Preseason Edition ACC Power Rankings
Preseason Edition ACC Power Rankings
The 2011-2012 season was as typical of a season as you’ll see in the ACC. Well, almost. While North Carolina and Duke respectively finished first and second in the conference standings at the end of the regular season as usual, Florida State followed up an incredibly exciting season by doing the unthinkable - well, for those teams not named Duke or Carolina - winning the ACC Tournament.
Sending only four teams to the NCAA Tournament, Duke, UNC, North Carolina State, and Florida State, one can make the argument that it was a down year for the conference. And looking further into the tournament, where Duke was upset (to say the least) by 15-seed Lehigh, Florida State was sent home early in the third round, and UNC only going as far as injured point guard Kendall Marshall could take them as their season was ended in the Elite 8, one team really stood out for the conference moving forward.
The ACC surprise team of the tournament ended up being NC State, and what do you know, they happen to be the favorites to interrupt the Duke/Carolina love fest and win the conference this season. With not only the conference's Preseason Player of the Year in C.J. Leslie, but the Preseason Freshman of the Year as well Rodney Purvis, NC State has grabbed the attention of the ACC and anything less than a first place finish will be considered a let down for Mark Gottfried's bunch.
Returning four starter's from last season's team, including Leslie and point guard Lorenzo Brown, the Wolfpack achieved a 12-game turnaround last season from the season before, which is the fourth best in ACC history. While nobody expects this season's talented team to make a leap like they did last year, they are expected to continue heading in the right direction, and start the season ranked 6 overall in the nation.
Can NC State live up to these high expectations? Will Duke be able to bounce-back from the embarrassing end of their season? How will UNC fair off without their four best players from last seasons team? Is this the season Maryland bounces back? And how bad will Virginia Tech be? These questions and more, will be answered in my weekly ACC Power Rankings.
Let's start with the preseason rankings!
No. 12 - Virginia Tech
Last Season: 16-17 (4-12 ACC)
Last season was ugly and there's very little reason to believe this season will be any better. It seems every team in the conference is making progress but Virginia Tech, and as good as Erick Green is, he has close to nothing around him. Wishing the best of luck to first year coach James Johnson, it can only get better.
No. 11 - Boston College
Last Season: 9-22 (4-12 ACC)
Boston College has youth on their side, or is it working against them? Either way, Ryan Anderson became just the 11th player in ACC history to lead his team in both scoring and rebounding, and he has the potential to be one of the conference's best players this season. The Golden Eagles will return four starters, and five of their top six scorer's, all of whom are freshmen. It could be another long season for Steve Donahue, but at least there's reason to be optimistic considering how young his team truly is.
No. 10 - Georgia Tech
Last Season: 11-20 (4-12 ACC)
Despite returning all five starters from last season's team - the only ACC team to do so - I don't see how Georgia Tech escapes from the dungeon of the conference. A vastly improved defensive team last season, the Yellow Jackets will be without the one player who seemed capable of scoring for them in Glen Rice Jr., which could potentially win them some games if they played in the low-scoring Big 10, but they don't. I can't see them winning more games than they did last season, and I expect to see them near the bottom of this list in weeks to come.
No. 9 - Clemson
Last Season: 16-15 (8-8 ACC)
Backcourt mates Andre Young and Tanner Smith are gone, so Clemson may have a hard time scoring the ball but they still boast an impressive frontcourt with Devin Booker and Milton Jennings. The X-factors this season will be sophomores K.J. McDaniels and Rod Hall, who looked impressive at times in smaller roles last season, and will need to pick up for the leadership that Brad Brownell and his guys lost.
No. 8 - Wake Forest
Last Season: 13-18 (4-12 ACC)
This Wake Forest team has three players who need to be on everyone's radar. C.J. Harris and Travis McKie were two of the better players to fly under-the-radar last season, and Codi Miller-McIntyre will be one of the ACC's best freshmen guards. Any time you can score you have a chance, and with Harris and McKie both coming off of 16-plus points per game averages, I expect them to only get better, and give the middle of the conference a run for their money.
No. 7 - Virginia
Last Season: 22-10 (9-7 ACC)
Virginia will undoubtedly miss senior leaders Mike Scott and Sammy Zeglinski, but junior guards Joe Harris and Jontel Evans pack scoring, defense, and toughness into one of the most competitive teams in the bottom half of the ACC. Seven of the teams 10 losses were decided by a single possession, and with Tony Bennett's defensive emphasis, they'll be in a lot of games this season.
No. 6 - Maryland
Last Season: 17-15 (6-10 ACC)
I'm starting Maryland at six, but have serious convictions that they could go as high as the top four by the end of the season. Mark Turgeon isn't playing games in College Park, and while they might be targeting 2014 as the year they return to prominence, Alex Len and Nick Faust may not be able to wait that long. In my opinion, Maryland is the most unpredictable team in the ACC, but they're definitely worthy of your attention this season.
No. 5 - Miami
Last Season: 20-13 (9-7 ACC)
Not only did Miami have its first ever winning record in ACC play last season, but they return six of their top seven scorers, the top-three of whom are senior leaders. As tough of a team as you'll find in the ACC this season, if they can score the ball at a higher rate than they did last season, they could be looking at a top 25 ranking by season's end. Stay tuned.
No. 4 - Florida State
Last Season: 25-10 (12-4 ACC)
Everyone expects for Florida State to have a down season, except for head coach Leonard Hamilton. Down four starters from the team that won the ACC tournament, the Seminoles return Michael Snaer, who's as likely of a candidate as there is to lead the conference in scoring. As inexperienced as they are, the one thing FSU won't lack is confidence, and defensive intensity, and even if they're not a top-three team in the ACC, expect them to get their usual road wins against either UNC or Duke.
No. 3 - North Carolina
Last Season: 32-6 (14-2 ACC)
This is as depleted of a North Carolina team as there's been since Tyler Hansbrough's freshman season in 2003-2004. Their four best players from last season's Elite Eight team are currently in the NBA, and their best returning player only averaged 15 minutes a game last season. With that said, James Michael McAdoo is expected to really break out, and North Carolina's worst just so happens to be better than most ACC team's best.
No. 2 - North Carolina State
Last Season: 24-13 (9-7 ACC)
Here's the shocker! As good as I think, check that, know North Carolina State will be this season, I'm not going to give them the ACC throne until they prove it. No, I don't need for them to win the conference, but I'd like to see the team that looks so good on paper, be the real deal and show how good they are on the court. I've already mentioned the incredible talent that they're putting out this season, but Duke will also field quite a team, and I tend to not believe things until I see them.
No. 1 - Duke
Last Season: 27-7 (13-3 ACC)
That's right. This might be the only time you see Duke at the top of the ACC anywhere, all season even, but I think they're the best returning team, with a lot of reasons to believe they could surprise a few people this season. As talented as he was, Austin Rivers didn't quite fit the scheme of what Duke does, and him being out of the picture should open things up for Quinn Cook and Seth Curry to be able to really do their thing. With shooters, facilitators, post options and leadership, Duke is one of the most complete teams, and will be at the top of the conference all season for sure.