ACC Basketball Predictions and Betting Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 11/10/2008
I feel I should start my 2008-09 ACC men's basketball preview with an admission: I despise the ACC.
Yeah, I'm a Big East guy. That conference has been built on a foundation of rugged play, intense competition, and grudgingly earning every bucket of respect. The ACC, on the other hand, is a league of prima donnas. They are soft teams with soft schedules and wussy officiating. The Media goes above and beyond to worship at the altar of the ACC, so a dissenting voice like mine is usually swept away in a chorus of cheers from the Cameron Crazies.
The Big East is the friend that you go out drinking with knowing that if the stuff ever hits the fan, he's got you covered. The ACC is the friend that wears ribbed turtlenecks and too much hair product. The one that would leave you stranded to go hook up with some sleazy she-male. See what I'm saying?
However, this year the ACC is loaded. And while they still are not a better conference than the Big East, they will certainly earn the accolades thrown their way this year. And for me to speak so effusively about a league I loathe should really tell you how high I am on this group, from top to bottom.
The ACC is going to be one of the most veteran leagues in the country. The 12 schools bring back 42 of a possible 60 starters and an astounding 11 of 15 all-conference performers from the 2007-08 season. Nine of the top 12 scorers are back, along with half of the top 10 rebounders and eight of the top 10 assist men. All of this tells me that the league will be a force in nonconference play and that they should be solid favorites in that portion of the slate. Also, these teams will be very live dogs with even second- and third-tier ACC clubs going up against top talent from lesser leagues. But it also tells me that because of the talent, depth, and experience that pervades the league that underdogs should reign supreme once we get into conference play.
But hey, I don't need to spend more time telling you how good the ACC is. I'm sure ESPN bobblehead is just salivating at the opportunity to do it for me. So without further ado, here is some analysis and some predictions in Doc's Sports 2008 ACC betting preview:
The Favorite: North Carolina
Last year I thought that this team was, get this, overrated. It's true. Yeah, they were out of their minds come Tournament Time while playing in their back yard in North Carolina. But I knew that once they ran into another top-tier team that could match their talent they would be cooked. Well, this year they aren't going to run into anyone who can match their talent. From a value perspective, there really isn't much to work with here with the Tar Heels because everyone and their sister is on them to cut down the nets. They do have the best team, but that doesn't always translate to titles. Also, Tyler Hansbrough is out with a stress reaction on one of his shins. Make no mistake - this team has some solid players, but without Psycho T they are just another good team. And it's still pretty open-ended how long this injury could impact the top college player in the nation.
The Challenger: Duke
Over the past two years the Blue Devils have been soft. Really soft. And it's caught up with them late in the year. But I feel like the Dukies have made a successful transition to a completely perimeter-driven team and are now an absolute force…when they're knocking down shots. Duke still is not a very athletic team, and that's going to hurt them when they match up with talented athletes. But their four-out, one-in dribble-drive attack is going to be overwhelming to a lot of teams. You can't catch much value on THE public team in college hoops. But because of their talented schedule and their attack, attack, attack offense we may see them cover some of the big numbers thrown their way. This team will miss DeMarcus Nelson a ton. But keep an eye on Nolan Smith and look for Gerry Henderson and Kyle Singler to both continue their ascent. This team won't cut down the nets. But I don't think we'll look at another opening weekend exit.
The Dark Horse: Miami
Last year I was one of the few people in the country touting the Hurricanes at the start of the season. Now they are a sheik sleeper pick in a lot of circles. And they should be. Miami brings back 82 percent of its scoring, 70 percent of its rebounding, four starters from a 23-win team that made it into the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and one of the most explosive scorers on the East Coast in Jack McClinton. Miami is playing some top-notch talent in the nonconference schedule and are relishing their newfound respect. They did lose Anthony King, the center that was their top rebounder and a dominating defensive presence. Miami's D was its calling card and they will have to pick up the slack. But they have four upperclassmen leading the way, quality ballers off the bench, and a hunger to advance on the national stage.
The X-Factor: Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons are also a very sexy pick as a sleeper team in the ACC. And just like Miami, the Deacons are worthy of the hype. Wake Forest brings back every one of its top 10 scorers from last year and added a potential freshman All-American in Al-Farouq Aminu. Aminu will join All-ACC third-teamer James Johnson, team leader Jeff Teague, and a trio of three-year starters to give the Deacons one of the most talented, athletic, and well-rounded rosters in the league. Last year the issue was simple: Wake didn't shoot the ball well. At all. They were last in the league in shooting (.433) and they were 299th in the country in three-point shooting (.314). Also, it's going to be very interesting how Dino Gaudio juggles the egos and handles the fragile chemistry of this team. Remember that last year N.C. State was the team that brought back a load of starters and added a stud freshman. And that was a debacle. But if Wake does gel they can knock off any of the ACC big boys.
The Disappointment: Virginia
Two years ago this team was a surprise No. 2 in the ACC and was on the cusp of the Sweet 16. But they went just 5-11 in conference play last year and now are moving on without one of the best players in program history (Sean Singletary). The Cavs lost three of their top five scorers and proved last year that they have an aversion to defense. This is a young team and Dave Leiteo is feeling the screws tighten.
The Surprise Team: Virginia Tech
Last year I was not a Hokies believer. I thought they had lost too much experience and too much talent to be a factor in the ACC race. But there is now no doubt that Seth Greenburg has built himself a program in Blacksburg. This team was one of the last teams left out of the NCAA Tournament and has brought back nine of its top 10 scorers. This team is still young - only four seniors dot the 12-man roster - and they will certainly miss do-it-all Deron Washington. But this program has played in a postseason tournament in three of four years and is 19-13 in ACC play over the last two seasons. They will again separate themselves from the bogged down middle of the conference.
Clemson - Don't be too quick to write off Oliver Purnell's squad. The Tigers did lose some key pieces from last year's 24-win team, including one of the most underrated ACC players of the last 20 years (Cliff Hammonds). But Clemson has a core that should propel it to a second straight NCAA berth and a fifth straight date with a postseason tournament. This team executes its sets extremely well and has one of the most sneaky-good backcourts in the nation. Terence Oglesby is a game-changer, K.C. Rivers is a proven stud, and in the frontcourt Trevor Booker is just a guy who knows how to win. I'm not sure how the oddsmakers will handle this team early on (will they be treated as a one-hit wonder or will their lines be inflated after a very solid season?) but I think they'll be a steady bet in league play.
Maryland - This was another top contender for Disappointing Team. They lost two of their top three scorers, their top two rebounders, and their top two recruits this offseason. The issues surrounding their recruits stings the most because this is a program that badly needs a talent influx. Greivis Vasquez is an ACC vet who can keep this team in games. But he's just as likely to let his wild play lead the Terps out of them as well. The backcourt is solid but this team is woefully overmatched inside. It's going to be a long, hot, extra sweaty season for Gary Williams.
Georgia Tech - The Jackets may be the toughest team in the league to get a grasp on. But the bottom line is that I don't expect much from them. They have some decent pieces, and if everything comes together they could be an NIT team. But there is little depth, questions at the point and in the frontcourt, and there is no real leadership to point to for this squad.
Boston College - Ty Rice is one of the best scorers in the country. Period. But last year the one-man gang thing didn't work out too well for him (4-12 in ACC play) and this season he'll be wearing a cape yet again. Just with weaker talent. This is a young squad with a load of question marks. Rice, much like Vasquez at Maryland, is good enough to carry the Eagles along. But in the end this crew has no chance of competing with the conference big dogs.
N.C. State - The Wolfpack are an intriguing lot this time around. There were plenty of expectations for this crew heading into last year. And N.C. State responded by in-fighting in the locker room and completely giving up in games on the court. Their blowout loss at North Carolina was one of the worst performances I saw all of last year. And you have to be wary of backing a team with that little heart. But if there are two things that State does have its experience and size. The Pack saw their season derailed due to injuries at the point guard slot. Sidney Lowe thinks he has that problem covered now and that can only help get the big guy's revved up. The Pack are a dangerous team. Both for bettors and league opponents. They were they worst team in the nation ATS last year (6-21-1) so things can only improve. But that doesn't mean they will be profitable.
Florida State - Over the last three years the Seminoles have had one of the wildest and weirdest rides of any program in the Eastern Time Zone. Injuries, transfers, suspensions, upsets, excruciatingly close losses, and tournament snubs have all been the norm in Tallahassee. But through it all this club had been a moneymaker at the window before last year's letdown. FSU brings back the fewest points and rebounds in the league after the loss of three double-digit scorers. But they do have a promising freshman class and a pair of DD scorers (Toney Douglas and Uche Echefu) to build around.
For more information on Ferringo's college basketball picks, check out his Insider Page here.