ACC College Basketball Predictions With Projected Order of Finish and NCAA Bids
by Robert Ferringo - 11/8/2010
The Boys on Tobacco Road have to be feeling pretty good about themselves as we head into another college basketball season.
One of their spawn, the Duke Blue Devils, is the reigning college basketball champion. That is now back-to-back title winners for the ACC and over the course of the past decade this league has produced five of the last 10 winners of the March Madness brackets. Surely that is the perfect symbol of this league’s dominance on the college basketball landscape.
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However, this looks like a year of transition in one of the nation’s power conferences. Only 30 of 60 starters are back from last year’s teams – tying them with the SEC for the smallest percentage in any major conference – and there are three new coaches -- with three very contrasting styles from their predecessors -- filing in the sidelines this year. There are just three ACC teams in the preseason Top 25 and as I scope through the league it really is just Duke as a power and then a bunch of mediocre question marks filling out the rest of the standings.
The ACC has been a bit of victim of its own success. The league is vulnerable this year mainly because so much talent has left early over the course of the past two seasons. But no matter what the reason (that same scenario sunk the Pac-10 last year, but it didn’t make watching that ugly basketball any easier) the bottom line is that the ACC may have the champs but they are also likely to have an up-and-down season, nationally, this year.
We will find out if I am right or not within the first few weeks of the season. The league lost the ACC-Big Ten Challenge last year for the first time in 11 years and I think that they are going to lose this season as well. The two leagues match up for the three-day event starting Monday, Nov. 29, and ending Wednesday, Dec. 1. If the ACC drops this 11-game event again this year then I think that will be a red flag that this conference is on a brief downturn this year.
That is one ACC prediction. Below are the rest of my 2010-11 ACC college basketball predictions to help you with your college basketball picks, with college basketball odds to win the league title in parentheses and we have projected order of finish and NCAA bids at the bottom:
The Favorite: Duke (-250)
No shocker here. To be the champ you gotta beat the champ. The Blue Devils are the resounding No. 1 team in the country and, unlike many years in the past decade, they deserve all the preseason plaudits that they are earning.
Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith are two versatile, veteran players capable of carrying this team. Singler is an All-American talent and can win games a variety of ways. He has had injury issues in the past, but if he’s healthy he’s a difference maker.
A guy that I’m excited to see develop is Andre Dawkins. The sophomore guard has a sweet stroke and could have a breakout year.
But here is my issue with Duke: I think that people are undervaluing exactly how good Jon Scheyer was last year. He was THE difference maker for this team. He ran the point, he led the team in scoring, and he was the ultimate end game closer because he was an exceptional free throw shooter that was great at getting to the line. Also, this team turned the corner once Brian Zoubeck finally was given the starting nod. How will they replace his toughness?
Weird twin forwards Miles and Mason Plumlee appear gifted. But tough? Physical? I don’t see it. I think that Seth Curry, the transfer from Liberty, is being overrated in terms of his potential impact. And even though point guard Kyrie Irving is highly touted, I won’t believe that a freshman can lead a team like this back to the championship game until I see it.
Duke is loaded. They have great coaching and get unyielding love from the officials. But I see some of the same flaws that held them back prior to last year’s title game – remember, they hadn’t made it past the Sweet 16 since 2004 – on this year’s roster.
The Challenger: North Carolina (+250)
Just to be clear here: I don’t think that North Carolina is Duke’s primary challenger. But they are being treated as such by the bobbleheads, so I will oblige.
Last we saw the Tar Heels they were suffering the indignity of an NIT Championship Game loss. The Heels were horrible last year and Roy Williams’ effort to field an roster of 6-10 players led by Larry Drew failed miserably.
But it looks like the bobblehead media didn’t learn its lesson. North Carolina started last year in the Top 10 and actually got votes for No. 1 based solely on hype and in spite of clear reality. This year North Carolina starts the season in the Top 10 based solely on hype and in spite of clear reality.
The hope this year centers on freshmen Harrison Barnes, who is supposed to be some basketball messiah, and Reggie Bullock. The 6-7 wing players are both supposedly sure fire NBA Draft picks next summer. But they haven’t proven anything.
And as I look at this team I see some raw talent but nothing that suggests this team is capable of accomplishing anything. Drew is capable at the point, but nothing special. They have two quality big men, John Henson and Tyler Zeller, but neither of them has ever averaged more than nine points per game.
And then there are the freshmen. And here are the truest words you’ve ever heard: potential is overrated. And so are freshmen. This team has a long way to go before it is anything but a ‘bet against’ in my book.
The Dark Horse: Florida State (+800)
It has been a slow build to this point, but right now I think that Florida State is a power in the ACC. This team has experience, depth, and is the No. 1 defensive team of the 347 in the country.
First, the bad news: FSU lost center Solomon Alabi, who was a dominating post presence for this club last year. However, the rest of this team is set up to earn a third straight NCAA Tournament bid for the first time in almost 20 years for this program.
The strength of this team is in its ambiguity. Their top seven players are all between 6-5 and 6-10 and most of them do similar things. They have a nice rotation of four guards, including a starting point guard (Derwin Kitchen) and a potential go-to stud in sophomore Michael Snaer. Snaer has a full arsenal of offensive talents. And now with a year under his belt he could be ready to break out.
Until Snaer is ready, do-it-all Chris Singleton is the team’s fulcrum. The ‘Noles obviously have problems when they aren’t scoring and none of their shooters are pure – except Snaer. But they should be a Top 25 staple most of the year.
They won’t be a big threat in March because of their lack of top-end talent. But this group is set up for success in the grind of a 30-game regular season. If you see this team getting points, take them.
The X-Factor: Virginia Tech (+650)
The Hokies don’t have the top-end talent that North Carolina has. But they do boast the two things that will hold back the Heels all season: experience and cohesion.
Virginia Tech boasts a trio of three-year starters, including ACC Player of the Year candidate Malcolm Delaney. The senior guard is a stat-stuffer and one of the top lead guards in the country. His two veteran running mates, Dorenzo Hudson and Jeff Allen, both have Blowup Potential (in the good way) and give the Hokies a core that reminds me a bit of last year’s ACC co-champs, Maryland.
Two other starters, Terrell Bell and Victor Davilla, give the Hokies their whole starting five back from a 25-9 team.
The only issue with this club is that injuries have decimated their depth. Two key players – glue guy J.T. Thompson and transfer Allan Chaney – are out for the year. That leaves this team with zero experienced post players behind the foul-prone Allen and nominally talented Davilla. That means that this team’s ceiling will be defined not by the play of their stars, which you can bank on, but by whether or not any of last year’s bench players can step up.
The Surprise Team: Clemson (+1200)
It’s really tricky to find a “surprise” team in the ACC because this league and its members get so much attention. But I’ll go with the Tigers.
Oliver Purnell fled for the Big East – a pretty stunning move after having built up the Clemson program nearly from scratch. The Tigers will be changing systems (they brought in Brad Brownell from Wright State) and identities.
But there is some talent here. Most of it is still just potential, but this group has some guys that could really blossom into top-end talents. Point guard Andre Young (9.2 points per game), swingman Noel Johnson (4.8) and forwards Milton Jennings (3.3) and Devin Booker were all highly touted. They now all have a taste of experience under their belt and could be the makings of a strong core.
But until they are ready some more proven guys like Demontez Stitt, Tanner Smith and Jerai Grant have enough big game experience to keep the ship steady. There is a ton of potential here and I think that the books – and ACC fans – aren’t quite sure what to do with this transitioning team. They have a very difficult nonconference schedule but it could have them hardened and ready for a surprise run in the league.
The ATS Machine: Miami (+1000)
This is another young, up-and-coming squad. Miami isn’t very renowned for its hoops and after a last-place finish in the league last year they could be undervalued heading into this season.
They got off to a fast start last year thanks to a cupcake schedule. Then they got rocked once league play hit. But this team was playing its best ball in March, making a stunning run to the ACC Championship Game where they lost to Duke by just three points.
They have a slick backcourt duo in guards Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant, and these guys should be set to break out. A pair of long, athletic, semi-skilled wings (Adrian Thomas is the shooter, DeQuan Jones is the dunker) and a pair of post players (Julian Gamble, Reggie Johnson) that showed flashes of excellence during that ACC tourney run support the talent in the backcourt. That is a solid core.
And this team significantly upgraded its nonconference schedule. If one or two of their newcomers find their feet fast then this team could get dangerous in a hurry. An 8-8 conference record would be a big deal for the Canes. And they are the type of team that I think can “keep it close” against anyone in the league.
The Disappointment: N.C. State (+800)
Last year it was Georgia Tech. This year it’s N.C. State.
Last year’s “so underrated they are overrated” team was the Yellow Jackets. And they flopped their way to a not-as-impressive-as-it-looks 23-13 mark and a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
This year N.C. State is everyone’s Buzz Team. And a squad that has gone 15-33 in ACC play under coach Sidney Lowe is getting more preseason love than much more proven squads in the league and around the nation.
I grant that forward Tracy Smith is an animal and a true difference maker. But what else is there? This team has been a bust because they seemingly haven’t had a good point guard since Chris Corchiani. Well, they still don’t have one.
This team welcomes in three highly touted freshmen, Lorenzo Brown, C.J. Leslie and Ryan Harrow, who are expected to contribute right away. But we don’t know what we’re getting from these three guys. And this isn’t like the freshmen stepping in at Ohio State or Illinois or some other team with a solid system and veteran core.
Maybe they will be G-Tech: mediocre all year, but good enough for a cup of coffee in the Big Dance. But then again, maybe not.
Maryland (+1200) – This is a really tricky team for college basketball handicapping this year. You can’t just lose the absurd leadership, talent and charisma of guys like Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne and expect everything to be fine. Those were the Terps’ three leading scorers and they are irreplaceable.
However, Gary Williams always seems to do his best work with his least talented teams. And there are some decent pieces to work with this year. Sean Mosley is ready for a breakout year and I’m a big fan of Jordan Williams’ work. But after that is nothing but blue-collar role players.
They are more athletic this year and they will be relying on a cluster of seniors familiar with the system. But there simply isn’t enough top-end talent for this team to be anything more than a middle-of-the-pack overachiever.
Georgia Tech (+2000) – So long, Paul Hewitt. No one has come out and said it, but ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ is basically in a win-or-else season. And he’s all-in with what is essentially a pair of threes.
Tech has suffered from a ton of early entries in recent years. And they lost a pair of first round picks, Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal, from last year’s squad. That leaves a rag-tag bunch of wings with no real leader, no real point guard, and no real post presence.
They have some clutch players; Iman Shumpert and Glen Rice are the kind of guys that want to take Big Shots. But this team isn’t a threat to anyone. Except Hewitt. I expect the seat to get hot sometime before Christmas.
Boston College (+1500) – Had Rakim Sanders come back this was definitely going to be my surprise team. They are welcoming in a new coach, Steve Donahue from Cornell, and a new system (they are abandoning the flex).
But this team is still sneaky good with a lot of experience and plenty of toughness. They have four senior starters, three of them of the three-year variety, and Joe Trapani is one of the best players that no one knows about. They have three double-digit scorers, Trapani as a go-to guy, and solid, steady role players at the point and at center.
Now for the bad news: this team didn’t bring in a single recruit in 2009 and three of their five would-be freshmen for this year bailed when the coaching change occurred. So there is nothing – I mean nothing – behind the starters.
Donahue might have had more depth on some of his Ivy teams. This team will win some games that they shouldn’t and be a nice underdog play. But they are headed for the NIT.
Virginia (+5000) – Yikes. Things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get better for the Cavaliers. In their first game of the season the top four returning scorers will have averaged 12.0, 3.0, 2.4 and 1.6 points last year. Their top player, Sylven Landesberg, flunked out of the program last year and now the only guy even resembling an ACC talent left on the roster is gritty forward Mike Scott.
But this roster is a debacle behind him. They have no guards, they can’t shoot, they aren’t particularly big, and they have zero experience. Tony Bennett did a great job winning with other people’s players at Washington State. But it is going to be a while before we find out if he can build a program himself.
Wake Forest (+5000) – Virginia is a complete and total mess. And Wake Forest is even worse than that. The Demon Deacons will begin the Jeff Bzdelik Era and will make the transition to the Princeton offense this season. And they will do it with without over 70 percent of their scoring and rebounding from last seasons.
This roster is young and sloppy and there really just isn’t anything good happening for this group. They have a very soft nonconference schedule so don’t be fooled by a decent start; this team is a mess and I’ll be stunned if they manage more than four wins after league play starts.
Projected Order of Finish ACC Standings:
2. Florida State*
3. Virginia Tech*
4. North Carolina*
7. N.C. State
9. Georgia Tech
10. Boston College
12. Wake Forest
*Projected NCAA Tournament Bids
Robert Ferringo is a writer and a professional sports handicapper for Doc’s Sports. He is considered one of the best college basketball handicappers in the country and has earned his $100-per-Unit clients nearly $30,000 in the last four years with his nonconference handicapping. He has earned his clients over $16,000 since the end of July and is ready for another great college hoops season. You can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here.
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