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5 Things to Watch For In ACC On Opening Weekend

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ACC Basketball: 5 Things to Watch on Opening Weekend

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Jamie Rhodes - USA TODAY Sports

For college basketball fans, this weekend marks the most wonderful time of year. That's right, college hoops are back, and the Atlantic Coast Conference is going to be in full swing with a full slate of action.

New teams like Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame will finally take to the court as members of the conference while teams like Duke and North Carolina can begin seeing whether they can live up to the preseason hype. For a team like Virginia, this season is all about measuring just how good they can actually be, and this weekend marks the start of their quest to become one of the top teams in the nation.

So with that in mind, it's a good time to take a look around the conference and start to figure out just what some of the key things are to keep an eye on with the season just a few days away. Obviously, some teams are playing opponents who are best served topped with frosting in a bakery, so it'll be a little difficult to really take anything of note away in those games.

Still, there's enough intrigue and some decent enough matchups to make this weekend well worth your viewing time. Heck, let's just be honest here. Anytime you can sit down and watch any college basketball, it's well worth your time. So without further ado, let's get right to the most interesting things to keep an eye on as the 2013-14 season opens up this weekend.

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5. How will North Carolina Do Without P.J. Hairston?

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Bobby Donnan - USA TODAY Sports

With the status of star swingman P.J. Hairston up in the air as the season begins, how will the Tar Heels be able to cope without arguably their best scorer and player? Roy Williams will need his to disappointing star forward James Michael McAdoo to step up and carry the team in Hairston's absence. After two years of college ball in which he's failed to live up to preseason hype, will this be the year McAdoo turns it around?

The first chance Carolina fans will get to see how well McAdoo does as the leader by default comes on Friday when the Heels take on Oakland at 9:00 p.m.

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4. Can Jerian Grant Help Notre Dame Challenge for an ACC Title?

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Debby Wong - USA TODAY Sports

One of the big coups for the ACC was being able to bring in Notre Dame in addition to Syracuse and Pittsburgh. The Irish have long been a solid program under Mike Brey, and if they ever join a conference for football, the ACC would have to be the front-runner at this point. For now, however, the question remains just how good they can be under the leadership of guards Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins. Both are dynamic, versatile players, but it'll be the 6-foot-5 Grant who will get the bulk of the attention from both opposing teams and professional scouts.

The Irish will be getting into action on Friday, when they take on Miami (Ohio) at 7:00 p.m.

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3. Is Dez Wells Ready to Lead Maryland to an Upset over Connecticut?

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John David Mercer - USA TODAY Sports

The Maryland Terrapins enter their final season as a member of the ACC in 2013-14, and the Terps have the best chance to make a real statement for the conference on opening weekend as they take on No. 18-ranked Connecticut on Friday at 6:30 p.m. The Terps have a solid core of players, led by the explosive Dez Wells, but will it be enough to take down the Huskies?

One thing that is for sure is that, by the end of the day on Friday, we'll have a much better idea about whether the Terps are a contender or a pretender in the race for the ACC title.

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2. Can Tyler Ennis Fill the Shoes of Michael Carter-Williams?

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Mark Konezny - USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few days, you may have heard about a guy named Michael Carter-Williams, a rookie point guard who is tearing up the NBA in his first few games. And as nice as it's been for Syracuse fans to see the guy who led them to a Final Four appearance last year do well at the next level, the stark reality is they've still got to replace him in the lineup if they want a repeat performance. Fortunately, Jim Boeheim seems to have found a more-than-capable replacement in Tyler Ennis. Ennis is a pure point guard who rarely makes mistakes, but it's awfully tough to ask a freshman to step in for a star like MCW.

'Cuse fans will get their first real look at just how well Ennis is able to handle the pressure of being the team's floor general when they take on Cornell at 7:00 p.m. on Friday night.

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1. How Rusty Will Rodney Hood Be After a Year Off?

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Mark Dolejs - USA TODAY Sports

Duke freshman Jabari Parker is getting all of the attention in Durham, and perhaps deservedly so. After all, he was one of the most sought after recruits in the nation last year and many think he could challenge for both the ACC Player of the Year award and a spot in the top-five of the NBA Draft. But there's another swingman on the Duke roster who could just as easily do those very same things depending on how well he's able to bounce back after sitting out for a year, and that's Rodney Hood. Hood showed flashes of outright dominance in his freshman season at Mississippi State and he will be a key if the Blue Devils want to make a run at a National Championship, which is certainly a more-than-attainable goal.

The Blue Devils face a relatively tough test in their opener against a Davidson program that's been consistently solid ever since Steph Curry was pouring in 3-pointers. Duke takes the floor at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, and that's when fans will get to see just how much rust there is for Hood to shake off.