season — were next, followed by Georgia Tech, Clemson, Florida State and Virginia.

The predictions could be shattered in what could be one of the league’s most unpredictable seasons. Boston College is a newcomer to the league, though it thrived in the tough Big East in recent years under coach Al Skinner. Georgia Tech (Jarrett Jack), N.C. State (Julius Hodge) and Wake Forest (Chris Paul) lost their most recognizable players, and North Carolina lost its top seven scorers.

“It’s definitely up in the air,” Maryland guard Chris McCray said. “The best team is going to have to be a [good] road team. I’m pretty sure most of the teams in here, they can pretty much win any game at home. To win it, we’re going to have to win on the road. This year, we have the talent and the experience to win on the road.”

League coaches refused to bury North Carolina, which returns only one player who averaged more than seven minutes in last year’s title run. However, the Tar Heels’ recruiting class — led by Tyler Hansbrough — could help Roy Williams’ team remain a factor this season.

“There’s no one mourning for Roy. He’s going to be just fine,” Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “They’re going to be good again. They’re going to be as good as any team in our conference.”

In other votes, Duke guard J.J. Redick was the preseason pick as player of the year ahead of teammate Shelden Williams. Hansbrough beat out Duke’s Josh McRoberts for preseason rookie of the year.

Redick, Williams, Boston College’s Craig Smith, Miami’s Guillermo Diaz and Wake Forest’s Justin Gray were voted to the preseason all-conference team.

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