- The Washington Times - Friday, November 14, 2008

ALL-ACC

The projected all-conference team:

G Ty Lawson, North Carolina

Let’s try this again: Lawson, when healthy, is a perfect fit for Roy Williams’ up-tempo style.

G Tyrese Rice, Boston College

Will score. And score. And score. Expect some 30-point nights. After all, the Eagles have to get points from somewhere.

G Jack McClinton, Miami

A shooter without a conscience, the Hurricanes’ star has the goods to go off from long range at any time.

F Jeff Allen, Virginia Tech

Included to provide balance because Greivis Vasquez was the next-best guard; if his head is on right, he will blossom as a sophomore.

C Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina

The great mystery is when Hansbrough will return. Assuming he plays most of the year, he will warrant this spot.

FOUR KEY NEWCOMERS

These guys didn’t spend much time in the spotlight last year, but they will have a significant influence on the season.

Joe Trapani, Boston College

The transfer from Vermont slides nicely into the spot vacated when Shamari Spears transferred to Charlotte. Trapani will provide some help inside, but he is also an option from the perimeter. Anything that alleviates pressure on Tyrese Rice will help.

Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest

The biggest prize in the Demon Deacons’ highly regarded recruiting class, Aminu and sophomore James Johnson will opponents plenty of fits. Of all the ACC’s freshmen, Aminu is the best bet to stay one year before bolting for the NBA.

Iman Shumpert, Georgia Tech

Well, let’s see. D’Andre Bell is out for the season with a spinal injury. Lewis Clinch is academically ineligible (again). That means plenty of work for Shumpert, who’s a good bet for ACC rookie of the year.

Sylven Landesberg, Virginia

Who fills the diminutive Sean Singletary’s absurdly large shoes in Charlottesville? It could be Landesberg, who should find playing time plentiful assuming he’s ready to take over at point guard. One problem: Whom does he pass to?

RANKING THE ACC

North Carolina

Last year: 36-3, 14-2 ACC

Coach: Roy Williams (sixth season)

Where they’re at: The Tar Heels are the undisputed winner of the annual preseason beauty contest, a consensus pick to win an NCAA title. The roster includes Last year:’s national player of the year in Tyler Hansbrough and five starters from a Final Four team still stinging from a semifinal loss to Kansas.

Where they’re headed: Hansbrough’s stress reaction in his shin — and indefinite shelving — puts a damper on Carolina’s aspirations. But Roy’s boys are deep and talented and should collect another conference championship regardless of Psycho T’s long-term whereabouts.

Prediction: 26-4, 14-2

Duke

Last year: 28-6, 13-3

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (29th season)

Where they’re at: The Blue Devils have switched up at point guard, installing Nolan Smith over Greg Paulus, and figure to be a little more menacing inside with freshman Miles Plumlee. Gerald Henderson and Jon Scheyer seem poised to progress as juniors and get Duke beyond the first weekend of the NCAAs.

Where they’re headed: Probably a season ensconced in the top 10. Krzyzewski’s national team duties are complete, and his latest challenge is to make the Blue Devils national title contenders again. If anyone shouldn’t be underestimated, it’s Coach K.

Prediction: 25-6, 12-4

Miami

Last year: 23-11, 8-8

Coach: Frank Haith (fifth season)

Where they’re at: Hello, prosperity. After preseason pundits pegged the Hurricanes as the worst team in the ACC, they surged to their first NCAA tournament since 2002. Thanks to the return of perimeter assassin Jack McClinton, they’re looking at the distinct chance of an encore performance.

Where they’re headed: A memorable season. The Hurricanes have overachieved in three of Haith’s four seasons, with injuries derailing the one exception. If Miami can remain physical in the paint and receive capable point guard play, McClinton will handle much of what else is needed.

Prediction: 20-9, 10-6

Virginia Tech

Last year: 21-14, 9-7

Coach: Seth Greenberg (sixth season)

Where they’re at: Three things are certain about the Hokies this season: Crafty point guard Malcolm Delaney, senior swingman A.D. Vassallo and talented big man Jeff Allen. That’s a quietly impressive core, and there’s plenty of complementary parts to make this a solid team.

Where they’re headed: No more underestimating of the Hokies. Greenberg does a superb job in Blacksburg, though he can’t force Allen to mature. The sophomore faced both foul trouble and a suspension for making contact with an official last year, but he’s also capable of emerging as the ACC’s best big man outside of Chapel Hill.

Prediction: 20-10, 9-7

Clemson

Last year: 24-10, 10-6

Coach: Oliver Purnell (sixth season)

Where they’re at: Coming off an NCAA tournament appearance for the first time in a decade. That’s a nice place to be for Purnell, who presided over a methodical rebuilding project. Now all he needs is a surefire replacement for Cliff Hammonds.

Where they’re headed: Unless chronic free throw problems resurface, it is difficult to imagine Clemson fading back to the mid-pack morass. The inside-outside combination of K.C. Rivers and Trevor Booker should keep the Tigers in the hunt for another NCAA appearance — and perhaps another top-three ACC finish.

Prediction: 22-8, 9-7

Wake Forest

Last year: 17-13, 7-9

Coach: Dino Gaudio (second season)

Where they’re at: The Demon Deacons endured an emotional season in the months after the death of former coach Skip Prosser. But forward James Johnson and guard Jeff Teague emerged as certain starters as freshmen, and a talented incoming class offers even more hope for Wake.

Where they’re headed: The Demon Deacons have missed the past three NCAA tournaments, but there’s too much talent for that streak to continue. Wiry forward Al-Farouq Aminu will make an instant impact, and a suddenly deep team figures to improve as much as anyone as the season unfolds.

Prediction: 19-10, 9-7

Maryland

Last year: 19-15, 8-8

Coach: Gary Williams (20th season)

Where they’re at: The Terrapins have missed the NCAA tournament three times in the past four years — and it could easily become four out of five. With plenty of questions surrounding an inexperienced frontcourt, it’s easy to see frustration becoming palpable at Comcast Center by February.

Where they’re headed: Wherever it is, Greivis Vasquez will be the one taking them there. The Venezuelan is a threat to produce a triple-double at any time, though it could be with turnovers rather than assists. Vasquez is never boring — and it’s unlikely the Terps will be at any point this winter, either.

Prediction: 18-12, 6-10

Florida State

Last year: 19-15, 7-9

Coach: Leonard Hamilton (seventh season)

Where they’re at: The Seminoles have reached the postseason three straight years for the first time since the Pat Kennedy era. Of course, all three trips were to the NIT. Three of Florida State’s top four scorers are gone, so the infusion of freshman talent needs to come quick.

Where they’re headed: Back to the NIT. Senior Toney Douglas figures to be unleashed now that three of his backcourt mates are gone, but it’s not easy to see a way for the Seminoles to crack the top half of the conference. At some point, you wonder how much patience Florida State will have with a guy who has not produced an NCAA berth.

Prediction: 18-13, 6-10

Boston College

Last year: 14-17, 4-12

Coach: Al Skinner (12th season)

Where they’re at: If the Eagles placed an ad after last season, it probably started “Desperately ISO post players.” Boston College remains untested inside, and its leading rebounder from last year (Shamari Spears) transferred to Charlotte. Skinner usually extracts as much as possible, though that could be a challenge this season.

Where they’re headed: Much like Maryland, the Eagles have a single charismatic player who can take over. Alas, Tyrese Rice didn’t receive much help last year. Rice is probably the best guard in the ACC, but if no one else picks up the scoring slack, he will be doomed to a season much like the last one.

Prediction: 17-14, 6-10

N.C. State

Last year: 15-16, 4-12

Coach: Sidney Lowe (third season)

Where they’re at: Handed a preseason ranking last fall, the Wolfpack teetered early, recovered, then lost their last nine. The anticipation of a postseason return is gone, replaced instead with dreams of adequacy. Forwards Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley ensure a rebound is possible.

Where they’re headed: Nowhere special. N.C. State’s point guard play remains a little dubious, and good luck forgetting about last year’s collapse. But if the frontcourt is as strong as it should be, the Wolfpack could emerge as a nuisance, at least in Raleigh.

Prediction: 16-13, 6-10

Georgia Tech

Last year: 15-17, 7-9

Coach: Paul Hewitt (ninth season)

Where they’re at: Searching for a backcourt. Sophomore Moe Miller will be better off after playing extensively at point guard last year, and freshman Iman Shumpert will find plenty of court time with Lewis Clinch (academics) and D’Andre Bell (spine surgery) sidelined.

Where they’re headed: It’s not easy getting a read on the Yellow Jackets, who always seem to have a plethora of athletic big men to choose from. There’s not as many as usual, but star turns from Gani Lawal and Zack Peacock would help Hewitt’s team immeasurably.

Prediction: 15-14, 5-11

Virginia

Last year: 17-16, 5-11

Coach: Dave Leitao (fourth season)

Where they’re at: In rebuilding mode. The Cavaliers lost four-year anchor Sean Singletary and are left with few certainties. Senior guard Mamadi Diane figures to be the central figure in the offense, though freshman Sylven Landesberg likely will see time at point guard.

Where they’re headed: So much depends on the progress of Landesberg, as well as sophomores Jeff Jones and Mike Scott. Leitao’s first two teams greatly exceeded the low bar set for them, and he has to hope he has collected enough talent to do the same this time around. The outlook, though, isn’t promising sans Singletary.

Prediction: 11-16, 4-12

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