ACC Backcourts Are As good As It Gets

By Gregory Philson
Joe Harris
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Excellent guard play has a long history in the ACC, and the 2013-14 season will exemplify that with the best backcourts in the nation coming from the conference.

Duke is projected to finish first in the league and is as much of a national title contender as anyone. Freshman Jabari Parker is a major reason for this, but the players getting him the ball off of the wing — junior Quinn Cook and sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon — will play crucial roles. Cook averaged nearly 12 PPG and more than five assists while Sulaimon posted 11.6 PPG. Also, both players are accustomed to feeding the ball to great players after having played with Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee.

North Carolina‘s backcourt is not the typical speedy attack ACC fans are used to seeing from coach Roy Williams led teams, but that does not mean it is not talented. Marcus Paige averaged 8.2 PPG and 4.6 APG and improved as the season progressed. Paige averaged 5.4 assists over his last 10 games. Eventually, Paige will be joined by the ineligible Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston. McDonald should be back sooner rather than later, and the Tar Heels will desperately need his turnover-free game. Hairston is the final piece in the backcourt and his scoring (14.6 PPG) and shooting (39.6 percent from 3-point range) will be missed until he returns.

Virginia‘s talented backcourt may be the most overlooked. Joe Harris is not forgotten after he posted 16.3 PPG last season while shooting nearly 47 percent from the field. However, it is his partner in crime — sophomore Justin Anderson — who turned into quite the threat during the Cavaliers’ NIT run. Anderson averaged just 7.6 PPG for the season but played his best at the end. He scored no less than 15 points in his last three games and tallied a season-high 24 points against Iowa.

Syracuse‘s backcourt will be led by highly-touted freshman guard Tyler Ennis. Ennis was recently listed on the United States Basketball Writers’ watch-list for the Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Year. Ennis will be the only listed starting guard on the Orange. The other projected starters are all listed as forwards.

Notre Dame‘s backcourt is the polar opposite of Syracuse.The Fighting Irish’s youngest guard — Pat Connaughton — is a junior, while Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins are both seniors. Grant (13.3 PPG) is the team’s leading returning scorer and showed to be a big-time player during his junior year. Atkins (11.2 PPG) is a consistent scoring threat. He scored more than 15 points in eight games.

Gregory T. Philson is an ACC basketball writer for Follow him on Twitter @GTPhilson, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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